One of the strongest indications that a head coach is influencing their team is when the players begin repeating the coach’s catch phrases. Anita Burke is in her 20th season as girls basketball coach at Hughes, so it’s not surprising when the Big Red players heed her advice.
“Don’t be in the ‘Red Zone’, be in the ‘Green Zone’, that’s what coach always tells us,” said Hughes junior guard Lea Coulter. “The ‘Red Zone’ means we’re down and we don’t really care about the game. The ‘Green Zone’ means we’re fired up and ready to play.”
Burke describes her philosophy this way:
“Something will happen in a game that gets you down, and you don’t want to fight back, you’re just happy to be there, that’s the ‘Red Zone’. The ‘Yellow Zone’ means you’re fighting back a little bit. In the ‘Green Zone’, you’re staying positive, you fight through it, you bring yourself out of it”.
Hughes, ranked No. 7 in the Enquirer Division II-IV coaches’ poll, rolled to a 6-0 start, including a road win at tough Mount Healthy.
The Big Red improved to 3-0 in the Cincinnati Metro Athletic Conference with a 72-29 win over Taft on Tuesday. They host Ursuline Academy Thursday (7:30 p.m.).
According to the CMAC web site, Hughes has lost just six league games in the past seven seasons, including a pair of 12-0 marks.
With a talent like Coulter and experience at key positions, Burke said the Big Red’s hot start isn’t much of a surprise.
“I thought it would be possible,” she said. “We have a lot of seniors on the team this time. We haven’t been happy with what we’ve done in the past.”
After finishing 14-10 last season but sharing the conference title with Withrow, Burke expects more from her team this year, especially with five seniors on the roster.
But, it’s Coulter, a junior, who’s been in the “Green Zone” most often this season. She already has three years of varsity experience under her belt, averaging nearly 11 points per game as a freshman, and almost 15 as a sophomore.
The six-foot Coulter creates matchup problems for most Hughes opponents. For a taller player, she has good ball-handling skills and court awareness. Coulter is accurate enough from long range – seven 3-pointers in the first five games – to draw attention from defenders. When they close in, she can burst to the basket.
With Hughes clinging to a four-point lead in the fourth quarter last week against Mount Healthy, Burke put the ball in Coulter’s hands, allowing her to captain the offense and run some clock.
“When we’re in a game where we need someone to control the game, dribble the ball, we go with her,” said Burke. “We’ve been doing that since she was a freshman.”
Last week’s game at Mount Healthy answered some questions for Burke. Despite 34 points from Owls senior guard Netra Owensby, the Big Red kept their composure, made smart decisions down the stretch and held on for a six-point victory.
They were, according to Burke, in the “Green Zone”.
“In the past, it was one of those games we might have lost, because we weren’t strong enough mentally to stay in the game,” Burke said.