By Mike Moore (Photo by Ryan Kerwin, JTV Sports)
Michigan Center — There was some math to be done, a mapping, if you will, as to the projection the 2016-17 season may take.
One year after finishing with just six wins, Michigan Center girls basketball coach Joe Lusk knew things had to be different.
“So we talked, and we figured maybe 10 conference wins, a couple splits here and there, maybe 15 wins or so,” Lusk recalled of a meeting prior to the season starting. “But truthfully, we didn’t expect a season like this.”
And this season, where Lusk took a team with just one senior to 20 wins and the regional round of the state playoffs, is one the Center sideline general earned JTV Sports girls Coach of the Year.
“You must have the wrong guy,” Lusk said with a laugh Thursday morning.
In fact, Lusk was the man for the Cardinals’ job this year, transforming a six-win team from last winter into one that won more games than any in the program since the 2011 season ended with a 21-4 mark.
“Still trying to figure that out,” Lusk said when asked how the transformation took place. “We added some very seasoned freshmen to the mix this year. That’s a very talented class that really helped us. And the older girls gelled very quickly. They got together and decided we weren’t having another season like last year. The had each other’s back.”
Molly Nutt was the lone senior in the mix, while Kaycee Shannon, Teagan Haynes, Alize Tripp and Morgan Morris all made the jump from eighth-grade ball to the varsity club.
You would have never known.
The Cardinals started the year with four straight wins and eight victories in nine games.
“Really, after the first game, I noticed something,” Lusk said. “Then we won a few more. I felt like if we could get out of our own way, and really manage a lead, we were going to be pretty strong. Once we figured that out, things started rolling.”
All the way to a second place finish in the Cascades conference, which led to a district title in the Class C playoffs.
The Cardinals finally lost to Blissfield 48-38 in the regional semifinal.
Lusk was quick to credit his players for all the success, but for a coach to pull that many right strings while orchestrating a youthful roster to 20 wins, well, he had a hand in it, too.
“It was a lot of fun, all year long,” he said. “When you have a team like this, that plays with one another and shares the ball and finds each other, it’s very enjoyable.”
As for the future, Lusk knows how high the bar is now.
“We’re going to get better,” Lusk said with a laugh. “We have some talent coming into the program. This group is going to work all summer. One thing this group hasn’t done a ton of is lifting, agility and free throws. There is room for improvement. I’m looking forward to it.”
Mike Moore is a play-by-play commentator and Sports Writer for JTV Sports.
He’s also a Real Estate agent with Real Estate One, specializing with buyers and sellers throughout Michigan, from the Jackson area to metro Detroit. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling (313) 770-6365 with any inquiries.