THE Jennings County girls basketball team closed its regular season with their best stretch of basketball in several years, posting wins against Floyd Central, Austin and Brown County.
The team was able to pull off the wins because it learned how to finish games strong. The Panthers ended the regular season 8-12.
“Our coaches really stressed that we had to fight to the end this season,” senior point guard Kirsten Biggs said. “They put us in situations in practice where we had to run until we were tired and then we shot free throws.”
The team practiced game-ending scenarios to develop its mental toughness and court awareness.
“In practice, we put time on the clock and gave them a lead or a deficit,” said Jennings head coach Carrie Manowitz. “They controlled those situations.”
Players learned to control their stamina during these drills, and this skill was evident during late-season games.
“We wanted to finish strong,” senior Mariah Kinney said. “We learned to fight through our fatigue.”
Strong senior leadership from Biggs, Kinney and Kristi Granecki helped motivate the team to reach its potential, and they pushed their teammates to get better.
“I cannot say enough about these three seniors,” Manowitz said. “It’s easier when you win throughout your high school career, but they didn’t have it that easy.”
The Panthers didn’t win any games last season and won just three games two years ago. Still, the trio remained committed.
“They never stopped working as hard as they could. They gave 110 percent every time they stepped onto the floor,” Manowitz said. “Many times they finished first second and third in running drills during practice. I know I didn’t always give them the time on the floor they wanted, but they always worked hard. It’s hard to let them go.”
Manowitz is particularly pleased with Biggs’ improvement over her career.
“She’s the most improved player I’ve ever been around,” Manowitz said. “She was at almost every in-season and offseason in practice since my coaching staff, and I took over three years ago.”
Kinney persevered and impressed Manowitz during the season.
“Earlier in the year there were games that she saw very little playing time,” Manowitz said. “She could have stopped working and given up on us, but she didn’t.
She worked harder and got better. She gave us a great second half of the season.
“She did many things that don’t show up on the stat sheet.”
Granecki was a key bench player, often subbing for Biggs at the point. Her contributions were a vital piece to the Panthers’ puzzle.
“Each of them brought a piece of the puzzle to the table this season,” Manowitz said. “My staff talked to each player about what her piece was before the season. Winning made us mentally tougher and it helped with our confidence. When I stop and look at how far we came, I’m happy for the girls.
“This is something we’ll build on, and we’ll work even harder this offseason.”