A new face is back with the Cleveland Hill High School girls basketball team and two of the program’s all-time greats have graduated. So it’s a different look for head coach Darci Secor, who returns to the Eagles’ bench after six years away.
But the Eagles have been competitive again to start the season and hope to continue to build the program.
“We’re transitioning in well together,” said Secor, who was Cleveland Hill’s coach for her first 12 years as a teacher before taking a break. “I think the girls are adjusting well to myself and my coaching style and just working well as a team. A lot of these girls had never played varsity before. It is a learning process.”
Secor is Cleveland Hill’s fourth coach in five years, replacing Kristin Wegrzyn, who led the Eagles the last two seasons. So far, the players are working well with the new coach.
“It’s really, really different,” junior guard Essence Everett said. “I like my new coach. She’s really nice but she pushes us a lot. She’s tough on us when she has to be.”
Everett is responsible for the Play of the Year so far for the Eagles in a big early-season win. On Dec. 21, Cleveland Hill trailed ECIC IV rival Tonawanda by double digits in the second half but rallied to tie the game in the final minutes. It remained tied until Everett drained a 15-foot jumper with 5.5 seconds left in the fourth quarter. The Eagles held on for a 43-42 win.
“I just shot it,” Everett said. “I was nervous but coach told us that we can’t be scared to shoot it. So I just took the shot.”
The roster also looks much different as well after the graduation of two five-year varsity standouts in Sydney Turley (20.1 points per game last year) and Jayla James (11.8 ppg). Those two combined for 32 points per game last season – no other player scored more than four a night.
“I think we’re getting better. Our shooting percentage is improving,” Secor said. “We still need to work on rebounding and boxing out but I think they’re learning a lot of new looks on the floor and that’s helping us build as a team.”
Cleveland Hill was 15-7 last season after going 18-5 the year before. In 2014-15, the Eagles went 20-3 and won the program’s first sectional championship. The key players in that run have moved on so the focus right now is on the future for the team that has just one senior on the roster.
“We have a young team and we are growing every day,” Secor said. “As far as expectations, I’d love to go .500 and then build next year since I’m only losing one and moving some more up.”
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