Preston Eisnaugle didn’t enter his first season as Ready girls basketball coach looking to make drastic changes following the retirement of Joe Lang after 40 seasons.
The Silver Knights went just 2-8 last winter when they endured two two-week pauses because of COVID-19 protocols, but six key contributors returned and a strong start has followed despite the coaching change.
“As far as I’m concerned, Joe’s my mentor, and as I walked into this situation, those are shoes that can’t be filled and I’m not trying to fill them,” said Eisnaugle, a former assistant under Lang. “I just want to keep that tradition and pride alive and I want the girls to be proud of what they’ve accomplished as well.”
So far, there has been much to be pleased about for Eisnaugle, whose team was 7-3 after losing 79-63 to Hartley on Jan. 6 in its CCL opener.
That game marked the Knights’ second-highest scoring total of the season, as senior forward Reagan Wheatley made three 3-pointers and finished with 20 points.
Ready, which won its first six games, gets a rematch with the Hawks on Jan. 27 at home. The Knights play Columbus School for Girls on Jan. 21 at Ohio Dominican and play host to Watterson on Jan. 25.
“Last year we only played 10 games, so I think it’s been pretty great (so far),” senior forward/guard Sierra Schlosser said. “We’ve come together a lot as a team. We’re working on a new offense, so that’s been going well, and we’re doing a lot better with our chemistry and just shooting the shots that we need to shoot.
“I play (under Eisnaugle) in AAU and what we run in AAU is quite similar, so I was pretty used to it. A lot of the girls have picked it up a lot quicker than expected. We still have a lot of work to do, but the main stuff that we’ve been doing, we’ve been doing pretty well.”
Schlosser and senior guard Lyla Hurd, who also previously played at the AAU level under Eisnaugle, have been key players for an offensive approach that Wheatley calls “more guard-oriented.”
The measured mental approach that Eisnaugle has tried to instill also has been a good fit.
“It’s very exciting to be able to be a part of this new atmosphere and to be able to work with these girls again and get in more games,” Wheatley said. “Our whole offense is completely different. We’re all about 5-foot nothing, so it’s easier to get into a rhythm for us since most of us have gotten a lot better at shooting.
“(Eisnaugle is) very easy to talk to. He’s very intense, and in hyped-up situations, he’s able to keep it calm and collected, which then passes on to us. It’s easy for us to keep our composure.”
Ready, which hasn’t finished with a winning record since the 2017-18 season, went 8-15 in 2019-20 when Schlosser, Wheatley, senior guard Elizabeth Agostino and junior guard Hope Orders were among the key players.
Orders leads the team in scoring at 12.0 points per game, followed by Wheatley (9.0), sophomore forward Amor Maker (9.0) and Schlosser (8.0).
Hurd, Agostino and freshman guards Terriauna Daniels and Lia Wahl are other rotation players.
The Knights have a little more time to build their résumé before the Division III district tournament drawing is held Jan. 30.
“It’s a great start,” Eisnaugle said. “I knew we’d have an opportunity to compete. Credit really goes to the kids for buying into what we’re trying to accomplish, and that’s playing hard every moment and letting the chips fall where they may. They’ve fallen in our favor.
“We always tell the kids we can outshoot our deficiencies at times. The other part is that we have to play with heart 100 percent of the time. As long as we’re shooting the ball and playing with heart, I think we’re going to be in a good spot.”
This article originally appeared on ThisWeek: Girls Basketball: Ready enjoying bounce-back season