McDERMOTT — Perhaps Ponce de Leon has been out Roy Rogers’ way.
That’s because, at Northwest High School, there is a fountain of youth with the Lady Mohawks’ basketball team.
With only one senior, the Mohawks are mixing their youth movement with their returning experience, as several players — including four starters — are back from last season’s overly-young 9-13 squad.
But not only does Northwest sport experience and youth, it has some size — and overall improved athletic ability.
As Dave Frantz’s fourth year as NHS head coach begins, his Lady Mohawks continue to improve — and continue to climb the ladder in a rugged Southern Ohio Conference Division II.
Frantz, a Northwest lifer, has coached basketball for 10 years total — along with two decades as the school’s athletic director and a longtime 32 as the coach for track and field.
But building the girls basketball program into a winner is what Frantz is enjoying now.
The Mohawks graduated four seniors, but three of their returning starters are doing so for their third year.
Northwest’s sole senior is the tallest lady on the team — six-foot, one-inch Keirah Potts.
She — along with 5-10 junior point guard Haidyn Wamsley, 5-9 junior forward Valerie Copas and 5-7 sophomore shooting guard Ava Jenkins — have all started for at least two seasons.
Wamsley, with scoring at nine points per game, was a Southeast District Division III third-team selection — while Potts posted Special Mention accolades.
“We are a young team still, but we have a lot of experience, starting experience,” said Frantz. “And this is the deepest we have been in a long time. We can’t use being young as an excuse anymore, because these girls have experience. We are also a very long team and have some decent height.”
The remainder of the returning roster also has experience, including 5-8 junior Alexia Throckmorton and 5-6 junior spot-starter Terra Webb.
Webb was the early-on sixth-man Lady Mohawk, but suffered a season-ending dislocated shoulder injury, which required surgery.
But Webb returns for Frantz this season, as do sophomores Reagan Lewis (5-9), Kloe Montgomery (5-10) and Audrey Knittel (5-10).
The coach prefers an up-tempo style, given the club’s depth and improved outside shooting, although the Lady Mohawks’ half-court attack is progressing.
“We have some size, and when we were healthy last year, we went nine or even 10 deep and all those girls are back,” said Frantz. “Depending upon how deep we are, we would like to move the ball up and down the court. We’d like to fast break with it, but at the same time, our shooting has gotten better to where our half-court sets are going to be okay for us as well.”
But while experience and even height are strengths, the Lady Mohawks must be stronger with the basketball — both in their hands and on the boards.
“We’ve been working on a lot of ball-handling drills this year. I know turnovers got us a lot last year, but I don’t know if it was the ball-handling as much as it was the decision-making,” said Frantz. “We’re getting better there. That was a point of emphasis in the offseason and is always an area of improvement.”
The coach continued.
“I’m trying to get across to the girls that rebounding and being strong on the boards is a mentality. We’re not the biggest or strongest team, and we can run and get up and down the court, but we need to be more physical,” he said. “We played Ironton in the sectional final and we had two sophomores and three freshmen on the floor at one time several times. Ironton was the most physical team we played last year, and in the first half, they just kicked us around. In the second half, we played pretty even with them, but it was all due to the physicality. We’re trying to get these girls to be more physical and be more aggressive.”
The Lady Mohawks must be more physical and aggressive against the likes of Wheelersburg, Oak Hill and Minford — arguably the top three SOC II squads.
Wheelersburg is the defending division champion, but Frantz feels the league is open to more parity this campaign.
Northwest went 3-11 in the league last year, as Eastern moves up from the smaller-school SOC I.
“I think the league is going to be more balanced, but everybody — and I know it’s a cliche — on any given night, one thru nine, is going to be tough,” said Frantz.
And — given their youth, experience, intelligence and improved numbers — expect the Lady Mohawks to make it tough on their opposition.
“I’m very excited, and although a lot of it has to do with the youth we have, a lot of it has to do with the attitudes,” said Frantz. “These are great kids. We have 19 girls out, which is the most we’ve ever had out, and 12 on varsity. The worst grade point average out of any of the 19 was a 3.0 GPA. That’s pretty impressive. We have a good group of girls that come from good families and it makes working with them a pleasure.”
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @BoggsSports © 2019 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved