Learning through losing A long road: Keeping his chin up, Liberty coach Bob Dawson says his young team gives 150 percent, despite still looking for its first victory.

January 31, 1996|By Jeff Seidel | Jeff Seidel,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Liberty girls basketball coach Bob Dawson is a happy man.

Dawson said his team gives 150 percent in practice and games. He said the Lions have improved tremendously since the beginning of the season.

"They're doing everything I ask them to do," said Dawson. "They're getting better each game."

Still, while Liberty continues to play better as the season progresses, it still is searching for win number one. But Dawson said opponents should not overlook his team, because the Lions might surprise them.

This season has been tough for Dawson from the start. He got the job just one week before practice began and stepped into a whirlwind of activity.

And even though 52 players came out the first day of practice, Dawson lost four seniors he was hoping for and eventually fielded a nine-player team that has one freshman, five sophomores, three juniors -- and no seniors.

Which is why inexperience has been the most-repeated word for the Lions (0-12). Inexperience has forced Liberty into making numerous mistakes that became easy baskets for the opposition.

Simple errors like making the wrong passes at the wrong time or having big problems breaking the press have cost the Lions too many points.

In losing their first 10 games, the Lions fell by an average margin of 36 points (the closest game in that stretch was a 39-28 loss to Damascus).

They have had a few chances, leading into the third quarter against Catholic and being in front in the first half against North Carroll. But those games turned into losses of 14 and 24 points, respectively.

"We're so young and inexperienced," said Liz Armstrong, a junior forward. "They just need to work on it; it will come."

Armstrong and Colleen Cox, a freshman guard, have been two of the bright spots. Cox (11.1 points per game) and Armstrong (10.0) have carried the Liberty offense most of the season.

Both players said staying focused is vital.

"We just have to try our hardest and give our best effort," said Cox. "I think we have to realize that this is a learning year and try to improve with each game."

Before the season started, Dawson said this would be a rebuilding season and patience would be a necessity. He said this is the youngest team he has ever seen in his 13-year career.

Dawson said he wanted the team -- which has some players that skipped right from freshman ball up to varsity -- just to improve in one area each game. So far, the Lions have met that goal.

"I can see that they're doing that," said Dawson. "I want them to keep improving. They can only get better each game."

Dawson said the team continues to work on fundamentals in each practice and game. For example, he said Cox had been practicing her long-range shots and then hit two three-pointers in a recent game.

Dawson said the other three starters -- sophomores Kelly Knutson and Emily Stuard plus junior Rebecca Smith -- have improved. The Lions have gotten help from sophomores Erica Gordon and Shen Poehlman and junior Kristina Restivo off the bench.

The schedule has not been kind to Liberty. The Lions played seven of their first 10 on the road, including six in a row, and have gone up against powers like Linganore.

Dawson harbors some optimism about how the schedule will treat the Lions in the second half of the season.

The Lions have seen most of their foes already. Dawson said they now know the strengths of the others and will be able to prepare and make adjustments much quicker.

"I think we're going to surprise some teams the second time around," said Dawson. "These girls are working hard."

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