Mohler has Gators laughing, winning

January 23, 1994|By Kevin Eck | Kevin Eck,Contributing Writer

After two consecutive losing seasons, basketball is fun again at Seton Keough.

The players are enjoying themselves and so is first-year coach Mike Mohler, who has kept his team loose by finding humor in even the tensest situations.

In an early season meeting with then-No. 3 Mount Hebron, for instance, Seton Keough trailed by one point with five minutes remaining.

As a Mount Hebron player prepared to shoot a one-and-one, Mohler looked at his players on the bench and asked: "Are you all nervous? I am."

About 30 seconds later, Mohler asked one of his managers how many timeouts he had remaining.

When informed that he had one left, Mohler pointed to Vikings coach Dave Greenberg and said: "Well, tell him to give me one."

During the first half of that game, both Mohler and Greenberg had expressed their displeasure with the officiating. At halftime, the officials warned both coaches to tone it down.

"He told me to do it," said Mohler, again motioning to Greenberg.

Mohler's sarcasm on the sidelines should not be mistaken for a lack of intensity, however.

"On the floor, we play hard," he said. "But there are times to lighten it up a bit. Even when it's darkest out there, you have to realize it's a game, and it's supposed to be fun."

With 21 years of coaching experience at the junior high, high school and college levels, Mohler came to Seton Keough with a commitment to winning.

And he has the Gators, a combined 16-28 the past two seasons, believing they're as good as anyone.

Despite five of his top six players' being underclassmen, Mohler has led the Gators to an 9-5 record and a No. 14 ranking. All five losses have been to ranked teams.

"I thought this would be a rebuilding year," sophomore point guard Melanie Morris said. "He's brought our confidence level up."

Said sophomore forward Meghann Donovan: "Our goal is to win the Catholic League, and I think we can do it."

Seton Keough (4-2 in the league behind St. Mary's and St. Frances), which had won three straight league championships prior to the 1991-92 season, initially raised some eyebrows with its 42-35 season-opening victory over McDonogh. At the time, the Gators' win was considered an upset.

Since then, the Gators have been in every game except one -- a 26-point loss to St. Frances. In the second meeting between the two teams, however, Seton Keough held a seven-point lead in the second half before losing by nine.

Mohler has used an up-tempo offense and stressed defensive intensity.

"From the feedback I've gotten, we play a more aggressive game this season," said Mohler, who had coached several of his players in recreation leagues prior to high school. "We want to press and run.

"Some teams may jump higher, run faster or shoot better than we can. We can't control those things. We can control how hard we play on defense."

The Gators' offense has been balanced, led by Morris (12.7 ppg), Donovan (10.1 ppg, 7.9 rpg) and freshman Charity Carbine (9.2 ppg).

"We don't have one girl who says 'the game is mine' and takes it over," he said. "We need that to get to the next level."

Several players have shown the ability to assume that role.

Morris, for example, scored 33 against Fort Hill last month. Donovan has emerged as a force inside, scoring a combined 54 in the past three games. Carbine, the first player off the bench, also has sparked Seton Keough on offense.

"There's enough ability here for one of these girls to break out," Mohler said. "I have trouble remembering that the bulk of this team is underclassmen. I want them to be the best. Sometimes I think my timetable is quicker than theirs."

GATOR GAINS

How Seton Keough has fared the past two seasons and their record this season under first-year coach Mike Mohler:

.. .. .. Overall .. .. Catholic

Season . .. Record ... .. League rec.

'91-92 . .. 9-14 .. .. ... 6-8

'92-93 . .. 7-14 .. .. .. 4-10

'93-94 . ... 9-5 .. .. ... 4-2

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