Wheaton braces for rigors of conference play

Wednesday, January 29, 2014
Wheaton guard Crystal Alvarado tries to maneuver around a defender during a game earlier this season. Alvarado and her teammates tasted victory for the first time this season with a win over Lutie in the Galena Tournament. Jared Lankford/sports@cassville-democrat.com

Lady Bulldogs encouraged by victory over Lutie

Wheaton girls basketball coach Heather (Goostree) Senseney knew she had a monumental task ahead of her when she was named as the team's new skipper this season.

As the Lady Bulldogs prepare for Friday night's game with Exeter, Wheaton is more worried about itself than the Lady Tigers.

"We have had several fundamental things to address since I began," Senseney said. "A young team coupled with no offseason workouts to speak of was a devastating combination."

Senseney, a 2007 graduate of Wheaton High School, was driven to come home and try to resurrect the once proud Lady Bulldogs squad.

While she knows the distance between where the program is now and where she wants it to be is quite a gap, Senseney hasn't backed away from the challenge.

"I try to keep things positive and remind the girls of what they are accomplishing every day," she said. "We are making strides, maybe not in the win column, but we are becoming a better team."

There are very tangible signs of her efforts paying dividends.

"Instead of losing games by 50 or 60 points this season to solid teams, we are losing by 20 or 30 points," Senseney said. "That may not sound like much of an improvement but in terms of where we were when I started, its huge."

A lack of confidence is a persistent problem for a team that has won just twice in its last three seasons.

Still, the first-year coach attacks the situation head-on. Because of their timid nature, Senseney encourages her team to shoot.

"To be a good shooter, you have to have the mind set that you can make the shot," she said. "The girls don't want to shoot, because the don't want to miss. I have told them they won't get in trouble for shooting."

On Friday, Senseney got some much need help in the form of a 45-32 win over Lutie in the Galena Tournament.

The Lady Bulldogs attempted 80 shots during the contest and put together four solid quarters on both ends of the floor.

"The team was excited," Senseney said. "You work so hard in practice to get ready and then finally get a win, it really helps the team spirit."

Even more impressive than the win was the way in which it was achieved. Wheaton played the majority of the game with five freshman on the floor.

The Lady Bulldogs began the season with a total of eight sophomores and freshmen on the team. Two freshmen who have caught the coach's eye are Karlee Mason and Emily Killion.

The 5-9 Mason, leads the team in scoring with 9 points per game and continues to mature each and every week.

Killion is listed at 5-10 and leads the squad in rebounds. Senseney expects her to become an anchor on the team.

The future looks bright in Wheaton with talented junior high programs about to bolster varsity rosters.

"We can't fix everything overnight," Senseney said. "

But, with hard work on the court and in our up coming summer programs we will get there."

While the win over Lutie may not seem that big now, it could just be that building block the Lady Bulldogs needed to turn things around.

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