Lady Red Foxes may be on the verge of a big year
By Drake Horton, Contributing Writer
Coaching after a legend is hard. It is even harder when that coach’s name is on the court.
That is the situation Tammy Gibson is currently in. Entering her seventh year as the Hartsville Lady Red Foxes head coach, she is looking to make her mark in the layered history of the girls’ basketball program.
“There is always pressure because years ago we used to dominate,” Gibson said. “We had athletes, we had some great players come through here and we want these ladies to understand that they are representing that tradition and we try to get them to the point that they are buying in so that they can continue that tradition.”
Last year the Lady Red Foxes finished second in the region and advanced to the second round of the playoffs before being eliminated. For her and for the program that is not good enough.
Living up to the standards that former head coach Pat Hewitt set starts with region championships and finishes with state championships.
Gibson, who has yet to win a region championship since being the head coach at Hartsville, believes that is the year that it can happen. One of the big reasons why is the experience that she returns from last year’s second place team.
“This year we have six returning for the season and we have some new comers that are going to make a difference,” Gibson said.
Out of those six returning players from last year’s playoff team three of them were starters last year, giving Hartsville a nice advantage when it comes to experience.
The newcomers for Hartsville that moved up from last year’s junior varsity squad have really bolstered the Lady Red Foxes guard rotation as both have an array of skills that are going to be beneficial during the season.
Most importantly the mix of returners and newcomers are blending well and, according to Gibson, this team is starting to develop some chemistry.
“They are bonding well, we’ve found some chemistry,” Gibson said. “We have one we moved up from JV, a guard, very quick. She can handle the ball and is a terror on defense. I’m looking forward to having her on the floor and the other we moved up from JV is a shooter.”
Senior Saquita Joyner is the catalyst for this Hartsville basketball team. She has been the most valuable player for the team for the last three years, going all the way back to her freshman season. Gibson says she really sees Joyner leading the way for the Lady Red Foxes this year.
The way this team is built from the ground up has Gibson believing they can compete with anybody in the state, regardless of who it is and that has to do with a lot of their physical traits.
“We are up tempo, we’re quick, we’re athletic,” Gibson said. “I think we can compete with anybody so I think with our speed and quickness I think our defense is going to set the tone for us this year. We have some shooters as well.”
She said the thing that she wants her team to be able to do better this year than last is shoot, and that is one of the main functions they have work on throughout practice during the offseason and preseason.
“We’ve worked on more shooting, we have more shooters,” Gibson said.
But just because Gibson has her team focusing on improving their shooting for this year don’t think that means they are going to simply be a pull up and shoot team. Instead she is hoping to mold her team into a balanced attack that can strike both inside and outside.
“We are going to mix it up some,” Gibson said. “We really want to knock down shots to open the floor and drive in the paint.”
Gibson believes that this team is built for a deep playoff run, maybe even a state championship, but in order to do so they must zone in on three critical elements as the season progresses, especially when it gets to playoff time.
“We really have to focus on the little things, we really have to just gel at the right time during that time of the year and we really have to step up our level of play,” Gibson said.
Win or lose, however, Gibson has really enjoyed coaching this group of girls, describing them in a very positive light.
“They are fun, they’re vibrant, they’re energetic,” Gibson said. “I think this is one of my better teams to coach as far as them loving each other and getting along and stuff like that. I think actually it is going to transition to the court when they play.”