Leesburg, Va. — The Heritage High School girls basketball team is young—starting a freshman, three sophomores, and just one senior—but the Pride isn’t using their youth as a crutch. Four of those starters got regular varsity minutes last season, and their freshman point guard is growing more confident every start.
While they were off to a 3-1 start to open their season, it took the Pride some time to get going when they hosted Lightridge High School in their Dulles District opener in front of a home crowd in Leesburg.
After turning the ball over 16 times in the first half, the Pride turned up the defensive intensity, took better care of the basketball, and got an offensive spark from freshman point guard Riley Makitka in the second half to cruise past the Lightning, 48-23, on December 9.
“It felt like we didn’t have a lot of enthusiasm to start the night. I think we were just going through the motions,” Heritage head coach Otto Jett said. “We had a conversation at halftime about taking care of the ball, and you could see the difference in the second half.”[adrotate banner=”54″]
Leading just 16-12 at the half, the Pride put a second-half emphasis on defense and taking care of the basketball and did a better job on both fronts down the stretch, forcing 18 second-half turnovers while only turning the ball over 8 times themselves.
“That’s our MO,” Jett said. “We’re going to attack you on defense and force you to take care of the basketball.”
Having extended their lead to 30-18 after the third, Heritage wasn’t done just yet as the Pride transition offense found some rhythm in the fourth.
With four and a half games under her belt, Makitka started to take control, scoring all 10 of her game-high 10 points in the second half, while adding six boards and four steals.
“She’s been a starter since day one, but her confidence is definitely growing. Our girls are boosting her up and getting her comfortable,” Jett said of his young point guard. “She’s the quarterback of the team, so even though she’s a freshman, we don’t want her acting like a freshman. She’s loving the competition, and she’s getting smarter and smarter every game.”
For Lightridge, junior point guard Riley Hwang left it all on the floor, finishing with 6 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, and 4 steals, and freshman guard Jalyn Childress showed her confidence, finishing with 8 points and6 rebounds, but their effort was not enough as the five Pride sophomores—Anna Egnotovich, Myah Gross, Addy Padgett, Kaitlyn Puzenski, and Rachel Stewart—combined for 22 points, 19 rebounds, 6 assists, and 10 steals to complement Makitka’s 10-point, 6-rebound, 4-steal night.
Even with a young squad, Heritage (1-0, 4-1) believes its experience from last season—along with its height—will give them a competitive edge in the Dulles District, but the Pride know they need to execute the fundamentals if they want to have a successful season.
“We need to make free throws and take care of the basketball,” Jett said. “If we can do that and play inside-out, we’ll be okay.”