HUDSON — They lack experience, they have dealt with numerous injuries and they are scuffling mightily to put the ball in the basket.
As a result, it has been a brutal season for the Western Reserve Academy girls basketball team thus far.
On Monday, the Pioneers had a legitimate chance to end their ongoing struggles.
Alas, it was not to be.
Host Reserve lost its 10th consecutive game after falling to Garfield Heights Trinity 43-34 at the Murdough Athletic Center.
WRA dropped to 1-12 this winter and hasn’t won since it posted a 39-30 victory over John Adams Dec. 1 in Cleveland.
The defeats have certainly taken their toll on everyone involved. However, the Pioneers’ fight and tenacity throughout the evening were not overlooked by their head coach.
"For some of the older players, this is hard," sixth-year coach Emily Thews-Baldridge said. "This is hard for me, too. They are working really hard in practice.
"They didn’t give up in this game. I recognize that and I want them to realize that I see that they’re doing everything we’re asking them. We just don’t have the experience right now."
Reserve had, perhaps, its best chance to end its hideous losing streak against the Trojans, who improved to 11-3.
When sophomore guard Jill Reef knocked down a 3-pointer, WRA had a 26-25 lead heading into the final eight minutes.
However, Trinity quickly regained its advantage and put the contest away with a 10-0 run in the fourth quarter.
"We graduated a really strong class last year with Abby King and Jade DuVal and so many others," Thews-Baldridge said. "We’re really rebuilding this year. We weren’t sure who was going to play point or who’s going to do this?"
Two statistics proved very troubling for the Pioneers.
Reserve, which struggled with the Trojans’ full-court pressure, committed a mind-boggling 43 turnovers. On top of that, WRA felt rather uncomfortable at the free throw line. All told, the Pioneers made just 5 of 13 foul shots.
"We’re dealing with a lot of good athletes who aren’t true basketball players," Thews-Baldridge said. "We work a lot on form shooting and how a proper box out works. This is what it means to bump the cutter and how you cut off the baseline."
Since her team lacks experience, Thews-Baldridge has spent a number of days teaching her players the basics of the game.
It has been a work in progress to say the least.
"Maybe other varsity teams don’t spend so much time on these things, but I’m a big believer in fundamentals," Thews-Baldridge said. "This year, we’ve spent more time getting scrimmage time into every practice because these girls just need to play."
The Pioneers managed to stay in the game despite having some of their top players parked on the bench.
"We had three starters in foul trouble in Jill Reef, (freshman post) Josie Spano and (junior post) Megan Hovan," Thews-Baldridge said. "They had more time off the court than they normally do. Our subs came in and fought back. I was really proud of the different combinations of players we had that really stepped up and held their own."
Despite the foul issues, Hovan, a Hudson resident who is a four-year starter, led Reserve with 13 points.
"Megan has really taken on that leadership role," Thews-Baldridge said. "I’m really proud of how far she has come."
Spano, a Hudson resident, added eight points for WRA. Trinity freshman guard Bri Ford led all players with 14 points and freshman forward Maciaha Irving added 12 points for the Trojans.
"We had games recently where we had two points, four points and zero points in a quarter," Thews-Baldridge said. "Our goal is to hit double digits every quarter.
"Another thing we have been working on is stringing together four quarters. I would say we had three strong quarters (Monday)."
The Pioneers were missing junior post Julia Clarke, a Hudson resident who suffered an injury after a collision during the team’s previous game. Clarke also dealt with a back injury earlier in the season.
"Julia has really come a long way since last season and has become a really nice role player in our starting five," Thews-Baldridge said.
Reserve also saw Spano miss time due to an injury earlier in the season. As a result, Thews-Baldridge has been forced to throw some of her more inexperienced players into the lion’s den.
"All of these players have had to step up," she said. "(Sophomore guard/post) Olivia Hrivnak, who was on JV (junior varsity) last year and soccer is her main sport, is out there playing key minutes for us."
WRA’s other two seniors are guard Micayla-Allene Brent and guard/post Kyra Bradley, who also is a student of Thews-Baldridge in her Spanish class.
"I’ve had Kyra the last two years," Thews-Baldridge said. "She doesn’t get as much playing time as the others, but what a great attitude.
"When she goes in and when she gets a rebound or shot, you can just tell how loved she is by the team and of course, respected by the coaches."
Losing can certainly cause both the players and coaches to consider massive therapy sessions. Nonetheless, the unsatisfactory results on the scoreboard haven’t diminished the Pioneers’ enthusiasm.
"We want it to have a fun aspect," Thews-Baldridge said. "It’s a long season. That’s not to say it’s all a barrel of laughs, but we try to have that relationship, one on one, with each of the girls. Additionally, we want to make sure they’re feeling the team cohesiveness."
No matter how hard they try, Reserve’s players can’t hide from their woeful record. However, the win/loss total is the furthest thing from Thews-Baldridge’s mind.
"It doesn’t matter what our record is because we have gotten better," she said.
Reporter Frank Aceto can be reached at 330-541-9444, firstname.lastname@example.org or @FrankAceto_RPC.