Cottage Grove, Sports Zone

Lions girls executing quick turnaround

COTTAGE GROVE – Despite a 13-33 record the previous two seasons, the Cottage Grove Lions girls basketball team is turning things around – quickly. In coach Pete LeMay’s second season, the Lions are 13-8 overall, already surpassing their win total by nine games from last season – the best record improvement in Class 4A.

“It helped to be with the girls for another year and start practices on time together. Having a summer league season together helped us, so I got to know them better and they got to know me,” said LeMay, who was hired just weeks before the 2022-23 season started. “They really just bought into what we were trying to teach them as coaches, what we were building culture-wise, and what we wanted to do offensively and defensively. So I feel like just time together has helped us a lot, but I also feel like the girls buying into what we expect and want from our team is huge.”

A year after going 1-7 in the Sky-Em League, Cottage Grove is 2-3 this season after a 49-33 loss to Marist and 41-39 loss at Junction City last week. The loss to No. 11 Marist last Tuesday epitomized many of the Lions games against top teams – spurts of competitive play coupled with a struggle to put a full four quarters together.

“I thought that we had spurts of good moments. We always talk about putting together four quarters of good moments, but we put together spurts of good moments tonight,” LeMay said after the loss. “Overall I liked our grit and our toughness. I like our resilience, and the girls just keep trying. I know they want it, but they have to go out and earn wins, and we didn’t do that tonight.”

The Lions started especially slow in the game, falling behind 15-3 at the end of the first quarter. As LeMay said, though, Cottage Grove’s grit and toughness showed up as the team clawed back to within five at halftime despite trailing 20-3 at one point.

“We definitely started out slow, but I’m not sure why. We talk about always trying not to come out slow in a game, but sometimes it happens, and tonight it happened,” LeMay said. “It was like a 10-point deficit after the first quarter or something, and it’s hard to come back after being down 10 points. We made a rally and we got it to within five by halftime, but it takes a lot of energy to come back and we exerted a lot of energy trying to come back.”

Cottage Grove was within 10 heading into the fourth quarter as well, but Marist pulled away late to earn the win. Sophomore Mariah Bailey – as she’s done much of the season – led the Lions with 11 points and senior Payton Anlauf chipped in 10. Bailey, Anlauf, and senior Jaylee Lima have been the guard trio that’s been the strength of the team all season.

“Those three really start our defense. They’re the front line of our defense if we’re pressing or trapping, and they can really bother a lot of people defensively. So I think it starts with that, and then offensively all three of them are great shooters,” LeMay said. “We do rely on our guards a lot, right. And pretty much every night and every game, they do show up and show out.”

While the improved record is surely a plus, LeMay said the team isn’t too worried about wins and losses, and is still looking to grow in more ways than one.

“We set goals for the season, but we really talked about the process of attaining those goals and the work it would take to achieve those goals. So we’re really working on our process of how we want to attain the goals that they have set for one another,” LeMay said. “We never talked about wins and losses this year. We never talked about things like, ‘Hey, we want to win 15 games’ or anything like that. We kept it a little more simple than that, and overall as a team we’re just putting in the work and going through the process.”

One specific goal the team did set for the season, though, was to get one more league win than last season. Mission accomplished.



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