CENTRAL GIRLS BASKETBALL: Bara, Panthers look to continue growth, strong start to season

INDEPENDENCE — When Lexy Barba was a freshman on Central’s girls basketball team, she was hesitant to score.

It wasn’t that she lacked ability.

“I kept thinking people would yell at me if I missed too many shots,” Barba said.

As time wore on, that fear disappeared.

“We want the girls to know that we, as coaches, have confidence in them,” coach Julie McDonald said. “We want to drill it in their head to not only have the confidence to shoot, but that everyone is confident in them because we have great shooters and great athletes.”

Now a senior, Barba is part of an experienced core group of players leading the Panthers.

“A lot of these girls have been young and playing on varsity and always having older girls playing alongside them,” McDonald said. “Now, they are the older girls. We want them to grow not just in shooting, but knowing when to take it to the hole, when to pass it to a teammate and when to take a shot.”

It’s also required players be willing to hold each other accountable when mistakes are made, knowing when to lift teammates up during a game, and ensuring everyone is on the same page on the court.

“It’s big in those moments, like during a dead ball when we come to gether and say, this is what we need to do,” Barba said. “Encouragement helps me a lot, personally.”

That growth has helped the Panthers to a 3-0 start and has allowed McDonald to stat installing more complex schemes on offense and defense.

“(The experience) is huge,” McDonald said. “I remember coming in as a new coach, the team you have at the beginning is far different than the end of the year because the players are still learning the playbook. The returning girls we have know every play in our playbook. That allows us to add a few new things.”

Central defeated Astoria 53-38 and Summit 66-42 on Friday and Saturday to improve to 4-0 overall.

The Panthers will take part in the Abby’s Pizza Holiday Classic Thursday through Saturday at North Marion High School.

“I do like to play in tournaments like this,” McDonald said. “It gives the girls a glimpse of what the state tournament will be like. We’ve got a good bench that can give us a lot of minutes. We played back-to-back games last week and really took it to Summit in the first quarter. That’s what we want to do to come out and set the tone.”


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