WESTERN HILLS – It would be easy to simply write off the Gamble Montessori High School girls basketball program. The Gators have only had a program for four years and last year the team went 3-19.
They began this season with 11 girls on the team. They finished with just seven; one senior, one sophomore and five freshman. In spite of all that, the Gators went 12-9 this year — the most wins in a season and they went 9-3 in the Ohio Valley Athletic League and finished second.
Mark Rave, the Gators’ head coach for the past two seasons, said the difference this year was his team bought into the uptempo style.
“The way I wanted to play last year was uptempo. We weren’t able because we didn’t have the players,” Rave said. “This year, the freshman came in and embraced the uptempo style.”
It may seem counter intuitive to get out run against teams when you only have seven players, but the Gators don’t mind. They’re propelled by youth.
Rave pointed to freshman twins Sylvia and Vivian Parker — a couple of spark plugs with long-running motors.
“They’re nonstop, 150 percent. They don’t get tired,” Rave described the Parker twins. “Look in the fourth quarter of our tournament game (56-44 loss to Middletown Christian Feb. 23). Sylvia was out-hustling everybody and she pretty much played the whole game. They’re in tremendous shape and obviously their skill level is ahead of what I thought it would be.”
Sylvia averages 9.3 points and 17.4 rebounds per game. Against Middletown Christian, Sylvia finished with 14 points and 23 rebounds. Vivian averaged 8.4 points and 9.1 rebounds a game this year.
Bianca Lane, the team’s lone senior, was the Gators’ second-leading scorer at 10.5 points per game, behind Aig’ne Clifford’s 14.0 average.
“There were very few games this year when we actually had our top seven together on the floor,” Rave said. “It didn’t really matter who we were missing; we had someone step up.”
Defensively, Gamble’s no slouch either. Rave said with a young roster, he implemented a two-three zone defense to “simplify” things, but said his team played so well in the zone they stuck with it all season.
“The level of improvement they showed this year was a good, unexpected surprise,” said Rave.
Not only does the majority of its firepower return next season, the Gators will add another group of freshmen who can play, Rave said.
“I’m extremely excited for the future because of what this team was able to accomplish with basically a team of freshman,” Rave said.