CLINTON — A 5-17 season may not jump off the page to the naked eye, but for the River Queens it was a step in the right direction.
In fact, five wins in the Mississippi Athletic Conference was the most for a Clinton squad since the 2009-2010 season. Andy Eberhart is at the helm of that improvement.
“I feel there were a few factors contributed to our improvement throughout the season,” Eberhart said. “First, we had very coachable girls who work hard and who are coachable. Secondly, I think we put the girls in positions on the floor where they were more comfortable and confident within the offense and, therefore, experience more success.”
To see some of that success you have to, again, look a little deeper than the record. The River Queens actually led the MAC in rebounding, led by senior Sarah Goldensoph in the post.
They were also fourth in the conference in scoring defense — they allowed on average 42 points per game. Defense, especially near the end, was something they focused on.
“We played a lot of zone defense early in the season and switched to man-to-man, and with this we saw the girls become more aggressive,” Eberhart said. “I also think that the girls had fun and hopefully, all felt that they got the opportunity to contribute to the team’s success.”
Part of the approach was not focusing so much on the past. To the River Queens, it was a new season and a new team: the records throughout the last decade didn’t matter.
“Past season’s records are not the focus as we approach our upcoming season,” Eberhart said. “Rather, we focus on skill development and improving identified weaknesses. We do this by trying to work as much in the off season as possible.
“One thing I’ve learned by coaching high school girls is that, yes, they like to be competitive but that they also want to focus on having fun and making lifelong memories. After years of coaching college men, I find this aspect of high school coaching to be refreshing.”
There certainly were memories made. One of those highlights from this year came for junior Megan Gandrup, who set the school career assist record. Running the floor certainly is no easy feat when going up against MAC competition, and but Eberhart knew that Gandrup could handle that pressure.
It paid off.
“Obviously, I want to develop my team and my players’ basketball skills as much as possible but, in the big scheme of things, I also feel it’s so important to develop young people’s character, work ethic, and sense of teamwork,” Eberhart said. “I thoroughly enjoy working with athletes. It’s something I do that I’ve never thought of as a job but more of a passion.
“My favorite part of coaching is seeing the athletes experience success, and I also enjoy the relationships that I develop with the kids.”
After making strides this year in stats and morale, it’s time to keep going. Eberhart is only losing two senior starters next year—Sarah Goldensoph and Madi Eberhart. That leaves leading scorer Megan Gandrup at the head of the offense. Both Molly Chapman and Macy Mulholland averaged over five points a game for the Queens, too, and will come back to the court.
The MAC is never an easy place to play, but Eberhart thinks that more work from Clinton girls will have them improving more.
“We’ll be looking for next year’s sophomores to fill many roles,” Eberhart said. “I think we have a dedicated group and we saw the varsity and junior varsity teams make some good improvement last season so we’ll be looking to build on that. With a strong effort this summer, we plan to be competitive again next year.”