Since falling to Sweetwater High School in the first round of the District 5-2A tournament in February, Loudon High School girls basketball coach Josh Brannon knew he had to wait another nine months before stepping on the court again.
Even with the business of summer camps and preseason workouts, he made sure to take time and reflect on his first year at the helm.
“I just wanted to continue to improve overall,” Brannon said. “Overall, growing fundamentally in the game and continuing to grow what I felt like was a good foundation from that first year ... to be able to expand on that, to be able to further build our program the way that we want it to be built.
“I learned about communication, learning your personnel and how to talk to them,” he added. “Learning how to be on the same page with their strengths, learning things that we could be better in — not only them, but myself. You know, ways that I could not only do things better, but continue to do things well that were already working with the girls. It was a lot of reflecting from year one to year two on how to do the job more efficiently to benefit the kids.”
The Lady Redskins combined to go 5-21 overall and captured just one Region 3-3A victory.
Injuries played a major factor in the team’s record. Starting point guard and All-County player Molly Russell went down early in the season, which forced Brannon to rely heavily on inexperienced players.
“That experience was super valuable, and they don’t realize just how valuable that was yet,” he said. “That will make a huge difference in their junior season, and it will bleed over even more in their senior season. At times, some of those younger players had to come in at some tough spots. Sometimes it was good, and at times they took some lumps. All in all, I think it was so well-served for them, especially toward the end of the year when they got more efficient and were able to be more productive. When they were able to play at the varsity speed, it helped them to see, ‘Hey, I can play this game, I can be successful’.”
Russell was forced to watch most of the games from the sidelines, but picked up valuable experience she can bring to the court this year.
“It sucked,” she said. “It was just bad just watching everyone else play when I wanted to be out there. I had to go to physical therapy and I just shot a lot, that’s really it. I hope I can do really good and do better than I did last year and just prove that even though I got hurt, I can be even better.”
Carrie Pittman stepped into Russell’s role midway through the season and became a dynamic contributor as the team’s point guard. She averaged 5.5 points per game last season and is expected to play a larger role this year alongside Russell.
“That helped me a lot because I had to handle the ball and read the floor,” Pittman said. “I just kind of had to control it in a different way and learn to see the floor in different ways to try and make us have a better offense. I think it’ll pretty much be the same like last year, coming off that and getting better every day. I think having Molly to lean back on and just us, I’m really excited about getting to play with her more this season.”
The Lady Redskins lost three seniors to graduation, but return the majority of last year’s team. Brannon will look to experienced players Emily Vance, Summer Parnell, Chloe Rausin and Ashley Stoner to create a “balanced attack.”
“I think we’ve got multiple that it will be a scoring-by-committee,” he said. “When you look across the board, I think we’ll have a lot of balanced statistics in a lot of ways. We’ll have Carrie Pittman back, and she got a lot of valuable experience. At times, she put up a lot of big numbers for us down the stretch. Summer Parnell gained a lot of experience last year. She’s so athletic, and she’s beginning to finish around the rim ... her game’s evolving to become more complete. You know what you’re going to get night in and night out from Vance. Chloe Rausin’s another that can provide a boost for us on both sides of the floor. She’s a girl that can knock down shots if she’s open.”
Brannon believes his team could be one of the most efficient in the region.
“Obviously, we want to become more efficient offensively,” he said. “We want to take care of the basketball and be able to make shots more consistently and always play hard. You’re going to have nights where shots aren’t falling, you’re going to have nights where things aren’t going as well as you’d want from an offensive standpoint, but how can we have a short memory and dictate the tempo of a basketball game? I felt like last year, we were really solid defensively, but I think just being a fundamentally tough team will help us be more efficient.”
The Lady Redskins will officially tip off the season at 6 p.m. Nov. 19 at Anderson County High School.