A Monday afternoon practice, three days after tryouts ended, marked the official beginning of girls basketball in Waynesville.

WAYNESVILLE – A Monday afternoon practice, three days after tryouts ended, marked the official beginning of girls basketball in Waynesville.

Just before the season's beginning, difficulty set in as one of the highest numbers of athletes tried out for the team this year. Narrowing down the roster is never easy for a coach, but Coach Brittany Matlock is satisfied with her team so far, but said, “We have a lot of work to do.”

And work they did.

The varsity team wore blinders while practicing ball-handling and beating double teams. The girls worked on rebounding and swing passing. The coaching staff introduced offensive and defensive schemes; Matlock preached her basketball sermons and her young squad couldn't help but respond.

“Did our inexperience show? Yes.” Matlock said. “But that's natural.”

The entire varsity team practiced together for the first time in months. Rubbing off last season's rust, the girls slowly became accustomed to a heart-thumping practice.

One of Matlock's keys to success: fundamentally sound defense.

“I feel defense is what wins you games – wins the big ones in the end,” she said. “I think if we play good defense, our offense will take care of itself.”

With a speed philosophy, the defense can turn steals into easy transition buckets. Waynesville is a fast team, but oddly enough, conditioning isn't necessarily included in the practices.

“Sometimes, either before, or at the end of practice, we may do some type of running,” Matlock said.

For the most part, the teammates participate in a tough, 10-minute work out before the full-speed practice instead.

Matlock said conditioning in this way works both physically and mentally.

“In a lot of our drills we stress full-speed; a lot of things we put a time limit on, we keep score, there's consequences and we try to [condition] within the practice,” she explained.

One point of emphasis during the course of the season will be refining rebounding effort.

“We've never had a tall girl and for the most part, this year, we are all the same height, with the exception of one or two – and they don't stand out,” Matlock said.

The coach admitted rebounding will be a challenge for her undersized squad, but she said she believes her athletes can be a board-attacking team and use their speed to create an advantage.

Another challenge for Waynesville is building faith in teammates.

“Hopefully we can build some confidence in ball-handling and passing,” Matlock said. “The journey is letting [the players] build their team skills and be comfortable with our abilities.

The beginning of a season is all about laying a foundation for the rest of the season. If the team's hard work and smiles carries into late February, Waynesville should a solid chance at a successful season.