Northeastern girls' basketball off to hot start under new coach
DOVER — Not much was expected of the Northeastern girls’ basketball team heading into the 2022-23 season. A mediocre 9-14 season in York-Adams Division I last year combined with a head coaching change certainly didn’t seem like the traditional combination for an instant turnaround.
But it was.
Under first-year head coach Moe Coleman, the Bobcats have taken much of the league by surprise so far this year. A statement victory over two-time reigning Division II champ Eastern York last Friday told everyone in the area that the Northeastern girls are indeed for real.
Led by a tenacious defense and a quartet of seniors hungry for success, the Bobcats find themselves atop the D-II standings before the holidays have come around. With a 50-29 triumph at Dover on Tuesday night, Northeastern improved to 6-1 overall and 2-0 in the division.
While many fans may be shocked by the Manchester girls' ascent, don’t count Coleman amongst that group.
“I’ve coached the middle school team here for awhile, so a lot of the girls I’ve already had at one point or another,” Coleman said moments after Tuesday's victory. “So, I’m very familiar with them. But varsity is a lot different than junior high, you know.”
One thing that has been evident so far under Coleman’s tutelage is that the Northeastern girls are playing team basketball at a high level. There is no true standout on the court, but instead a collection of players that work well together.
Coleman believed that if he could get his team playing in this manner, success would come.
“Yeah, this is what I expected,” Coleman said. “It’s what I expected. We have a good group of girls.”
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Getting all of his girls to buy into his optimism was initially a bit of a challenge for Coleman. Not so much any longer.
“We were coming off a not-so-successful season last year,” Northeastern senior Aleyah Starkes said. “So I expected us to do better, but I didn’t know what we could do. I didn’t know what our full potential was. I was just hoping we could do better, but I’m really proud of what have done so far.”
The coaching change from Bob Pace to Coleman, combined with Northeastern’s drop down from Division I (where they finished 5-9 a season ago) to Division II, left a number of question marks surrounding the future of the program.
So, too, was the drop in participation for a program in which just 11 players are on the entire roster, meaning there is no room for a JV team.
Fortunately for Coleman, his program may not be long for quantity, but it does indeed make up for it with quality.
“That’s why our motto coming into the season was ‘Why not us?’” Coleman said. “So let’s go out and surprise some people.”
That definitely happened after Friday’s 52-42 victory over an Eastern York team that appeared primed to rule the division for a third straight season. Coleman’s squad found itself down 37-32 after three quarters, but used an impressive 19-4 run over the final stanza to pull of the biggest upset of the season to date.
Just don’t tell Coleman it was an upset.
“I have complete confidence in my group,” Coleman said. “We’re going to push teams. I’m not saying that we’re going to win every game, but we’re here to play aggressive and play our style of basketball.”
That style hangs its hat on a mix of defenses meant to keep the opposing offense on its toes. Sometimes the Bobcats will be in a zone, sometimes they’ll play halfcourt man-to-man and other times they will press and trap.
“Defense has been our focus coming into the year,” Coleman said. “Last year they had the ability to score, but we needed to learn how to play defense to be able to stop people.”
The Bobcats showed they could do that Friday, as they held York-Adams League leading scorer Arianna Seitz, who entered the night averaging over 27 points a game for Eastern York, under 20 in their victory.
“That Eastern game was big for us,” Coleman said. “Seitz is a tough player and being able to hold her to just 17 points, that was our focus. She’s going to score, but if we can limit her it puts pressure on the other girls around her.”
Friday’s triumph was also somewhat emblematic of the team’s season so far. In the fourth quarter, Northeastern just clicked, much like the team has done under the newfound guidance of Coleman.
“Coach Coleman does a really good job of making sure we’re all together and united,” said Starkes, who is averaging 9.2 points per game. “We have team discussions all the time about what we did good in a game and what we can work on and we makes sure we’re just all one, big happy family.”