Scotty Fletcher’s debut season as a head coach hasn’t gone as he had hoped, but he is far from ready to throw in the towel.
The Pearl River women are 1-7 overall at the holiday break, 0-2 in the South Division. Until beginning division play, the Lady Wildcats were able to hang close, but the last two games have been tough.
“I think we’ve had some tough breaks,” said Fletcher, the former Williams Carey assistant coach. “We’ve lost some very close ball games. Before our last two games, the biggest margin of defeat had been eight points.
“Record-wise, we’re not where we want to be, but we aren’t getting blown out night after night. We are very competitive, we’ve got a little grit about us, we’re tough and we’re scrappy.”
In fact, misfortune hit the Lady Wildcats before the season ever started when freshman center Marqueesha Hoskins went out with a season-ending knee injury. The former Tupelo High standout was expected to anchor the post for PRCC, and her loss has left a big hole in the Lady Wildcats’ game.
“Early on, we were wanting to play a lot of man-to-man (defense), and that’s what we worked on during the fall and in preseason,” Fletcher said. “We have stressed man-to-man principles, but because our depth isn’t where we need it to be, we can’t do that.
“So we’ve had to change and go to a 2-3 zone, because it keeps us out of foul trouble, but we don’t force as many turnovers as we would like. We would like to play a little more press, get up on the ball and extend our pressure, and we haven’t been able to do that.”
Still, Fletcher points to several games where the Lady Wildcats had excellent changes to win, and couldn’t seal the deal.
PRCC played nip-and-tuck with East Mississippi, and had two good chances in the final minute, trailing by two points, and couldn’t get a shot to fall either time in what ended up as a two-point loss. The Lady Wildcats also led at Baton Rouge for most of the game before losing in overtime by one point.
“East Mississippi is a team that won on the road at Meridian and beat East Central,” Fletcher said. “So that’s a good measuring stick for us.”
Despite the team’s seven-game losing streak, Fletcher says his girls are still thinking positive and not looking back at the might-have-beens.
“To be around us, you wouldn’t think we were a 1-7 team,” Fletcher said. “I’ve had some coaches tell us when we’ve been out recruiting, ‘gosh, y’all play so hard,’ and that’s the ultimate compliment.”
Fletcher has been more than pleased with his team off the court. The Lady Wildcats posted a team grade-point average of 3.3 for the fall semester, and his players have become close as a team.
“I want to give Coach (Shakira) Nettles a lot of credit,” Fletcher said. “We focus on trying to create a family atmosphere, continuing to monitor and check on their well-being, and their decision-making on and off the court. And we stress that every day.
“I’m proud that all three of our sophomores are on track to graduate, and that’s what we want. We want every girl who wears a Lady Wildcat uniform to graduate, and when she leaves here, we want to be instrumental in her development.”
One of the squad’s team-building excursions was a recent trip to the Wal-Mart in Picayune to but Christmas presents to give to 55 special-needs children in the Picayune School District.
“It was just an opportunity to give back to the community,” Fletcher said. “We’re really big on that. So we’ve done some things off the court and outside the practice realm that have allowed us to grow as a team and form our own identity.”
Still, the bottom line is wins-and losses. Fletcher said the team will reconvene on New Year’s Day and begin preparations for the second half of the season.
“We have 14 games left,” Fletcher said. “And I do believe we’re going to turn the corner. It’s all going to click. As long as we’re playing hard, then we’ve always got a chance, and that’s all we can ask.”