Dakota girls basketball using tough slate to prep for postseason

By: Jason Carmel Davis | Macomb Township Chronicle | Published January 29, 2019

 Macomb Dakota sophomore Jaimee Moshenko looks to make a play during a Jan. 18 game against Grosse Pointe South. The Cougars have played a tough slate this season, with a goal of being prepared for the playoffs.

Macomb Dakota sophomore Jaimee Moshenko looks to make a play during a Jan. 18 game against Grosse Pointe South. The Cougars have played a tough slate this season, with a goal of being prepared for the playoffs.

Photo by Sarah Purlee

MACOMB TOWNSHIP — Macomb Dakota girls basketball coach Phil McCune wants his team to peak in the postseason. To put that in motion, the Cougars coach scheduled the best teams he could as a way to prepare his team.

Dakota, aside from a tough Macomb Area Conference Red Division slate, has faced off with Catholic High School League powers Farmington Hills Mercy and Birmingham Marian, along with Flint Kearsley. The Cougars went 2-1 in those games, with the loss coming against Marian. Overall, Dakota is 5-1 in non-MAC Red contests with one scheduled non-league matchup remaining — against New Haven High at 7 p.m. Feb. 26 at home.

Where the Cougars have struggled this season is in divisional play. At press time, Dakota was 6-7 overall, but 1-6 in MAC Red play. Four of the team’s first five divisional games were away from home. Three of the setbacks have come by four points or less.

“Every game we have lost this year could have gone the other way.  One of our issues is that we need to come out of the gate with a greater sense of urgency,” McCune said. “Our first quarters have been shaky at best, and then we get it together to make it a game. We put so much energy into the comeback that we have little left by the end of the games.  

“But we are learning and getting better every day. Looking at our record, you would think there would be concern from the players, but they come back the next day and work even harder for the next game.  They are an absolute joy to coach.”

McCune believes the MAC Red is the toughest division in the state. He said the teams have a number of NCAA Division 1 and D-2 players on their rosters.

“So we’re learning in trial by fire,” said McCune, who has guided the Cougars to two straight district titles. “Our goal is to work hard every day to get better and to be running like a machine by the time we get to districts.”

That machine won’t include junior captain Cameron Grant, who suffered a season-ending injury. McCune said Grant at the time of the injury was playing the best basketball of her career.

Other players have taken the reigns, though. That includes seniors Taylor Williams, Olivia Dameron, Rachel Baur, Jada Reese, Shelby Conrad and Jamie Zink. McCune said that group has done a great job on the court, while serving as role models for the team’s younger players. 

Some of those younger players — junior Dena Moyer, sophomore Jaimee Moshenko and freshman Ella Burger — have taken on more responsibilities and are very important pieces, McCune said.

The district tournament begins March 4. The Cougars will play in a D-1 tournament hosted by Macomb L’Anse Creuse North. The field comprises Port Huron High, Port Huron Northern, New Baltimore Anchor Bay and North. Dakota meets either Port Huron or Port Huron Northern in a semifinal at 5:30 p.m. March 6. The district final tips at 6:30 p.m. March 8.

McCune called the grouping challenging, but said his team will be ready.

“I feel confident in saying that we will be battle-tested by the time March comes around, and we will be ready for any test we will see,” McCune said. “Our goal is to get to regionals, which will be held at Dakota this year.

“We just want to get better every day and play with confidence. We must learn to believe in ourselves and trust each other. Basketball should be fun, and right now we are putting too much pressure on ourselves. We will get there. I have a ton of confidence in us, and I love coaching this team.”

Dakota’s next game is against Warren Cousino at 5:30 p.m. Feb. 1 at home. For scores, visit candgnews.com/sports.