Coming off a 17-11 finish a year ago and returning two senior starters, Spring Hill girls basketball looked to be trending upward for this season.
But a coaching change, a season-ending injury and another coaching change have left the Lady Raiders in a bit of disarray, and Tuesday’s 53-40 loss to visiting Tullahoma in their District 8-AAA opener was just the latest example.
“Offensively, we’ve had to go back to the drawing board and reinvent some things,” interim coach Christopher Stedman said after Spring Hill dropped to 2-9 with the latest defeat. “We’re still working out the bugs offensively.
“We’ve come a long way, but we definitely still have a long way to go.”
Stedman, an assistant last season under Matt Horton, is leading the team with assistants Natasha Anderson and Emory Ujano following the sudden departure of Wayne Fortenberry – hired in late July to replace Horton, who left to take over the boys program at Mt. Pleasant.
“I really appreciate them giving me the opportunity,” said Fortenberry, who experienced some health issues at the onset of the season and is still undergoing evaluation in an attempt to pinpoint the problem. “I just went ahead and turned in my resignation.
“I’m still taking tests, trying to figure out what’s going on with everything.”
A longtime successful coach in the Mississippi high school ranks, Fortenberry is the second unexpected absence on the Spring Hill bench. Ricole Alderson tore the anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee during the preseason and will not return.
“‘Cole is really the heart and soul of this team,” Stedman said. “She’s a natural leader. It’s a big hit to the team’s morale, but it’s also a big hit to our game strategy. We’ve had to change a lot of what we do, offensively and defensively.
Remaining on the roster is senior Prairie Stedman, who has had to shoulder the offensive load – averaging 22.5 points per game prior to Tuesday’s contest, in which she scored 17 – sophomore twins Belle and Jeyce Brashear and a handful of untested teammates.
Those three were the only scorers in the Tullahoma loss. Belle Brashear finished with 17, including a pair of 3-pointers.
“We’d like to be a more balanced offense,” Christopher Stedman said. “Prairie is the kind of player where, the ball finds her. She winds up with the ball in her hands.”
The developments have been disappointing, from the top down.
“We loved Coach Fortenberry,” Alderson said. “We wish he was still here. We were working, we played well, played together.
“When I went down, it changed a lot. The coaching situation has been a little confusing. We just have to get used to it. We have to find different ways to make our offense better; there are different things we have to work on as a team.”
Stedman characterized the current situation as ‘coaching by committee’.
“We all have a very similar philosophy, similar approach,” he said. “There’s a sense of unity in how we want to see the team develop and grow.”
Subpar shooting keys latest loss
Converting just 12 of 42 attempts from the floor, Spring Hill couldn’t close a three-point halftime margin and lost 65-46 to visiting Tullahoma.
“We were just out of synch,” Raiders coach Jimmy Young said after the district defeat, which dropped Spring Hill to 4-5 overall. “We’ve practiced, but we haven’t played in 13 days.
“We got good looks; they just weren’t falling. Tullahoma did a good job of being physical.
The Wildcats extended a 28-25 halftime advantage, outsourcing Spring Hill 15-6 in the third period, and cruised behind four double-digit scorers. Brody Melton’s 18 points led the way for Tullahoma (4-10), with Krys Uselton adding 15.
Kai’Seanne Brashear scored a game-high 21 points for Spring Hill, with Quintaveous Simmons scoring another 13.
Tullahoma girls 53, Spring Hill 40
T 14 15 7 17 – 53
S 9 11 8 12 – 40
Tullahoma (53) – Eleanor Fults 21, Alivia Bowen 6, Lucy Nutt 13, Lily Melton 7, Morgan Carr 2, Nyjah Gibbs 4
Spring Hill (40) – Prairie Stedman 17, Belle Brashear 15, Jeyce Brashear 8
3-pointers – Tullahoma 6 (Fults 4, Bowen, Nutt), Spring Hill 2 (B. Brashear 2)
Tullahoma boys 65, Spring Hill 46
T 19 9 15 22 – 65
S 14 11 6 15 – 46
Tullahoma (65) – Ethan Hargrove 10, Ryan Scott 10, Krys Uselton 15, Grant Chadwick 2, Brody Melton 18, Joe Duncan 10
Spring Hill (46) – Quintaveous Simmons 13, Ricola Alderson 2, Bryce St. Croix 4, Kai’Seanne Brashear 21, Keelan Jackson 6
3-pointers – Tullahoma 1 (Hargrove), Spring Hill 2 (Simmons, Brashear)