Top-ranked Lady Cats focused on the finish, not early success [VIDEO]
Too many teams put the cart in front of the horse. Not Rabun County. DeeDee Dillard, a head coach who surpassed 300 career wins earlier this season, makes sure her team knows, despite the 16-0 start and accompanying #1 ranking, they haven’t accomplished anything yet.
“You obviously want the girls to be excited about winning,” says Dillard. “That’s the whole reason we do what we do. At the same time you don’t want them to become complacent. It’s a balance of trying to be excited about that, but understanding there is still a lot of room for improvement. I had a team back in 2011ish, we started the season 17-0, ranked number one in the state, and we finished our last 12 games 6-6 and got upset in the first round of the state tournament.”
Dillard points out that her 2011 team may not like the reference, but this is a history lesson for her current group.
“We have not arrived. This record means nothing right now. It’s now how you start, it’s how you finish. That’s never been more true than this year.”
The Lady Cats’ 16-game streak ended with a tough road region loss to Putnam County. The girls wouldn’t dwell on the loss long, pummeling Oglethorpe in the next game, 81-17.
“It revealed a bunch of weaknesses we have,” says senior Destiny Deetz. “It showed us how we need to play together, to play with high energy. We can’t just put on the jersey and automatically win.”
The girls are now 17-1 overall and 7-1 in region play, and are still ranked #1 in their class in at least one poll. One this is certain, region 8-AA is as tough as ever, with Rabun (#1), Union (#5), and Putnam (#6) all ranked in the top-10, and Banks County, an annual force, can take down any team, any night. Still, Rabun doesn’t shy away from the tough slate of games.
“I like playing in this region,” says senior guard Laken Stiles. “I’m a competitive person, so in high school those are the games you live for.”
Rabun County is led by Stiles, Deetz, and a pair of other seniors in Ali Ramey and Hanna Cannon, but have a young sophomore core consisting of players like Gracie Deetz, Sophie Woodard, Carley Haban, Loren Stiles, and Sarah Kate Roberson, and Brittney Hopkins. Juniors Beth Payne and Natalie Nix have played well also. The team relies on the press defense to generate offense, and there’s really all 12 girls on the team that can step up and lead any night.
“I think offensively, this is the most balanced team I’ve ever had,” says Dillard. “I have kids coming off the bench that are contributing in a really positive way. Defensively, I still think we’re not as good as I’d like us to be. We are sometimes, but ‘sometimes’ will get you beat.”
Rabun averages north of 64 points per contest, and allow just a pinch over 40. Dillard says this may be one of her most balanced team ever. Asked if the Lady Cats have played their best ball, it’s an emphatic no.
“I don’t think so…I don’t think so,” says Dillard. “Every game has taught us valuable lessons. I have some kids who I think are still not really where I know they can be. Hopefully, all of that will come together at the right time, and we will be peaking at the right time.”
Digital Copy of Interview – Laken Stiles & Destiny Deetz
Digital Copy of Interview - Laken Stiles & Destiny Deetz
Digital Copy of Interview – DeeDee Dillard
Digital Copy of Interview - DeeDee Dillard