The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

January 18, 2013

Scott Dudinskie's girls basketball column: A whole different year for Line Mountain


Daily Item

---- — I couldn't find a number for the guy who said, "A picture is worth a thousands words."

Disappointing.

I was going to patch him through to my editor and have him explain the concept.

Now I'm back to square one -- on the hook for a picture's worth of column inches -- and the photo I'm looking at is still extremely relevant.

So do me a favor: Go grab a copy of Tuesday's Daily Item sports section. I'll wait.

OK. Take a look at the big, color photo on the front page, the one of the Line Mountain and Danville girls vying for a rebound.

Pretty much your standard game-action shot, I know.

Now look near the middle of the photo, on the far left side. The man standing in front of Line Mountain's bench (light shirt, gray slacks) is Eagles coach Mike Reed. You'll notice he's facing the girls who are seated rather than the ones who are, um, "vying."

Bingo! A square-inch portion of a photo and it pretty much tells the story of an entire season.

A year ago, Reed had the best seat in the house for the season's best story. His Eagles, led by senior 1,000-point scorers Kasey Long and Mikhail Whitcomb, had an perfect regular season.

Most Valley teams focus on getting 11 wins, the bare minimum to qualify for the district playoffs with a .500 record. Line Mountain doubled that number without a loss last year and, again, Reed was front-and-center, able to soak up the best regular season of his dozen in charge.

This year, Reed has spent much of the Eagles' game time turned away from the court, his back to the action, seizing the teaching moments that present themselves in a season chock full of them.

"You're trying to fix some things: 'Hey, if you get this chance again do this,' or 'You can get this shot off if you do this,'" Reed explained after Monday's 63-35 loss at Danville. "It's kind of a constant coaching thing."

Line Mountain stopped a five-game losing streak at home Tuesday against Lancaster Country Day, its second string of four or more losses this season. Still, at their current pace, the Eagles will be eliminated from playoff contention by month's end. The wins have just been too few and far between.

"It's that goofy circle where you have to have confidence to win, but you have to win to have confidence," Reed explained. "I think that's getting us right now a little bit."

It would be foolish to lay all the blame for the team's struggles on the graduation of Long and Whitcomb, but just as foolish to discount the impact of losing them. Both would be in the conversation if the program ever selected an all-time team.

Their departure (along with graduates Macy Bethge, Chelsea Lahr and Michelle Menko) left Reed with precious few varsity holdovers. Point guard Jade London and forward Madison Lagerman were the most seasoned returnees.

Six games into the season, while still finding their way at 2-4, London broke her collarbone. What followed was the five-game losing streak.

"When Jade went down, I think everybody's heads went down, like, 'What are we going to do now?'" said Reed. "I just tried to shuffle people around and, from that point, it's just getting them to believe they can do something."

That, of course, is easier said than done. The Eagles led Halifax (second in Tri-Valley League) by nine points after three quarters and lost. They got to within a point of Newport late after being down 13. They hung with Millersburg and Upper Dauphin but eventually lost by a margin in teens.

"We were in games ... and we fell apart in a quarter," said Reed. "We've been doing that."

Monday the tell-tale quarter was the first. Danville hounded Line Mountain into 10 turnovers, shot 50 percent and built a 15-point lead in the period. It was a 25-point difference at halftime.

"Teaching moments ... there's one," said Reed. "I think it was 34-10 at halftime, or something like that -- it was awful, I know that. That's one where you can go in and rip the paint off the wall in the locker room. Instead of doing that, I'm drawing things up on the clipboard ... 'Here's what we need to do.'

"I said, 'You've just got to keep playing. Are we going to come back and win this game? I doubt it. But can we come out and look like we know how to play the game? Yeah.' We came out and looked respectable in the second half."

The Eagles played Danville even in the third quarter. Reed's daughter, junior guard Madeline, hit a pair of 3-pointers, and classmate Colleen Troutman pulled down five boards to go with four points and two steals.

In the face of a 37-12 halftime deficit, Line Mountain showed a great deal of heart. And while that and 75 cents will get you a can of Coke, that was a very good sign for them. It proved there is light at the end of the tunnel.

The players responsible for all but two of Line Mountain's 23 second-half points (remember, they had 12 in the first half) will return next season.

Lagerman, who's done much of the ballhandling in London's absence, should return to the post with a broader skill set. Same with Madeline Reed, who moved from the post to guard and leads the team in 3-pointers. That's to say nothing of the half-dozen other Eagles who are getting varsity minutes.

"If you have your point guard ... maybe we win a couple of those games and people's heads aren't hanging. But it's hard to get that through to them. Once you get to 'if' it's hard to swallow," said Mike Reed. "If we can get Jade back, and finish the year off with some wins that will definitely make everybody's season better while giving us a little bit of a look at what we have for next year."

Reed may only take those looks between teaching moments, but he clearly sees the big picture.

n Scott Dudinskie covers girls basketball for The Daily Item. Email comments or questions to sdudinskie@dailyitem.com.