CRESWELL – Tyler Hollingsworth says he thinks his Creswell girls basketball team compares quite favorably with the team he took to state in 2017-18, his first season as head coach at the school.
“If we keep improving, we can certainly be as good as that team,” Hollingsworth said. “We have a lot of our pieces back. We have experience – we have four seniors, a couple juniors – we have a nice mix of kids who have been here.”
The Bulldogs have a deep bench, so Hollingsworth says his No. 1 challenge going into their Thursday, Dec. 2 season opener at home against Douglas is divvying up a fair share of playing time.
“The biggest problem is getting 8 or 9 girls the right amount of minutes. And we’re looking at some different lineup combinations, too. I’m making it a point to talk individually to certain players. I tell them there could be 20 reasons that go into decisions, sometimes you just have to be a team player and go with the flow.
“The year we went to state, we only played six girls. The other girls on the bench were super supportive, always cheering, they always embraced their role.”
Three returning players who earned all-league recognition last season – Emme Whitson, Karinna Leonard and Samairah Quinones – are back to bolster their bucket lists.
“Emme made second-team all-state for the second year and led us in scoring,” Hollingsworth said. “Plus, she’s become a better defender, which is huge for us.”
“Karinna plays point guard. How well she plays will dictate how we do. We don’t need her to score a lot of points, we need her to handle the ball and run the offense, not turn the ball over. She plays a big role for us.”
“What Samairah lacks in size, she makes up for with hard work and determination,” the coach said.
The best shooter on the team is Emma Maness, who drilled six 3-pointers and scored 21 points in the Bulldogs’ 2021 season finale.
“She’s gonna play a big role for us,” Hollingsworth said. “Teams will have to respect her ability to shoot, which will open up the lane.”
The fifth starter? It could change from week to week. Last year it was usually Kendyl Whitson. Lauren Bailey, as a freshman last season, established herself as a top player. A few other girls are hoping to make their way into the rotation, trying to earn a few precious minutes.
“I’m excited. Are you ready enough (for a new season)? You never know. We need to have growth throughout the year, and we’ll have a chance to compete for a league title and I’m excited about that,” Hollingsworth said.
“Just need to keep getting better. If we keep doing that, by the end of the season I think it will pay off in the long run.”