SUMMER basketball scrimmages last year were a trial-by-fire of sorts for a Jackson County girls’ team getting acclimated to a new coach.
Now, it’s evident that Julie McCutcheon and her team have benefitted from spending the past year together.
“We’re very excited, and it’s better being in camp this summer because last summer I only had them for about a week and a half or two weeks,” McCutcheon said.
“When we got pressed, we really didn’t have much in. You couldn’t help them much because we hadn’t had time. And now it’s been a little better this summer because they see some of the things that we’ve taught them.”
McCutcheon, who coached Jackson County to a 7-19 record this past winter, said her team played very well during a recent trip to Tennessee for a Fellowship of Christian Athletes camp.
Facing an assortment of different teams — from fast-tempo squads to the more deliberate and fundamental — the Lady Panthers won four of eight games and could have easily claimed two more wins on their out-of-state trip.
“We got beat on two buzzer beaters,” McCutcheon said.
Jackson County then hosted a series of scrimmages on its own home floor last week. Although the team struggled during stretches, McCutcheon was still able to notice a difference between this year and last year’s group.
“Where we were last summer and where we are this summer — trying to replace some of our seniors that graduated — I’m pleased with the progress that we’re making,” McCutcheon said following a scrimmage against Dawson County. “We just still realize this camp has shown us everything that we’ve got to work on.”
As far as the positives go, McCutcheon pointed to the play of center Ashlyn Loudermilk, a rising senior, and the versatile Destiny Gaudlock, a rising sophomore who is listed as a guard.
“Their passing and chemistry is going very well right now,” McCutcheon said. “Destiny has had to cover so much for us. We can play her inside or outside. And Ashlyn has just improved tremendously.”
McCutcheon added that several players are filling roles, “but those two have just really stepped up and done a great job and taken our game to the next level.”
Jackson County lost three seniors from last year’s team, and McCutcheon said her group has considerable ground to cover between now and when the season starts. But this year’s group will be more experienced than last year’s squad, which had six sophomores and two freshmen.
“We do have some that are returning because we were very young last year,” McCutcheon said. “Now that’s no longer an excuse because we’ve got a year under our belt.”