Spartans shooting for South hoops title

FELTON – The Lake Forest girls’ basketball team’s transformation from doormat to Henlopen South contender happened to a certain extent overnight.

Just three years ago, the Lady Spartans finished 8-12, which was actually their most wins in at least four seasons prior.

A coaching change took place following that season and seemingly almost immediately turned the girls’ basketball program around.

Mya Maddox is one of many returnees with the Lake girls' hoops team. (The Journal/Jeff Mitchell)

Mya Maddox is one of many returnees with the Lake girls’ hoops team. (The Journal/Jeff Mitchell)

During the two seasons head coach Trenita Shields has been at the helm, the Lady Spartans have not only recorded winning seasons they have qualified for the state tournament each of those campaigns.

As a consequence of the confidence built up over the past two years, Lake Forest is looking forward to another successful season.

“The only thing I did when I took over was to equip them with the skills they already had,” said Shields. “Right from the start, I wanted them to realize that I expected them to give me their all on a day-to-day basis whether they felt like it or not. It didn’t take them long to adjust to my way of coaching which made the transition easy and successful.”

The Lady Spartans coaching staff is not taking anything for granted mainly due to roster additions and takeaways.

“This early in the preseason I’m making sure our players are becoming competitive,” said Shields. “We have added new players and they need to adjust to what it takes to play winning basketball.”

Actually, both the newcomers and returners will need to adjust to a new system.

“We are still in the process of learning some new things,” Shields said as she prepared her team for its first scrimmage of the season last Saturday. “The change will be that we will become more of a running team this season, which I’m calling controlled chaos.”

In order to change offensive strategies a team needs players that can do the job.

“While I’m looking for (senior) Daia Daniels to play well under the basket, the offense change will rely more on the playing of our guards,” said Shields. “I know our three guards – juniors Arika Burrell, Mya Maddox and Nicole Scott – are capable of handling the pressure.

“I think they are doing well so far because they know what the expectations are for them this season and are rising to the challenge.”

Maddox, who will be playing her third season on the varsity, has no doubt the Lady Spartans will play well this season.

“I expect us to have a really good season this year because we work hard,” she said. “This team has improved every year because our coach pushes us to do our best.

“I know there will be more pressure on the guards this season and I know we can handle it.”

While most coaches do their best to quell championship talk before the season begins, that’s not the case at Lake Forest.

“They are talking championships already,” said Shields. “I would actually rather for them to have that type of goal than not to have any at all.

“They [the players] know what we are playing for each season and I want them to have it on their minds from the start because I know they will give we all they can in order to get to that level.”

Shields went on to say the teams goals this season are to win the Henlopen South, win the conference championship and to go far into the state tournament.

“I really feel we will have a team that can accomplish all of those goals,” Shields said. “The main thing I need to do is make sure there isn’t any doubt in our players’ minds about their ability to play a high level every game.

“That’s being done by raising the bar in practice for varsity as well as the junior varsity because they are the ones that will be our new varsity in the future.”

While no coach knows exactly how a new season will progress, Shields does know the Lady Spartans will have stiff competition.

“I feel our foremost competitor in the South is Milford,” she said. “The reason I feel this is because our girls know and are very good friends with their girls. So making sure I get our players to put their friendships aside until the game is over is my main concern.

“Also, while I don’t really know what type of team they have because of their past records, I feel Woodbridge and Seaford will be competitive. Actually, any of the teams in the South can put a team on the floor that can win the title.”

Getting off to a successful start to the season is important.

“Playing well from the start sets the tone for the entire season,” Shields said. “How they play early will let me know just how bad they want to do well this year. Also what I want them to do is to play hard and intense against all team no matter how well those teams have played in the past.”

Playing well early will be necessary because the Lady Spartans will open the season Dec. 4, at Caravel against a Bucs team that came up one win short of winning last year’s state championship.

Lake will follow with a road game at Laurel Dec. 8 before entertaining Seaford in their home opener Dec. 11.

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