Cottage Grove, Sports Zone

LeMay bringing toughness, fun to Lady Lions

COTTAGE GROVE – The Cottage Grove girls basketball team has had a tough season. Head coach Pete LeMay took over only a week before the season started, and the team is 3-16 with two weeks left. Despite all of that, the Lions have played competitive games against two top-10 opponents, including a 37-28 loss at No. 9 Marist Catholic last week.

“I thought we brought a lot of energy, which was nice, and a lot of confidence finally, which was also nice for us to bring. The girls were really amped up for this game, and our preparation before this game was really good,” LeMay said after the Marist loss. “We were patient against their zone, and we were hitting open shots, and then playing pretty good, solid defense. One of our goals was just to give them one shot only and not get many offensive rebounds and we did a pretty good job of that.”

The Lions defense has been a strength all season, and it’s still improving.

“We’re super tough on defense. That’s one of our goals, it’s something we work on, we do a lot of defensive drills, and the girls like to get after it on defense,” LeMay said. “It takes a mindset to play tough defense and our girls have that mindset. They’re excited to go play defense, and just play man and get up in people; they like that. I’m happy with our progression.”

Cottage Grove’s Jaylee Lima scores a layup against Marist. Photo by Pierre Weil

The mental toughness to consistently play hard on defense isn’t something that comes easily. It’s a testament to the team’s willingness to play out LeMay’s strategy, and it’s also a testament to the trust LeMay has built with his team despite the late start.

“I came in super late, right before the season, so it’s been building relationships, and it’s been building trust with the girls. I think that we’re getting there,” LeMay said. “The culture and what I want to bring to the team, and to Cottage Grove, is just that toughness. And the girls show it out on the court. They’re tough girls, and they’re also having fun while they’re playing. And that’s key to me as well.”

LeMay says he built that trust on and off the court, trying to do team activities outside of basketball in addition to practice time. Then when practice comes, the team is able to stay loose and have fun while staying focused.

“Practices, I believe, are pretty fun. They’re fun for me, and I think the girls have fun. We try to make it competitive, yet we’re laughing in practice. We’re joking around with each other. We’re having fun, but at the same time we’re getting things done that we need to get done so that we can have fun in practice,” LeMay said.

All that joking around shows up after the game as well, with multiple players making funny faces to get their head coach to crack a smile while being interviewed. LeMay said the season has flown by, and it’s tough to believe there are only two weeks left. That being said, there’s still unfinished business for the team, he said.

“The girls have high goals and I think they’re getting there, which also takes a mindset. Our mental toughness is there and you have goals for a reason, right?” LeMay said. “So it gives them something to try to accomplish. These girls have battled all season, and I think we’ll get to the goals that we have set as a team.”



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