By MIKE MOGUIN
GTR Sports Editor
Holland Hall is having a solid year on the hardwood. But it is facing a challenge as the regular season winds downs and the playoffs are drawing near.
At the end of January, the Dutch were 15-1 and ranked sixth in the Girls’ Class 4A poll. The key to their success has been putting a big emphasis on their defense this year, coach Crystal Lawson said.
“I really feel like we’re playing well defensively,” she said. “We’re a young group that loves to be in the gym and loves to learn. They have really taken to coaching and try to do everything we ask of them and are eager to come in each day to learn and perform. So, it’s been a fun season so far with the young group we have.”
The lone loss came against Sapulpa (63-56), ranked No. 1 in Class 5A, in the championship game of the Shawnee Tournament.
Holland Hall had the misfortune of losing its leading player, Joci Lake (5-8, senior, guard) to a season-ending injury in the semifinals of the same tourney.
“Joci was a four-year starter for us. She really understood our defense and what we wanted the team to be doing,” Lawson said. “She was a great leader on the floor, great communicator, and unfortunately, we lost her in the semifinals with about four-and-a-half minutes left in the game with an ACL tear.”
The Holland Hall girls rebounded with a dominating 72-26 win against Cascia Hall.
“I was proud of the way the team bounced back (Jan. 26) against Cascia,” Lawson said. “Obviously, we were without (Lake) against Sapulpa. Since then we have regrouped and talked about how no single person is going to replace Joci, so everybody has to pick up in different ways. Our leading scorers were averaging 12 points per game and she was averaging 12 points per game as well.”
Lake has still been a valuable leader from the bench.
Mia Fugate (5-4, sophomore, guard) has moved into Lake’s place. Other starters are Ava Greer (5-10, junior, guard), Elise Hill (5-7, sophomore, guard), Sophia Regalado (5-9, sophomore, post) and Kalayia Johnson (5-10, sophomore, guard/forward).
“Ava is a tremendous shooter,” Lawson said. “She’s shooting 43 percent from the 3-point line. She is one of our returning starters and has put a lot of time in on her shot over the summer. She has put in a lot of time attacking off the dribble when (opposing teams) close out at the 3-point line.
“Elsie is kind of an extension of the coaching staff out on the floor, playing the point guard position,” Lawson said. “She is great at attacking off the dribble. She has really worked on her 3-point shot. She is shooting over 30 percent.
“Sophia is strong inside,” Lawson said. “Also has some great moves to set for getting to the basket. She is a solid player for us.
“Kalayia is just a tremendous rebounder,” Lawson added. “She is the one person on the team that can play five positions. She can play the point guard for us. She can play any position we ask her to, especially with Joci’s injury, Kalayia is kind of the one we have to move around a little bit. She can play a strong rebounder, she leads the team in rebounding.”
Johnson has 121 rebounds on the season, as of the end of January.
Like everyone else, the Dutch has had to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.
They’ve only had to quarantine once as an entire team, Lawson said.
“We’ve had a few people who have been contact-traced by sitting next to somebody in class, or something along those lines,” she added. “It has been a different year. We talk about being as cautious as you can and being careful about where you go and who you hang out with.’”
Lawson said the student-athletes have done well with COVID protocols such as wearing a mask, maintaining distance, etc.
Continuing to improve everyday will be key for the team to keep going with its success, Lawson said.
“The future looks good,” she added. “The girls are doing a great job in continuing to work and play together. They’re such an unselfish group. They truly see the team first and want to win. So they are a fun group to coach.”