Andy Baker’s first glance at his Lafayette Jeff girls basketball team came with one initial thought.
How did the Bronchos only win three games last season?
And with that, the 2012-13 season was forgotten as Baker moved forward with the program he was taking over.
“It’s a clean slate for everyone,” senior Carlie Hinkel said. “Personally, I feel like I’ve worked hard to hard to prove myself to one person, so I feel like some of that has gone down the drain, but it’s nice because last year was so bad. It’s going to be a lot different this year, I think in a good way.”
The first test showed signs of improvement, even in a season-opening loss to Western Boone.
The Bronchos lost 55-47. Last season, Lafayette Jeff only scored more than 47 points twice.
“They want to win and they want to win bad,” Baker said. “We have eight seniors and it’s their last chance. It’s fun every day to see them get here before I do. They are ready to work every day.”
The seniors went undefeated as eighth graders. Since, the group has been broken up and now, in their final season, they are back together hoping that cohesiveness can lead to more success.
In 2009-10, Lafayette Jeff was coming off a sectional championship season and backed up that year by winning the Hoosier Crossroads Conference championship. In the three years since, the Bronchos have never won more than eight games in a season.
Coach Geoff Salmon resigned and accepted the role of athletic director/girls basketball coach at Northfield. Baker, a former boys assistant, was hired to coach the girls.
“I think we needed a change,” senior Kaylee Simms said. “Since I’ve been here, we haven’t had a winning season, or even a good season. This is our chance to turn it around this year.”
It begins when Jeff takes the floor in the J&C Hoops Classic on Tuesday, the second of two nights of quarterfinals to begin the week. The Bronchos have a first-round meeting with Central Catholic, a Class A semistate qualifier a year ago with much of its roster returning.
But it’s also a team that had its practices hindered by the volleyball team’s run to the state finals.
Two of Lafayette Jeff’s three victories came against CC last season, including a 48-42 victory in the fifth-place game of this tournament.
Asked if winning early is key to confidence, Baker laughed, saying there is no lack of confidence among this group.
Then senior guard Aliyia Kind, the team’s leading scorer last year, proved her coach correct.
“Last year we kind of thought we could beat any team, but this year we are confident about it,” she said.
Last season, as the losses piled up, the Bronchos began looking for miniature victories.
“I think we will have an expectation going into a game thinking we can win,” senior Kara Homeier said. “Last year it was, let’s try to hold the team under 40. This year, it’s we can win this game going into every game.”