The Lady Huskies have turned their fortune around in only one year
By Gary Montgomery, BVN Staff –
Riverside – Basketball and Hip Hop are forever linked at every level no matter how much the older generation dislikes the connection.
Whether in the heart of the ‘Hood’ or in the most exclusive suburbs, high school gymnasiums throughout America all blast the latest rap tunes during their team’s warm-ups and intermissions.
J.W. North is no different, with what sounds like thirty fast food drive-thru speakers blasting from its ceiling, the Lady Huskies used the latest Hip Hop tunes to fire themselves up for battle. I would respectfully suggest that they break from the new-school tradition at least once before each game and have the DJ throw on the old Diana Washington ballad “What a difference a day Makes” with one minor deviation.
In North’s case the words would be “What a difference a year Makes”.
Last season on February 12, the Lady Huskies record was 4-12 and they would go on to finish the season with those same 4 wins and end up last in the Big VIII behind lowly Corona, something that had not happened to the Ladies program in nearly 20 years.
J.W. North Ladies basketball program was at its lowest point since the early days of its existence. The program had gone through three coaching changes since the 2007 season and the days of ruling the league had long since faded. North’s 4 win season was nearly unbearable but the final and ultimate humiliation came with a loss to neighborhood arch rival Riverside Poly, a program not known for its basketball prowess since the days of Cheryl Miller.
It has been 11 years since the Lady Huskies won their one and only CIF Title in 2000. That team’s roster included 5 division I prospects and a coach, John Reinhold with a take no prisoners attitude. The Huskies rolled over Fullerton Troy to secure their first and only CIF Title reaching the apex of success for the program.
Yet, a single CIF banner fails to tell the story of the Lady Huskies dominance over the past decade. During the latter half of the nineties leading up to their championship year, the Lady Huskies owned the now defunct Ivy League posting 8 consecutive league championships.
Rienholds, retired after winning his CIF title but the aftermath of his success would yield good teams for several years afterward.
Although competitive and highly respected, none of North’s later teams could duplicate the 2000 team’s level of success. And the evitable began to take its toll, the talent began to wane and they began a slow decent toward mediocrity.
First, it went from league champions to league runner up in the old Ivy League. Then, dropping from annual seeded playoff participants to wildcard entrants and then to non-participation. And lastly, throw in a league re-alignment in 2009 pitting North against larger schools, some with nearly 1000 more students. Add it all up and a slow decent became a rocket to the bottom.
Then, in comes Leonard De Coud, hired as the fourth head coach in six seasons and as they say the rest is becoming history. In a single season, De Coud has taken a last place team that was 1-13 in league play and 4-20 overall and turned it completely around.
The Lady Huskies are currently 15–3 with one overtime loss to defending league champion Corona Santiago. De Coud says his formula is simple and deflects most of the credit for the incredible turnaround. “These girls are motivated and dedicated to the task at hand. We work hard, what we do in practice is what we do during the game. Our goal is to win this league and a CIF Title and these girls are focused on that,” said head coach Leonard De Coud.
The Huskies are certainly an energized group. They took on league opponents Roosevelt, Santiago and King last week emerging with two wins and an overtime loss to Santiago the defending League champions. After going down by 10 late in the fourth quarter, the Lady Huskies fought back to tie the game, eventually losing to the much bigger Sharks team and setting up the final league rematch on February 3rd at Santiago.
Much of the Huskies strength comes from senior Forward Brittany Crain. “I try to be a leader out there. I try and talk to the girls to keep them in the game especially when we’re down, to get our flow back,” said Crain. Brittany is averaging a league leading 19.1 points per game and along with guard Simone De Coud who is averaging 11.6 points per game sets the tone and winning attitude for the team.
The Huskies turnaround from a 4-20 last season is already miraculous on its own but if coach De Coud can dial up a formula for his team to take down Santiago in their final meeting and take a share of the league title, he will easily be collecting ‘coach of the year’ honors too.
G. Montgomery can be reached at email@example.com.
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