What strategy do you adopt after losing the entire starting line up and 90 percent of the offense from the previous season? Play better defense.
That’s what Mark Lewis hopes for his team this season. “I can tell you that we have been preaching more commitment to defense as we know keeping the other team in check is a key component for us,” he said.
The first year coach takes over for Jon Hendrickson, who resigned after four seasons to take on more responsibilities as an assistant to new Breaker head baseball coach Mike Blair. “I enjoyed my time as the girls basketball coach of LBHS and will miss the camaraderie I shared with the girls the most. I wish them all the best,” Hendrickson said in a recent email.
Last season, the Breakers averaged 44 points a game; more than 31 of those came off the hands of graduates Sam Garner and Emily Writer, two of the program’s most prolific scorers. “As far as scoring to replace Writer and Garner, we don’t have that kind of offensive firepower,” said Lewis.
To make things worse, the team’s third leading scorer, Lola Cowie, who averaged nearly eight points a game last year as a sophomore, left the team after nearly two months of practice in mid-November to play soccer. Holly Battle and Diana Necula, the team’s only seniors, followed her off the court.
Battle and Necula left to honor a pact they had made with Cowie to play this season together, according to Lewis.
The loss of these three key players left Lewis with only eight girls and no real point guard on the eve of the season-opening Corona del Mar Tip-Off Tournament. Unsure whether he could field a competitive team, Lewis pulled his squad out.
His team now consists of two juniors, five sophomores and one freshman. “The bench isn’t too deep, so our stamina will be tested,” said Lewis. “Many girls will log big minutes this season. I expect that they will improve greatly from that exposure and experience.”
Although his team lacks experience, Lewis is loaded with it, both as a player and coach. He led Tustin High to a 1981 CIF finals appearance as a senior, earning all-league, all-county and all-CIF honors for his efforts. He later attended Long Beach State on an athletic scholarship.
Lewis has been coaching in some capacity since he was a sophomore in high school, when he led an elementary team to an undefeated season. In 2001, he was an assistant boys coach at LBHS. And he spent several years as the chapter director of Laguna Beach National Junior Basketball and as an NJB boys and girls coach.
Lewis’ new look Laguna starters are juniors Kylie Even and Madeline Knutson, and sophomores Kyra Humphries, Sarina Strickland and Jane Wallin. The other three off the bench are sophomores Kendra Overstreet and Audrey Rodriguez, and freshman Kateland Acosta.
None of his projected starters played much last season, but they did show some promise. “Kylie is developing her skills and has a good head for the game,” said Lewis.
Wallin, who at six feet tall is Garner’s heir in the middle, should make a difference on the boards and at the basket. “We have been working on her inside game and look for her to provide a presence inside,” said Lewis.
Still, the experienced coach knows his young team will be tested to its limits. “We are approaching every game as the challenge it is and know that night in and night out we will be competing hard,” Lewis said.
The season got underway this past Tuesday with a home game against Fullerton and continues next Tuesday against San Juan Hills. No matter how many games they win, Lewis seems to know what is really important. In his coaching resume he states, “High school basketball is an extension of a student’s growth and experience in education. As such the term student/athlete is in proper order of priority.”
Photo by Robert Campbell
New girls basketball coach Mark Lewis works on drills with sophomore starting center Jane Wallin.