Despite girls basketball team’s youth, Miners trusting the process of coach Isaacson |

Despite girls basketball team’s youth, Miners trusting the process of coach Isaacson

Park City sophomore Samantha Riely makes a layup in the Miners' 72-47 loss to Layton on Dec. 17. Riely, who starts for Park City, has emerged as one of the leaders for the team according to coach Brett Isaacson.
Park Record File Photo

Youth can be either an advantage or a disadvantage on the basketball court.

But for the Park City girls basketball team, its youth is toeing the line between them, according to coach Brett Isaacson. The team was 2-6 (as of Tuesday) after falling 74-23 to Maple Mountain last Friday.

“It’s difficult to say because on one end, or youth is allowing us to grow together as a team and could pay huge dividends over the next couple of season,” Isaacson said. “But on the other end, it’s hard because we are so much younger than other teams and that hasn’t been translating to wins on the court. So we are trying to find that balance of youth where it helps us over the next few years but still be successful this season.”

This year, Isaacson has only one senior on the team, forward Lauren Pederson, who is a starter in her debut basketball season. He also has 12 juniors, three sophomores and one freshman, wing Ava Kimche, who leads the team in scoring.

On one end, having a young team will allow Isaacson to help shape and mold the girls around his coaching style. Getting them so young allows for the growing pains early, but when the team begins to turn the corner, they’re already battled tested and have that faith and trust in one another.

On the other, having a younger team means the Miners aren’t nearly as experienced as their opponents. That equates to a lot of early losses and low team morale, which can be hard to come back from.

Finding that balance has been Isaacson and the Miners’ biggest issue this year.

After losing eight seniors to graduation after last season’s 3-18 campaign, Isaacson knew he was going to be putting out a young team on the court this year. But even then, Isaacson says he couldn’t have expected the struggles would be this glaring.

According to him, there are moments where Park City struggles with the fundamentals or knowledge points of the game, often leading to the lopsided scores.

But at the same time, he says there are other moments where the team puts it all together — dominating opponents for certain stretches at a time. In the first game of the season against Layton Christian, the Miners found themselves down by double-digits midway through the second quarter but battled back to take the lead midway through the fourth quarter, before falling 53-44.

According to Isaacson, a lot of the adjusted stat-metrics, such as deflections, rotation and shot attempts, that they keep track of, Park City has vastly improved from the season prior. Yet that’s not translating to necessary more points scored or wins, and that’s something Isaacson and his staff are looking at.

“One thing we’ve talked about is that the stats we have been putting up are still pretty encouraging,” Isaacson said. “We are forcing more turnovers, grabbing more offensive rebounds and averaging 16 more field goal attempts per game. … But we just aren’t converting all those shot attempts into points for whatever reason. Our shooting needs to improve so we must stay positive because you can’t score with a negative mindset.”

That negative mindset is part of the youth discrepancy Isaacson is constantly battling, as younger players have a tougher time with the head game.

So to help change things up, rather than to keep pressing and pushing, Isaacson has taken a more youthful approach to practices and games.

Practices have become a place where laughter is a constant, where the girls are enjoying their time with one another after understanding the process. From random dodgeball games to sprints, everything the Miners are now doing is not only promoting competition, but also promoting fun.

“I really think that part of our issue is that the girls just put so much pressure on themselves to succeed that they play tight and therefore struggle,” Isaacson said. “We can do all the shooting drills in the world but if they’re tight when doing them, they won’t be successful. That’s why we are thinking of trying something new, trying to get the girls to relax and enjoy the game.”

Finding the small victories and the small positives is key for Isaacson on turning his squad’s youth into a positive, something he says could pay huge dividends over the next few seasons.

“The big picture in all of this is that this is still a process for us,” Isaacson said. “All these girls by next year will have no more excuses. We’ll have been through the battles and although we may not have won them, we will be better because of them.”

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