Newly appointed Ronan High School girls basketball coach Steve Woll has already begun the process of implementing his style of play on the team in the first official week of practice.
Woll, who replaced former Maidens’ coach Ron Hanson when he took an administrative job in Oregon, already is focusing on how his team can successfully replicate last year’s 26-0 regular season record.
Woll, whose team will return three of its starting five from last year’s team, acknowledged it will be difficult to replace the point production of Alicia and Lee Camel.
Woll knows the production of the Camel cousins so well he can spout off the specific numbers the two former Maiden players produced last year.
“We have to replace 35 points, 17 rebounds and nine assists (offensively) plus their production on the defensive end,” Woll acknowledged. “We want to score 50 plus points a night to make sure that we have a chance to win and their production is a whole lot of points that we are going to have to make up.”
Woll admits the production of the Camels will be a lot to make up for but also said he feels it can be done.
“There are a whole lot of points that we are going to have to make up for,” Woll said. “We are going to have to develop a chemistry on defense and on offense, we are going to have to share the ball, shoot layups and get to the free throw line.”
Towards the conclusion of the first week of practice, Woll isn’t about to concede a position on the court to any player either. He was adamant that a starting role by the three starters he has returning will all have to be earned and not given.
“They will have to earn their spots,” Woll said. “They will have to make sure that they have to earn it, start over the new year and learn our system.”
The Maidens will not only have to make up for the Camel Cousins production but also have to make up for some of the height they will lose with those two players in the lineup.
“We are quick, aggressive, we are going to need to force some turnovers, and the ball over the top of defenders in transition will have to be the name of our game,” Woll said. “I think we are probably going to run more motion offense and sets. That is probably what we are going to have to do because I am not sure what our new league is going to do. Whether they run zone or man-to-man, we may have to switch it up and make some adjustments to our motion offense and zone offense, and try to get key scores.”
Woll, whose team is making a transition from Class B to Class A, knows there will be an adjustment period. In Class A, Ronan will be a school with a smaller enrollment compared to other Class A schools they will compete against.
“Like I said before, I feel like our kids are well prepared for the transition,” Woll said. “In Class B, we had to face the Florence’s, the Deer Lodges, Bigfork and Libby, all teams that we played last year and with the exception of some of the elite (class A schools) some of these teams we will be pretty evenly-matched with and we will know more (about them) when we play them our first time around.”
As the Maidens prepare to head into the season one area of concern, Woll admits, will be his team’s depth. Even with the loss of the Camels’ production, they will have several players help fill the void and with new roles on the team.
“The main thing I am worried about (headed into this year) is our team’s depth with our style of play,” Woll said. “We are going to have to generate a lot of points from our defense in transition. If we can’t, we are going to have to run on offense against a lot of good defense.”
Ronan won’t be alone in joining Class A. They will be joined by Browning and Libby as one of three new girls basketball teams to join the Northwest A classification.
Though they are in a new league, Woll said he felt his team has already established its identity headed into the unfamiliar league and said he is going to stick to the team’s strengths.
“Our team will be quick and aggressive,” Woll said. “We are going to have to get a lot of points in transition and that will be the name of our game.”
One of the Maidens’ leading seniors Micalann McCrea, who recently signed with Montana State University-Billings which is an NAIA school to play basketball, said she is “looking forward” to being one of the senior leaders on this younger Maidens club.
“I am looking forward to playing in my last year with this group,” McCrea said. “This group of girls is pretty amazing and it would be fun and pretty great to be around. I am looking forward to having fun with the team and I love them all to death. I’ve been pushing some of the younger players to be better and they’ve been pushing me too.”
McCrea, who traveled to various places such as Arizona, Texas, and Georgia as a part of a travelling 17U AAU basketball team, got to experience playing against some of the best young basketball talent in the nation in her age group. McCrea said she felt the experience has not only made her a more well-rounded basketball player but also more aggressive as she was competing against girls as tall as 6 foot, 8 inches that could dunk.
McCrea quickly adjusted to the higher-level of AAU ball and said she felt the experience will serve her well as she prepares for her final season in her high school basketball career.
“I know I’ll be a lot more aggressive this year because I got used to playing against girls that were more aggressive,” McCrea said. “I also got used to playing against taller players in summer ball. The players I played against were a lot faster than I’ve played against before. I had to learn to play a lot better defense, move my feet a lot better and just be quicker.”
Last year the Maidens finished the regular season with an undefeated record before losing to Red Lodge and Three Forks in the 2017 MHSA Class B state girls basketball tournament.