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Girls junior high team goes 13-7

Progress is sometimes all a coach wants to see from a player, especially in the developmental ranks.

Northwestern Junior High girls' basketball head coach Shannon Kistler saw not just one player improve during this past season, she saw her entire squad elevate their game.

"We came a really long way from the beginning of the season," the ninth-year coach said. "In the beginning of the season we were relying on two players offensively. As the season progressed, we moved to being a multi-threat team. Every player on our roster was in the scorebook at some point. We were able to change some of things we were struggling with.

"Overall, I was very happy with where we ended."

Kistler's team concluded its 2013-14 campaign with a 13-7 record and a five-game winning streak to close out the season.

Kistler noted that her squad performed better against teams it played a second time, showing progress, which also fueled that late winning streak.

The season began with a crushing 38-36 loss to Whitehall, but the Lady Tigers won their next four games, all of which were at home, where they didn't lose all season.

"In the beginning that just happened," Kistler said of going undefeated in New Tripoli. "Towards the end when we played Wilson, the strongest [junior high] team in the Colonial League this year, we beat them at home, which gave us more pride and it was definitely the high point of our season.

"The girls took pride going into that game to not only beat Wilson, but to maintain that record at home. By the end of the season, the streak was on everyone's mind."

The junior-high level sees nearly a whole new group of players each season. Kistler never has goals in mind until right before the first game. The goals changed this winter when starter Gabby Sevrain suffered a stress fracture in her knee mid-way through the season and was out for the rest of the year.

Kistler commended the growth of players like Leighanna Lister, who tripled her production in the second half of the season. She also liked the play of Jessie Williamson, Kyah Harding and Paige Stitzel.

Other girls who made this past season a success were Sydney Andreus, Stacey Everett, Abby Chisdak, Courtney Cassium, Brianna Werley and Maya Hambrick.

With varsity basketball not far away for some of these student-athletes, Kistler likes to focus on the mental aspect.

"If they are a player or players who I think could contribute to varsity in the future, I talk to them and tell them what they need to work on and what their role would be," she said.

"We really focus on the mental part of the game with those players. Tell them what it might be like getting varsity minutes."

With success becoming commonplace at the varsity level, and this squad's progressions as basketball players, the girls that step up to varsity soon will have no problem fitting right in.