The scheduling tightrope

Last Friday, Laney’s girls basketball team beat the Pender Patriots 69-17. Meanwhile, New Hanover’s boys team dropped its fourth straight game with a 60-51 loss to Hillside.

The two games illustrate the opposite ends of the spectrum for nonconference scheduling. It’s a tightrope to walk for local teams trying to build confidence while testing themselves early in the season.

The Laney girls’ schedule is an example of the former. The Bucs are 4-0 this season and have outscored opponents 250-63 so far. Laney’s student enrollment is 1,994, but the Bucs haven’t played another 4A team yet this season, and don’t have one on the schedule until the start of conference play.

Laney assistant coach Russ Adams, filling in for an out-of-town head coach Sherry Tynes, said the Bucs aren’t focused on their opponent, instead trying to focus on improving themselves.

But Adams admitted that maintaining focus when a game is lopsided at halftime is a challenge.

“The kids buy in to the fact that you’re going to play defense correctly regardless of what the score is,” Adams said. “Because (Tynes) holds you to a standard.”

The New Hanover boys don’t have that problem, but they are faced with a whole different set. New Hanover has already faced four powerful 4A teams - and lost to all four. The Wildcats intentionally scheduled tough opponents.

“I didn’t want to keep playing 1As and weaker 2As just to get wins; that’s not going to make us any better,” New Hanover coach Kirk Angel said.

Losing too many games early can submarine players’ confidence for the rest of the season, and New Hanover has already dropped games by 43 and 24 points.

Instead of losing confidence, Angel said that the brutal early schedule has forced his players to buy in to the team.

“They thought, ‘All we’ve got to do is put on that uniform and we’ll get the same result as last year,’ ” Angel said. “Now they’re realizing we can’t do the same things that team did. We have to do it this way and listen to the coaches.”

But most schools try to have a little more balance. Whiteville’s girls team provides a good example: The Wolfpack are 3-3 so far this season after making the third round of the 2A playoffs last season. Already, Whiteville has a blowout, 54-7 win against South Robeson, and a 60-29 loss to 4A Scotland County.

The challenge, according to Whiteville coach Serena Smith, is making sure there’s a takeaway from each matchup.

“We learn from the losses as well as the ones that we won,” Smith said. “The tougher games, they let us know how tough we are.”


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