HHS Shifts Gear
New Coach Brings Princeton Offense
Posted: December 14, 2012
HARRISONBURG — Bill Bayer said it’s been hard marketing his Princeton-flavored offense to a Harrisonburg High School girls’ basketball team accustomed to a less-structured system that focused on one-on-one matchups.
“It’s completely different from what we did last year,” junior forward Sara Shenk-Moreno said.
But, after Tuesday’s game against Spotswood, the Blue Streaks may be coming around.
“They really didn’t believe it until [then],” Bayer, in his first season as HHS’s coach, said. “We wanted to slow the game down, and we pretty much had them spread in a Princeton-type set, and they just didn’t want to do it. You could just tell, and next thing you know, it’s 25-4. I called three timeouts and I said, ‘Look, just trust me and try it,’ and we literally played great from that point forward. Got lots of layups. Got open jump shots and, all of a sudden, the kids are thinking maybe Bayer’s not such a maniac.”
Harrisonburg (2-2) lost 64-39, but after Spotswood went up 25-4 to start, the Streaks played SHS tight the rest of the game, 35-39. It looks like a breakthrough for the 54-year-old Bayer as he takes over for Morgan Johnson, who resigned in July after two seasons to become an assistant principal at Monterey Middle School in Roanoke.
Bayer — who graduated from Virginia Tech in 1980 with a degree in marketing and education — has had previous success. The Reading, Pa., native spent the last three years as the girls’ coach at St. Francis in Traverse City, Mich., where he compiled a 54-12 record. Before that, he coached the boys at York Country Day School and went 74-38 in five seasons.
Bayer and his wife Diane, a 1977 Waynesboro High School graduate, moved to Harrisonburg in April after he was hired as the vice president of marketing at Rockingham Group, an insurance company. Becoming the HHS girls’ basketball coach was more serendipitous. Bayer said he didn’t intend to coach right away but couldn’t pass up the opportunity when Johnson resigned.
So what does the team think? It seems like they’re buying in, albeit reluctantly.
“It’s really different,” senior point guard Keyana Whitley-Duncan said.
The SHS game has helped.
“We were patient,” Whitley-Duncan said. “At first, we were really, really nervous and we were forcing passes, forcing shots — not being patient with our offense, ‘cause the only way our offense is going to work is if we’re patient and we take shots that are legit.”
Bayer said the 5-foot-3 Whitley-Duncan, HHS’s leading scorer last year, has benefited from the new offense. Whitley-Duncan’s turnovers are down and she has developed into a standout distributor.
“She’s become a real point guard,” Bayer said. “She’s not selfish, taking all those crazy shots. She’s really trying to get her teammates involved.”
Whitley-Duncan is one of three returning starters from last season’s 7-18 team that lost in the first round of the Region III, Division 4 playoffs to Heritage. Joining her are senior forward Kerri Hofacker and junior guard/forward Sydney Knupp, a versatile player who’s as adept on the wing as she is in the post. She’s also one of Harrisonburg’s best outside shooters.
The Streaks’ new starters are sophomore guard Mariah King and Shenk-Moreno, who has emerged as one of HHS’s best players early. She’s averaging about 10 points a game, and Bayer described her as the team’s best rebounder. Also a standout interior passer, she fits nicely in the Streaks’ new offense.
“She’s a real strong defensive player. She can even guard a smaller forward out on the floor because of her quickness,” Bayer said. “She’s got decent size, but she’s very quick. She’s really helped us a lot breaking the press. She’s got good hands and makes good decisions, doesn’t throw the ball away.”
Bayer also switched the Blue Streaks’ defense to a half-court focus, while instituting a discipline-first approach in all facets — one that’s symbolized by a toolbox carried to each game and each practice by Hofacker. (It was inspired by the Virginia Tech football team’s lunch pail.)
Bayer even made his team memorize what it means to be disciplined and, on occasion, quizzes a player at random before practice. The consequences are steep — so steep that, through the first few weeks of practice, players wrote it on their hands and arms.
“If he asks you and you don’t remember it, he would make the rest of the team run,” Knupp said.
So what does discipline mean?
“Discipline is what you can do, when you can do it, how you can do it,” Whitley-Duncan said as if in a spelling bee. “Do the best you can.”