tenth of a point — The plight of the Lakewood Cougars

This week's barley legible rant is in appreciation of Chris Walster.

The Lakewood girls varsity hoops coach looked at his roster to begin the year and didn't see a single returning starter. So he prepared himself for a rebuilding year.

Now before I go on, let me explain something. "Rebuilding" is a term that has developed a negative connotation to it, which is not what I am getting at. Whenever you have to find a completely new starting five, you're rebuilding your identity — it's just a fact. It doesn't mean that the Cougars won't end up being a great success at the end of the year at the District 1 Tournament, or even the state tournament

Walster could, however, count on the fact that he had a couple of key contributors from last season to build around, namely senior Maria Wiederkehr and Kaylee Diggs. But during Lakewood's annual Red and Gold game around Thanksgiving, both girls tore ligaments in their knees. What a huge blow to a team already trying to find a new path.

The first time I saw Walster’s girls in action was Dec. 16 in a home game against Meridian, and I had no reason to believe that anything had happened.

The Cougars were all over the floor playing like they’ve all had a year of varsity experience under their belt.

Meridian isn’t exactly a push over this season either. I covered them just two years ago and they were planning for 2009-10 to be the start of a new program for them.

It was only after the game ended that Walster told me about his team’s plight. That injuries had landed three of his players out indefinitely.

Still, what Walster has done with these girls in a matter of weeks is impressive. Offensively, they ran an offense that produced the shots it was going for. Most of the Cougars’ shots were wide open, unfortunately there is some sort of hex on surrounding the northernmost area of Marysville this winter keeping open shots from bouncing in baskets.

Nevertheless, the Cougars are on the right path, and have all seen enough adversity to last the whole season.

Walster should be commended for keeping his girls’ spirits up and playing basketball in a way that helps them develop and keeps them in games. I know it doesn’t mean much now, but during the second half of the season, that will start translating into wins.

I’ve seen it happen before.

That is why basketball season is so long. You keep playing the right way, and eventually the ball will start to roll your way.

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