MHS Girls-Long

Freshman Zoey Long guards Davenport West's Allie Poston during the first half of a game earlier this season in Muscatine.

Muscatine Journal file photo

Davenport West's girls basketball team has been overmatched every time it has taken the court this season.

The Falcons have lost games 80-3, 60-6 and 68-9.

They've been on the wrong end of the 35-point, continuous clock in all 21 games, most of them by the start of the third quarter.

They've never registered more than 23 points in a contest. They are shooting a meager 16 percent.

They are an easy target for classmates to poke fun at right now.

"It is annoying because everybody feels they can do better," sophomore Allie Poston said. "If they can better the team in some way, why aren't they playing? It gets frustrating listening to their comments when they don't go out for the sport."

Regardless of what the scoreboard reads each Tuesday and Friday night, this group continues to play on.

They came to practice Monday in the YMCA, connected to West High School, working to improve in bits and pieces for Wednesday's Class 5A regional opener against Davenport North. They were shooting layups and doing ballhandling drills.

Attitude is not the chief problem. The issue is a lack of experience, talent and confidence.

"I've never seen a team diving for loose balls and playing defense as hard as they can down 50 (points) like this bunch of kids," said Pat Finn, who has filled in as West's head coach the past several games. "It is almost a thing to behold.

"It says a ton about their character."

Poston said she rarely looks at the scoreboard during a game. Sophomore Jessie Chalupa admitted it was difficult early in the season not to think about the score, but it has become easier as the year has progressed.

Unlike most programs which set out to compete for conference and state titles or just a .500 record, West has established much smaller goals.

Can they exceed 10 points in a game? Can they work their offense to get an open shot? Can they force a team into a turnover? Can they grab 20 rebounds in a game?

"We still do care and still want to put forth that effort and continue to get better," Chalupa said.

Opponents have been good about not running up the score. Teams usually never press or stop doing so after building a sizable lead. Most play their reserves the entire second half.

"I respect that a lot," Poston said.

According to the latest Board of Education Department enrollment figures, West is the 12th largest high school in the state.

How did its girls basketball program get into a situation where it couldn't field a competitive team?

Just two years ago, the Falcons were 15-7 and had one of the state's top scorers in Chrislyn Carr.

Since she transferred to Rock Island, it has plummeted quickly.

Besides a roster with very few upperclassmen, they've got a roster of girls who have limited experience playing basketball.

"It is kind of hard knowing the teams you're playing have been together since elementary or middle school," Chalupa said.

Many in this group did not pick up a basketball until middle school. It was high school for others.

"There has been a lack of organization at the youth levels," Finn said. "The youth and feeder programs aren't where they need to be. That's the job not only of coaches but parents in the district to work together to organize that and get that going."

Finn said it needs to start as early as third grade.

"We need to revamp that and start at the bottom," he said. "You don't wake up one day and just become a good player. You need to put in the time and develop during the offseason.

"It'll be a point of emphasis moving forward here. If we don't, shame on us. We'll stay where we're at right now and nobody is happy about that."

There are pieces of potential on the current roster, Finn said.

The next step is continuing to improve fundamentals — shooting, dribbling, passing and defensive technique.

West doesn't have a player on its team shooting better than 27 percent. It is committing more than 33 turnovers a game.

"Our viewpoint as coaches have been, let's develop as an individual first," Finn said. "I've seen three or four kids make some real strides this year in terms of having a better understanding of the game.

"The biggest concern is our ability to score. We just don't have the shooting skill throughout the whole program."

The season likely will conclude Wednesday night.

Poston said undergoing this type of season has motivated her to devote more hours to basketball in the offseason.

"A lot of us are tired of losing," she said. "We just need to stick with it, put more time into it and get better."

If anything, this trying season has taught them one valuable life lesson.

"It has been rough," Chalupa said, "but you learn how to persevere and push through a lot of things."

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Sports Editor

Prep sports editor, with emphasis on covering the Mississippi Athletic Conference and Iowa area high schools. I've been in sports journalism for 17 years, the last five at the Quad-City Times.