ALLENTOWN — The Allentown High School girls basketball team saw its 1999-2000 season come to an end March 2 with a loss to Ewing in the first round of the Central Jersey Group III state tournament.
But the Redbirds and their coaches, led by first-year head coach Lynn Hoyer, are certainly not hanging their heads about what could have been. Instead, they’re taking a more positive approach.
"I am proud of the heart and commitment shown from everyone on this team that they displayed in every game we played," Hoyer said. "The entire season was a learning experience for me (as a new head coach) but I think we are on the right path with this program. Personally, you are satisfied with your accomplishments but you are always looking ahead to see what you can do to improve it."
Hoyer’s words come in the aftermath of the Redbirds’ 61-31 loss to second-seeded Ewing (20-3). The Blue Devils controlled the game from the opening tip by jumping out to leads of 20-5 after the first quarter and 37-12 at halftime. It was too much of a deficit for seventh-seeded Allentown to overcome despite the fact the Redbirds outscored the Lions in the fourth quarter, 13-8, when the outcome was already determined. One of the differences in the game, according to Hoyer, was the number of turnovers made by Allentown.
"When you commit 29 turnovers in a game of this magnitude, that does not help you," the coach said. "I know the girls had the jitters going into a state game, but we just didn’t show Ewing what we had. We were too nervous out there."
Hoyer said her squad was well-prepared for Ewing, but the Redbirds simply didn’t have an answer to Ewing’s aggressive defensive pressure and full-court presses.
"When Ewing went to double-team us, we turned the ball over," she said. "The mood on the way to the game was good. It was a quick ride to Ewing, something we’re not used to. The girls were up and ready for the game. It just didn’t work out like we wanted it to.
"As far as emotion was concerned, we tried," Hoyer said. "Unfortunately, we just ran scared and handed Ewing the ball too many times. I give a lot of credit to (assistant) coach (Melissa) Fifield. She kept the girls encouraged on the bench, just like she did during last year’s state game."
In her final game, senior Dana Thomp-son led the way with 13 points and 12 rebounds against Ewing.
Although she did not score, Hoyer said senior point guard Desiree Painchaud put in her usual consistent effort by contributing in other aspects of the game.
Junior Kelly Harchetts had nine points, including two three-point field goals. Senior Tiffany Smith, who turned in some productive games toward the end of the year, was forced to miss the state game with an injury, the coach said.
Looking back on the 1999-2000 season, the Redbirds finished with a record of 11-12 and qualified for the state tournament for the second consecutive year.
While saying she was pleased when assessing the season using that perspective, Hoyer said her squad didn’t accom-plish some of the team goals the players had established before the year began, some of which were to win the Jackson Christmas Tournament (the Redbirds finished second) and win a state tournament game.
Separate from the games themselves, Hoyer offered the following perspective about what made her proud to coach this team.
"Just to watch the girls grow throughout the season, on the court, was especially pleasing," Hoyer said. "For example, watching younger players like Laura Scimeca and Kelly Allen step up and play some good games for us was great to see. I also give a lot of credit to Tiffany Smith (who transferred from Neptune) because it’s tough to break into a new system in your senior year. I thought she made great strides.
"I was also proud of the commitment put in night in and night out by Desiree Painchaud, Dana Thompson and Leslie Van Hise, our three (senior) captains," the coach said. "When you look back at what a Lady Redbird is supposed to represent, you can just look at those three. Also, Kelly Harchetts played with a broken finger throughout most of the year. She missed four games, but she always wanted to be out on the floor contributing for us. She never gave up and always kept pushing herself. When the chips were down for this team, they never gave up. It was great to see the attitude, hard work and commitment all these girls put into the games and practices all year."
Looking ahead to the 2000-01 season, Hoyer said she will be losing four seniors (Thompson, Painchaud, Van Hise and Smith) and she is hoping that some of her younger players such as Scimeca, Allen and Harchetts will grow into leaders on the floor for the Redbirds next season.
In addition, the coach said there are other younger players who could play a valuable role in the team’s success. This group of up-and-comers includes Dee Acciani, Stephanie Smith, Michelle Mac-Innes, Amanda Szbanz, Lashunda Harden and Julie Mozulay.
"The outlook is good," Hoyer noted. "We’ll be looking for summer leagues to play in. We’ll also have (local) clinics set up."
As for switching from the Shore Conference to the Colonial Valley Conference (CVC) next season, Hoyer said she is looking forward to it.
"The CVC is going to be tough," she said. "We have a lot of homework to do."
Finally, Hoyer said the support she received from the community and the athletic staff at Allentown was invaluable to her team.
"The parents were extraordinary as they always went above and beyond the call of duty," she noted. "That’s what makes the coaches’ jobs a lot easier. They worked hard to support our program. The parental commitment was great for our girls. It’s also great to work with a (supportive) athletic director (Dan Venet), and our trainer (Becky Hazlett) was great all year as it sometimes seemed like she was working in an infirmary with all the injuries we had. A lot of credit goes to her."