New Giles basketball coach learns girl talk
PEARISBURG – Don Epperley was girl-challenged when he started coaching basketball at Giles High School this winter.
Don’t misunderstand that to mean that he knew nothing about girls. After all, he has a grown daughter. That turned out to be a big help when he was putting together practice plans for his first female Spartans varsity team.
He was sharing a thought with his daughter about a layup drill for pregame warmups. You know, the same kind of two-line routine teams have been running ever since somebody concluded that basketballs and peaches could fit in the same style of basket.
“You can’t do that,” Epperley’s daughter informed the stunned rookie coach. “Girls are different than boys. They don’t just want to be shooting layups.”
That was news to Epperley. No, not that girls are different than boys – but that the coach was unaware that a basic layup drill might not have artistic appeal to the young women.
So off to the Internet he went to find a drill that had more style. He came up with a nice ball-never-touches- the-floor weave. The girls loved it. When asked to run the drill for the edification of a visitor to practice the other day, the players could scarcely conceal their delight in the request. They did a very nice job of it, too.
So count that as a victory for the new coach. Other victories have been harder to come by. The Spartans started the week 2-9 overall, 0-1 in the Three Rivers District. Losing records extend back through the years for the program.
Against that setting, Epperley took over this season. He vows to do what others have not, namely stick around for sufficient time to sustain a program built for success.
“I told the girls we’re going to aim high,” he said.
Lofty ambitions remain elusive so far, but there seems no doubt that the new coach is getting through to his new charges.
“We have a tremendous amount of respect for Coach Epperley,” said Marinna Dowdy, one of three seniors on the team. “Coach knows what he’s talking about,” added Jennifer Bradley, Dowdy’s fellow senior and co-captain.
Epperley gives his assistant coach Beth Santolla a lot of credit for helping smooth out any early communications problems with the girls. Santolla had coached the eighth grade team for a number of years before joining the varsity staff this year.
“I’d never coached girls before,” said Epperley, who had extensive experience coaching boys at a variety of levels.
Dowdy, mostly an off guard and the only senior starter, hadn’t played basketball since 10th grade. She’s been concentrating on her primary sports of softball and volleyball. She came back out for basketball because she knew this was going to be her last time around.
“I’ve enjoyed basketball more than I thought I would,” she said.
Bradley is in her second season on varsity. The sophomore-heavy team has needed Dowdy’s and Bradley’s leadership along with that of Charity Flinchum, the only other senior.
“We work hard then they’ll work hard,” Bradley said of the underclassmen.
The harder the younger girls work, the better the program is going to be. Four sophomores start. Wing Tynisha Flinchum has scored 80 points in 11 games to lead the team. Forward Karli Beechler has scored three fewer points in as many games. Kelsey Mosley, who transferred from Narrows, has taken over at the point, which has enabled Dowdy to be more of a scorer.
Another sophomore, Courtney Estep, has a starter’s ability but has been sidelined for four games with back and shoulder problems. She is expected back on the floor as soon as this week.
Some good younger players are coming along in the lower grades. Long term, things are looking up for Giles.
Meanwhile, the highlight of the season so far has been taking two of three from county rival Narrows. Next goal is to win a district game. Giles ought to be competitive with Radford and Eastern Montgomery this week. The Spartans’ day is coming, in Epperley’s view.
“They play hard all the time,” he said.
By Ray Cox
The Roanoke Times | 381-1672
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