Lady Pirates prepare to tip-off season under new coach

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  • POLSON HIGH School girls basketball player Kaelyn Smith drives the lane in last year’s season-opening game against Dillon. (Jason Blasco/Lake County Leader)

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    POLSON HIGH School volleyball player Kaelyn Smith attacks the Columbia Falls defense during a regular season match. The Lady Pirates hope to build on their 2017 success during the 2018 campaign. (Photo by Jason Blasco/Lake County Leader)

  • POLSON HIGH School girls basketball player Kaelyn Smith drives the lane in last year’s season-opening game against Dillon. (Jason Blasco/Lake County Leader)

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    POLSON HIGH School volleyball player Kaelyn Smith attacks the Columbia Falls defense during a regular season match. The Lady Pirates hope to build on their 2017 success during the 2018 campaign. (Photo by Jason Blasco/Lake County Leader)

Newly-appointed Polson High School girls basketball coach Juan Perez made a difficult decision shortly after he was named the Polson Lady Pirates basketball coach for the 2017-2018 campaign.

Perez, who guided the Salish Kootenai College Lady Bison to five American Indian Higher Education National Basketball Championships (AIHEC championships), decided to make the Polson basketball team his primary focus this season.

Perez will let Lady Bisons’ assistant coach Silas Perez take over in his absence while he focuses on transforming the Lady Pirates into state championship title contenders.

As the Lady Pirates prepare to head into the first season under the Perez era, they have already bought into his philosophical approach that has brought success to the SKC Lady Bisons throughout the years.

“The things we’ve done at SKC I am looking to bring to the Lady Pirates,” Perez said. “I am really hoping to implement an aggressive offense. On defense, we are going to be more aggressive and try to get into the passing lanes. When you are able to do that (on defense), you tend to get more steals. On offense, I would like to push the ball and take advantage of the speed that we have here.”

Perez, whose Lady Pirates will begin their first open gym Nov. 16, said he felt the team has already begun to “buy into” in his philosophical approach and mentality that has had a tremendous amount of success at the collegiate level.

“I think the big thing is the girls are excited for basketball,” Perez said. “They are very excited to get on the court and start. I am going to play an uptempo offense (with this team) and I am pretty excited about that.”

Perez said he wants to take advantage of the athleticism and rare basketball talent he has already recognized the Lady Pirates basketball team possess.

“I am really excited,” Perez said. “The girls are very athletic. We want to take advantage of some of their athleticism by bringing more of an uptempo style by letting them get out there more and be basketball players. We don’t necessarily have to coach them as much but let them make decisions (on the court) on their own.”

Perez knows to equalize the success of his Lady Bison team it is going to take time. He also expressed he has an idea of the caliber of competition the Lady Pirates will face in Class A competition. Last year, Columbia Falls, a team with several players over six feet tall, captured the Class A conference title.

Perez knows his team isn’t tall like C-Falls but also sees that his team has other athletic attributes.

“We aren’t going to be a tall team but knowing that the girls are fast, we will try to capitalize on their strengths,” Perez said. “The Lady Pirates have an excitement for the upcoming season. We will really try to capitalize on their team speed and their excitement for the season.”

One area where Perez said he will be utilizing their team speed is in the pressure defense he wants to implement.

“When we press, we can catch teams off guard with our press,” Perez said. “We would get some steals and deflections. We would really disrupt the offense. We hope to do that this year with the Lady Pirates.”

Perez said he felt his team has already “bought into” his philosophical approaches towards the game that earned him five national championship titles at SKC.

“They’ve really bought into my philosophy of being more aggressive and pushing the ball,” Perez said. “When we have the opportunity, we will be smart players and play the game smart, and our players are excited about that. I think we are all excited to get things started. We can develop a sense of excitement within the community for the upcoming season as well.”

Perez is still willing to take a look at prospective basketball talent as he will have tryouts that start Nov. 16 and holds open gyms currently Monday, Tuesday and Thursday evenings from 6 to 8:30 p.m.

“Tryouts on Nov. 16 is when that starts for the girls and if someone feels that they are able to play at the varsity level or just basketball in general, we don’t have the team selected for the Lady Pirates yet,” Perez said. “Everyone on our team has to earn their spot.”

Last year the Lady Pirates had to play some top-notch competition in the first round of Divisionals including the top-rated Columbia Falls team that eventually won the Class A state basketball tournament and Whtefish.

The Lady Pirates hope their new coach builds on some of the team’s nucleas of talent in order to be more competitive with some of the Class A teams this season.

With the reclassification of teams there will be other teams that will now compete in Class A including teams with illustrious traditions such as the Ronan Maidens and Browning.

The addition of these two teams should make for a more competitive dynamic in Class A.

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