That off-court turnover can also exact a high price, but the Heritage coaching carousel – four head coaches in the last three years – hasn’t kept the team out of the playoffs.
The girls are now being led by Dan Swan, who came from Northgate, where he coached the boys team.
On Swan’s watch, the Patriots are radiating a different vibe. Following a 53-10 win Tuesday night over Antioch to close out the first half of the league schedule, the Patriots are 18-3 overall and 4-1 in Bay Valley Athletic League play.
“They really are a tight group,” Swan said. “I’ve had tight groups in the past, but this group is really tight. It’s the chemistry. They care about each other. I’m having a blast. This is the time of my life. … I’ve got the best 11 girls around.”
The game that defines the Heritage style of play was actually one of their three losses. In the league opener against perennial Bay Valley Athletic League and North Coast Section power Deer Valley, the Patriots faced a seemingly insurmountable 34-13 halftime deficit. Yet they managed the chip away at the Wolverines in the second half, closing the gap to eight points after three quarters and eventually six points in the fourth before the final buzzer sounded.
The first-half struggles were largely due to a recurring problem: the Patriots’ inability to convert easy baskets early. But with Swan at the helm, the coaching is always positive. “You just look at the girls and you can tell that they’re happy to be here; we love this coach,” said senior guard Hazel Sipin. “He pushes us, but in a positive way. If we’re not doing well in practice, he’ll find the positive and pushes us, and not in a negative way. The girls like that.”
At 18-3 and five league games remaining, the Patriots are virtually assured of a playoff berth. But to win the league title and succeed in the playoffs, the players know they must be consistent for four straight quarters – a challenge they’re eager to meet. “Our team’s chances in the playoffs are strong,” said senior guard Nikayla Shodeen. “We’ve got it. We’re going to work hard and do well.”
Deer Valley’s string of five straight league titles seems formidable. But if the Patriots can avenge their only league loss on Friday and beat the Wolverines on the road, they can take the inside track on the BVAL championship and use that momentum to make noise in the playoffs.
“It’s all about working hard, and practice,” said senior guard Camille Corpus. “We know we want to make a deep playoff run and be league champions. To do that, we obviously need to beat Deer Valley. To do that, we just need to work hard in practice and focus on that one goal.”
The Patriots square off against the Wolverines on Friday at 7 p.m. at Deer Valley’s gym.