Getting the season off to a good start is always important, and even more so for a first-year coach.
Bellevue East’s Blake Anderson and Millard South’s Bryce Meyers can relate.
The coaches have their girls basketball squads off to 4-0 starts. While it’s only two weeks into the season, both agree that positive affirmation goes a long way toward building confidence.
“It always feels nice to start off on a winning note,” Anderson said. “I’m still kind of getting acclimated, but the girls have done a great job so far.”
Meyers said he is pleased with the way his team has responded so far.
“The girls are buying in to what we’re trying to do,” he said. “We know it’s still early, but I like what I’m seeing.”
Anderson was the girls head coach at Humphrey High for five years and then at Boys Town the past two before taking the Chieftains job. He takes over a program from longtime coach Scott Jensen, who moved on to become the assistant principal at Fremont Middle School.
Jensen was head coach for 19 years and guided Bellevue East to 12 state tournament appearances, three state championships and two runner-up finishes.
“Scott obviously had great success here and we want to build on that,” Anderson said. “Our playing style is similar to his, getting up and down the court as quickly as possible and using a full-court press to create turnovers.”
That strategy is working. The seventh-ranked Chieftains started the season with a home win over ratings contender Norfolk and most recently beat sixth-ranked Lincoln Southwest.
“We’ve played some tough games already and we’ve been able to win at home and on the road,” Anderson said. “That’s a credit to the way our team has stayed focused on every game.”
Leading the way for Bellevue East has been guard Peyton Hagen, one of three returning senior starters. She is averaging 25 points per game and scored 32, including seven 3-pointers, in a win Friday night over Omaha Marian.
“Peyton is in a rhythm right now,” Anderson said. “She’s solid from 3-point range, but she can also drive to the hoop.”
Other returning starters for the Chieftains are guard Amaun Frazier (13.3 points per game) and forward Haley Ourada (12 ppg).
At Millard South, Meyers is making the transition from coaching the boys. He spent the past seven season as a boys assistant for the Patriots before becoming the girls head coach.
“To be honest, I haven’t really changed my coaching style very much,” he said. “Athletes are athletes, and I’m just trying to do my best to make sure they give maximum effort all the time.”
That effort has led to four early wins for the unranked Patriots, who finished 6-15 last season. The team also has shown the mental toughness Meyers wants, defeating Papillion-La Vista South 49-47 on the road Friday night.
“We know how tough our schedule is going to be,” Meyers said. “I always want to see that effort, and the girls know they’ll hear from me if I don’t see it.”
Senior forward Madi Unzicker is averaging 10.3 points per game for Millard South. Not far behind are junior forward Logan Klein (8.5 ppg), senior forward Jordyn Sturgeon (8.5) and sophomore forward Paxton Throne (7.5).
In addition to their first-year coaching success, Meyers and Anderson have something else in common: They played basketball against each other in high school — Meyers at Lincoln East and Anderson at Kearney High.
“It’s nice to see both teams off to a good start,” Anderson said. “Hopefully we can keep it going.”