Like most coaches, Merritt Island Christian’s Cathy Quinn keeps her postgame comments to the other head coach brief, but after a 23-point loss to Florida Air on Tuesday, she had a point to make to first-year Falcons basketball coach Rachel Travis.
“I didn’t have a lot of time, but I walked up to her and said, ‘You are one classy coach, and I loved playing against you guys. I’m looking forward to playing against you guys in January.’ “
Quinn had been on both sides of lopsided scores. Earlier this season, an opponent pressed her Cougars late into a blowout loss. But Travis — who has also seen her own teams walloped in her coaching career — stopped her team’s aggression and instead had it work on various offenses, used different lineups and went to her bench.
“Had she not done that,” Quinn said, “that score would not have been the 48 to (25) that it was.”
In some girls basketball mismatches, the margin never stops growing. The same night Travis showed mercy to Merritt Island Christian, a game in Indiana ended 107-2. Like most states, Florida doesn’t have a mercy rule for basketball, but 105-point runaways haven’t yet reached this area.
Brevard coaches told FLORIDA TODAY this week about their approaches to runaway games and the dilemmas they cause to both the underdog and the winner.
While at Jacksonville Episcopal, one of Travis’ opponents called timeout with seconds to play to implement a press in hopes of reaching 100 points. In contrast, Travis avoids embarassing opponents by using blowouts to get experience for her bench players.
Her methods of keeping the margin low include using a zone instead of an aggressive man-to-man defense, having her players pass the ball five times before shooting and pulling out of fastbreak opportunities.
Titusville coach Bobby Winn employs an aggressive press and is teaching it to a young team that includes three freshmen starters because he knows what lies ahead in the postseason.
While he tries to schedule as many top teams as he can, Cape Coast Conference schools play each other at least once each basketball season, regardless of their record or potential.
Occasionally, that leads to mismatches.
Winn said most coaches understand his approach, but he did have one “very upset” opposing coach after a 66-31 win over an out-of-county school in November. Winn noted that the school already had beaten teams by larger margins.
“I don’t worry about it,” Winn said. “We get after it. When teams play us, we’re going to be very aggressive, and we’re going to press.”
Winn doesn’t want to humiliate opponents, so he has at times switched to a zone defense instead of a man when the score gets out of hand.
Even going to the bench isn’t always a solution. Sometimes, lesser opponents “catch the brunt of it” when he’s having his substitutes from the bench work on pressure defense.
“I have to be able to know that if I go seven or eight deep on my bench that the girls I’m bringing in can give me the same result,” he said.
“These (bench players) come to practice just like other players, and they want to play just like the starters. For me, as a coach, to put them in the game and say, ‘Don’t score,’ is devastating to these kids.”
New Space Coast coach Nick Stewart has been on both sides of lopsided games. Rather than watching the scoreboard, he keeps his focus on how his own team is playing.
“If you’re getting pounded by 30 or you’re up by 30, are you still being a team player? Are you still doing the things we talk about in practice?” he said. “I can live with doing that and getting beat by 30 or 40 instead of rolling over and getting beat by 30 or 40.”
He also understood the idea of not being too restrictive on bench players who don’t get to play many minutes and want to take their shots when they come.
“Even if we’re getting drilled by 40 and it’s the last girl off the bench and she’s scoring, I’ve got no problem with that.”
On the other hand, he believes in karma, so he might give the scoreboard a peek, just to be sure his own team isn’t embarassing anyone.
He set a lead of 20 to 25 points as “the perfect barrier” between what is still a competitive game and one in which a coach should pull back on the reins.
In Class 2A, District 6, Quinn and MIC’s Cougars sometimes play outclassed opponents.
While she understands that a lopsided loss can inspire losing players to get better, she doesn’t want to discourage girls so much that they quit “because they keep getting ground into the ground every time they play somebody.”
“I (asked) my players, ‘Who wants to make somebody hate our sport? Is there anybody in this room who doesn’t want these girls to love the game of basketball and have a passion for it just like you do?’ ” she said. “My thing is not breaking somebody’s spirit about a sport I love.”