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Work ethic, potential point to brighter days for Polk girls

The frustration of a 1-14 record for Polk County girls basketball coach Brandy Alm comes in the lack of rewards for her players.

The frustration of a 1-14 record for Polk County girls basketball coach Brandy Alm comes in the lack of rewards for her players.

Not that the competitive Alm, a three-sport standout in high school who played collegiate basketball, hasn’t spent a few sleepless nights in the wake of losses such as Friday’s 62-42 setback to Madison.

But given the effort the Wolverines deliver every day in practice and during games, she would love to see that energy be rewarded.

“The most frustrating part of not having more wins is how hard we work and the ability we have,” Alm said. “The potential is so great, and to watch us lose each quarter is heartbreaking. It’s not for a lack of effort. These girls never give up.”

That work ethic has been supplemented this season by a group of five freshmen who have been on the varsity roster since opening day and have seen significant playing time during the season. One of those freshmen, Kristen Hall, had 10 points in Friday’s loss, a game in which junior Ansley Lynch led the team with 13 points and 11 rebounds.

Senior Autumn Owen, the team’s leading scorer, had nine points while senior Kendall Hall had eight and freshman Rachael Davis added two.

The young group, Alm said, has benefited from being around upperclassmen such as Owen, Hall and Lynch, helping them to learn and build a foundation for the program going forward.

“Kristen has improved so much since the beginning of the season,” Alm said. “Playing against Autumn every day in practice, how could she not improve?

“Sometimes the freshmen play like upperclassmen. They’ve all played a lot of basketball because they’ve played travel ball. They’re learning from the upperclassmen, but some of the upperclassmen have learned from them as well just because they’ve played so much.”

Though the Wolverines have just one win, there have been signs that better days are ahead.

Polk County’s biggest issue this season and last has been developing consistent scoring throughout its lineup, as Owen and Lynch have carried the bulk of the scoring load in each season.

Through their first 15 games last season, the Wolverines averaged just 33 points per game. Through the 15 games this season, Polk County has upped that mark to 43 points per outing. Owen and Lynch are both averaging in double figures, with freshman Sara Muse the team’s third-leading scorer.

“I feel like we are definitely better than we were last year,” Alm said. “We just can’t seem to outscore our opponents.

“One of the big things for us as far as scoring more is that we need to get better reading defenses. We need to have more confidence in ourselves and trust ourselves. We had 30 turnovers (Friday night) because we’re making poor decisions. They know when they need to pass, but then they second-guess themselves.

“We have a lot of possessions where we force a lot of passes, which leads to turnovers. When they hesitate to make a pass, that’s often the differrence in the opponent stealing the ball and us getting a layup. Being more confident is important, especially for the younger players.”

Alm isn’t giving up on adding wins this season even in a loaded Western Highlands Conference where all three teams are ranked in state polls and all five other teams could make deep playoff runs. “We have gotten better, and we have the ability to beat teams in our conference,” she said.

But Alm is also already planning for next season, when a program that grew noticably in numbers this season will be joined by players from Polk County Middle School’s division-winning squad.

“We just need to play basketball, to get into the gym this summer and get into the weight room,” Alm said. “Those are things we need to do to build this program again.”

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