Lady Trojans show spirit after Dickensian preseason

by WILL LANGHORNE
The Western News | January 5, 2021 7:00 AM

The Lady Trojans head coach turned to Charles Dickens to sum up the team’s preseason.

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” Tony Smith said after a Dec. 31 practice.

The first week of practices, which began on Dec. 7, represented the best of times. Sixteen girls came out for the team. By the second week — the worst of times — the roster had dropped to eight. Smith attributed the sharp decline to injury, surgery and quarantine.

“Ever since then, we’ve been trying to get back and recovering to where we were that very first week in terms of effort,” he said.

Smith is counting on his two senior starters — Talise Becquart and Emma Johnson — to lead the squad of mostly young and inexperienced girls. Noting that every girls team needs a strong female leader, Smith said he would rely heavily on assistant coach Alanah Stenros to guide the Lady Trojans.

In addition to Becquart and Johnson, the roster included one junior, nine sophomores, one freshman and three junior high students as of Dec. 31. Another senior, out due to an injury, may return to the court, but Smith said only time would tell.

Ideally, Smith would like his varsity squad to be composed of a few seniors, a couple of juniors and maybe a sophomore. He could then assign the bulk of his large sophomore class to the junior varsity where he predicted they would be extremely successful.

“We don’t have the luxury of that so we have to throw our sophomores into the fire,” he said.

Following practice, Becquart said the challenges the team faced this year were compounded by the preseason’s late start date. Due to concerns about the spread of the coronavirus at sporting events, the Montana High School Association pushed the first day of winter sports practice back by nearly a month.

Becquart said that she and her teammates normally count on fall sports to keep them in shape for basketball. The longer gap between seasons this year made it difficult to retain the conditioning needed to be successful on the courts.

Despite the adversity, Smith has found that this season’s squad is one of the most determined teams he’s seen in his 43-year career. Stenros echoed Smith’s assessment saying the girls compensated for their age with resolve.

“When they’re on the court, their age doesn’t matter, they all give 100 percent effort and are ready to play,” she said.

Johnson said she was confident that after the squad’s first game they would fall back into the groove of working together. Becquart was both excited and nervous about the Lady Trojans’s season opener against Thompson Falls.

“It’s going to be rough probably,” she said. “We have a really young team but I think we’ll do alright considering it’s going to be our first game.”

Preparing for the face off against the Blue Hawks, Smith said the heart and soul of the team’s strategy would be man-to-man defense. As the season progresses, he said the team’s quickness would give them the freedom to experiment with different game plans. Considering that Thompson Falls is ranked among the top 10 teams statewide, Smith expected they would highlight deficiencies that the Trojans could work on for future games.

During the Jan. 2 home game, the varsity Trojan squad fell to the Blue Hawks 61-10. The junior varsity team [TK TK TK won/ lost] [TK TK TK score].

Smith acknowledged that in spite of the unrivaled spirit he’s seen in this year’s squad, the Lady Trojans are unlikely to be a top tier team in their conference. They may still be competitive, though, if some of the sophomore players step to fill their varsity shoes.