BY JEFF FALK
It may very well be that this season’s version of the Cedar Crest girls’ basketball team will be in a state of flux, a club in transition. And it may be that the 2011-12 Falcons are very representative of what’s going on in their program.
And if there’s one person who embodies that transition it’s new head coach Jim Donmoyer.
In June, Donmoyer took over the CC reigns from departed head coach Gretchen Hall. For the past two seasons, Donmoyer had served as Hall’s assistant, and before that had been involved with Cedar Crest’s developmental programs for an additional six seasons.
“The chemistry is there,” said Donmoyer. “Most of the kids I’ve coached since the fourth or fifth grade. I know them and they know me. It’s just going to be different than what was expected of them last year. I’m not overhauling everything. As far as me and them, I have a good relationship with the kids. I guess that can be good and bad, but it makes the transition easier for me.
“I don’t want to under-estimate the importance of getting used to one another, but I don’t think it’s going to take all year,” Donmoyer added. “I’m hoping it’s going to be sooner than later. We still want to win this year. I’m not saying this is going to be a throw-away year. I’d like to see it completed before we get into section play. I’m optimistic.”
Donmoyer is taking the approach that the ‘getting accustomed to each other’ stage is something that can be helped along, something that doesn’t necessarily have to run its natural course.
“I think there’s some things that we can do to make it go quicker,” said Donmoyer. “We pretty much have everything in, as we speak. Now we weant to work hard on what’s in and keep repeating it in practice.
“Come December 9 (the season opener), I’m expecting them (his players) to know what they’re doing,” Donmoyer continued. “The other thing that’s going to help is that the JV team is going to be solid. They’ll push us in practice and make the varsity better.”
During the 2000s, the Cedar Crest girls have been one of the most consistent and successful basketball programs in Lebanon County.
Two seasons ago, the Falcons won Section One and the overall championship in the Lancaster-Lebanon League. But last year, Cedar Crest under-acheived, missed the postseason and limped to a 9-12 mark.
“I was with varsity the last two years and I like to look back to two years ago,” said Donmoyer. “Last year was a disappointment. It was a combination of kids and coaches, and I was part of the coaching staff. There was just something that didn’t click at all. There were some personnel issues there too. I definitely see us being better than last year. Will that equate into more wins? We’ll have to see.
“For the transition process over the summer, I was there and we didn’t skip a beat,” continued Donmoyer. “In August, if they (CC administration) would’ve said, ‘We’re going to hire someone else’, the kids would have been behind. For me it’s pretty much year-round. If you’re going to put the time in, it might as well be as the head coach. I do have my ideas about things, but I’m open to my assistants’ suggestions.”
This year’s Falcons will be built around two integral pieces – 5-11 senior center Sierra Wheat and 5-6 senior guard Taylor Ford. Both are skilled and experienced.
“From this year, I expect the kids to work hard,” said Donmoyer. “I expect them to compete, night-in and night-out. I expect to have a winning season, but I don’t know how many wins we’re going to have. I tell the kids that anything is possible if you work hard enough. We have to strive for goals.
“I know there’s going to be some good teams in Section One, but I’m realistic,” added Donmoyer. “They may have more talent, but we’re not going to be out-worked or out-coached. I preach. I’m optimistic. But I’m a realist in my approach. They (his players) know. They played in the summer league. We didn’t fare too well in the summer league. We took our lumps this summer.”
Providing physical support for Wheat and Ford will be Addy Toms, a 5-6 junior guard, Kourtny Shower, a 5-7 senior forward, Courtny Garloff, a 5-9 senior forward, Gabbi Donmoyer, a 5-5 junior guard, Charlene Bryant, a 5-6 sophomore guard, Chante Beard, a 5-7 junior forward and Maria Battle, a 5-1 junior guard.
“We have two returning starters (Wheat and Ford), one’s a guard and one’s a post player,” said Donmoyer. “They’re going to have to carry us some nights. But we need other people to buy into their roles. We have some people who don’t have a lot of varsity experience.
“In past years, we had one star player,” continued Donmoyer. “That’s not going to be the case this year. My thing is more of a team, balanced thing. We’re going to get kids the ball in places where they can be successful. And they genuinely pull for each other.”
Donmoyer also seems to be taking the ‘defend first, until the offense catches up’ approach to 2011-12.
“We need to get better defensively,” said Donmoyer. “I’m never satisfied with the defense. Ball pressure. Help defense. But the biggest area where we need to get better is turnovers. We’re not always strong with the ball. Ball control, that would be our worst area right now. This year we have to value our possessions. But defense shouldn’t take a night off.”
As you may have gathered, Donmoyer takes his new position very seriously. But it doesn’t seem like he’s forgotten how to have fun with it.
“To be honest, this is my dream,” said Donmoyer. “I love coaching and that’s the ultimate, to be a head coach. I love coaching at Cedar Crest and the girls’ basketball job is the best in the County. When Gretchen stepped down, it was like, ‘Why not?’ I live in the school district. My kids go to school there.
“As far as time investment, I put a lot of time into the kids, so I’m committed to it,” concluded Donmoyer. “It excites me to coach and run a program.”