Sabrina Kraska drives for a layup at the Second Annual NCCC Shootout. Photo by Tom Gallagher.
While most teams used the summer shootout to get their roster together again and prepare for the upcoming basketball season in the winter, one local team used the day to become acquainted with a new face.
Joe Dougherty, who was the varsity girls basketball coach at Nardin the last four years, has taken over the reins at Eden High School. His first opportunity to work with the Lady Raiders came on July 12 in the Second Annual Niagara County Community College Shootout.
The shootout has a second date set for Aug. 9 at NCCC.
“It’s a big plus to meet them,” said Dougherty, who is taking over for Marissa Fallacaro. “They can learn a little about my terminology and I can give them a little bit of what to expect before coming in in November.
“It gets me to see and learn about the girls. I get an idea of who’s capable of doing what and put them in roles where they’ll succeed in.”
Williamsville North, Maryvale, Sweet Home, Niagara-Wheatfield, Williamsville South, Wilson, Gowanda, Iroquois, Cleveland Hill, Newfane and Sodus of Section V were all a part of the first shootout session.
Each team was guaranteed three games, with semifinals and finals being played to conclude the session. The winning school received free pizza and water, while a Shootout MVP and Hustle Award was given out at the end of the event.
The teams were split within an A pool and B pool, with two of the top teams from each pool advancing to the semifinals after pool play.
“The teams that are here are the ones that are most successful come winter,” said Nate Beutel, who is entering his third season as the head women’s basketball coach at NCCC. “The teams that apply themselves and put in that hard work, energy and effort 12 months out of the year, that pays off come winter time. And a lot of teams here are those types of teams.”
Dougherty believes his group at Eden is one of those teams, as the Lady Raiders only lost two girls to graduation. Lindsay Gearhart, the team’s leading scorer, returns, along with Sabrina Kraska, Kailee Ballou, Meghan Ballou, Hannah Mardino, Claire Czajka, Brittny Gates, Jill Murray, MacKenzie Biastre and Hayley Kobie. They’re all back from a team that went 8-4 in ECIC IV during the 2013-14 season.
“I know we’re going to be competitive in our division. In the Bs in general I think we’re going to be competitive,” said Dougherty. “We just have to put it all together and make it as far as we can… It’s a good nucleus of girls. Their fundamentals are really good. Marissa did a good job with them last year, and the girls like each other.”
With the expansion from a one-day session with 10 teams in its inaugural year to two sessions with 12 teams this summer, the shootout matched up schools that normally would not meet each other in the regular season or playoffs. Beutel and Dougherty believe the diversity of the programs will benefit everyone involved.
“We have a good mix this year,” Beutel said. “We have small schools and we have large schools. We have local teams and we have teams from out of town. So it’s nice to have a nice mix so players aren’t always seeing the same teams.
“We played Williamsville South close for a half, but then they started pressing and trapping. That’s something we’ve got to work on,” Dougherty said. “To get to that sectional championship level we have to work on some things.”
For new coaches like Dougherty, implementing specific offenses and defenses was not the plan. Besides some basic plays, he simply wanted to take the opportunity to gel with his team and see which girls are capable of a few months in advance.
“We did a couple of inbounds plays and a brief offense, but nothing that we may do during the season or anything,” Dougherty noted. “Just something so we can look like a team out there now.”
For NCCC, the program is a 2-in-1 stop shop for Beutel, who uses the shootout to raise money while keeping an eye out on basketball players who may want to play on the next level.
“This is partially a fundraiser for our program and it’s also a great recruiting tool for us,” Beutel explained. “We get a lot of girls on campus at one time. Maybe they see something that they like. Maybe I make a connection with someone here. That can only help us down the line.
“And for the teams themselves, they get three quality games with the opportunity to play for a championship, which the kids always love.”
While Beutel likes certain aspects of the shootout, such as its one-day format that makes it easier for teams like Sodus to be a part of the camp and make it home the same day, he hopes to expand upon the current format in the near future as the program gains even more popularity, already growing from 10 teams to 24 teams in 12 months.
“We talked about possibly using another site, like Starpoint, which is right down the street, for more teams,” said Beutel, a Starpoint graduate. “Also, it is a full court side-to-side, but maybe using the main court can be something to look into.”