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January 15, 2014

Quite the turnaround

From two wins last year to a team looking to contend this time around

By Mike Moore
C & G Sports Writer

» click to enlarge «
Sally Muller (21) works the ball to the offensive side of the court during a win against Athens earlier this season. The Colts were 7-1 at press time after going 2-19 last year.

TROY — The perfect storm of growing pains was inevitable, and as the season played out, so too did the realization that a rebuild was in full swing.

A new coach had stepped in.

A roster loaded with youth was there to welcome him.

And by the time the winter came to a close, the Troy High girls basketball team had a 2-19 record.

The pains have subsided a year later, and that pair of wins has certainly become a distant memory.

“We’re having a little more fun this time around,” senior Rachael Zelmanski said. “There’s a lot to like about this team.”

At press time, the Colts were 7-1, having started the year with seven consecutive wins before falling to Rochester Adams 45-43 in overtime for the season’s lone setback.

And all of this, according to second-year coach Simon Bato, was expected.

“If you look back to last year, when we were so young and so inexperienced, it’s night and day compared to now,” he explained. The Colts returned nine varsity players to the roster. “We expected to be good this year because we knew what we were working with. These girls are all a year older, a year more experienced. They understand so many different concepts, as far as what we want to do. The game has slowed down for a lot of them. They are just playing basketball this year, and that’s been a huge difference.”

After ending the 2012-13 campaign with 17 losses in the final 18 games, the Colts began this year with a bang, powering past Sterling Heights Stevenson 54-15 on opening night.

Two days later, they upended Troy Athens 66-34, and haven’t looked back since.

Offensively, the Colts are averaging 53.3 points per game. On the defensive side of things, they’re giving up 33.8.

“Defense is our key,” Bato said. “We like to pressure. We engage and work hard on that end of the floor, and we generate a lot of offense because of it.”

Bato was also quick to credit his team’s work in the offseason, calling it one of the biggest reasons for the drastic turnaround.

“That was huge,” Zelmanski agreed. “The confidence we got during fall league, for example, did so much for us. We were beating teams that we had no chance against last year. That was a huge deal for us.”

Despite the quick start, Bato said there’s no looking ahead.

He stressed the fact that the team goals focus solely on the next day of practice or the next game, and nothing more.

“That’s how it has to be,” he said. “We want to get better one day at a time. This is a marathon of a season, not a sprint.”

He’s enjoying the ride.

“To bounce back the way they have is awesome,” he said of his girls. “They are such character kids that are very resilient in what they want to accomplish.”

You can reach C & G Sports Writer Mike Moore at mmoore@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1038. Twitter Follow Mike on Twitter.