South Jersey Sports Report: First-Year EHT Girls Coach has Eagles Thinking Playoffs
Adam Swift has plenty of basketball coaching experience as a former assistant under George McNally, but the 2019-2020 season marks his first foray into coaching girls basketball. Swift has taken over for Danielle “Diz” Brady, who spent a couple of seasons building the Eagles up into a contender in the Cape-Atlantic League American Conference. Swift said he is hoping to continue to build on that foundation and lead the Eagles to even greater heights.
EHT had some tough losses early on, losing by three points to Southern Regional at the Score at the Shore Tournament, by just two points to ACIT, and by 10 in overtime to Ocean City, which has vaulted to the top spot in the CAL National Conference. The Eagles then ripped off a four-game winning streak before some injuries led to a three-game losing streak against Holy Spirit, Washington Township and Atlantic City.
Still, EHT (7-9, 3-3 and third place in the CAL American) remains in contention for a spot in the CAL Tournament as well as a state playoff berth, and these days teams like Millville, Vineland and Bridgeton are looking to score a win over a team like the Eagles any chance they get. Recently, the Eagles had to fight hard for a 36-29 win over Millville during a game in which EHT lost starting point guard Lauren Baxter early on to a thumb injury.
“It’s a little bit of an adjustment for some of them. It’s a little different when we’re the hunted instead of the hunter, so we are kind of learning how to handle those expectations, and sometimes it’s a battle. But now the girls are starting to get that we should be winning, which is where we want the program to be. They are learning that when you have those expectations and teams are coming in here to beat you because you’re now a big win for somebody, you have to show up every night,” Swift said. “We have an overtime loss, a two-point loss and a three-point loss, to Ocean City, ACIT and Southern — so we were a couple possessions away from being 9-2. So we’re just trying to keep going on the positive.”
The players seem to have taken a liking to coach Swift’s style and attention to detail.
“We’re playing really good against some really tough teams. We went into overtime against Ocean City and last year we didn’t do well at all against them. And we lost to ACIT in the last 30 seconds. We’re just trying to win as many games as we can, and hopefully get further in the playoffs than we have in past years,” senior forward Sierra Hegh said after the win over Millville on Jan. 21. “We’ve been playing a lot better this year, we’ve all been clicking and becoming a lot closer as a team. We’ve all adapted really well to his style. He has really good plays and great on-the-spot thinking.”
Swift said he has been impressed with the work ethic of what is still a very young team that features just two seniors, Hegh and Jayla Perdomo.
“This is my first time coaching girls basketball, but they’ve been great. They work hard every single day, they work hard, run our stuff and execute our stuff very well, so it’s definitely been an enjoyable experience,” he said. “I thought based on the experience they have developed — we have a lot of juniors and two seniors in Sierra and Jayla, who have been great leaders who do everything, whether it’s rebounding, keeping the team together or running our stuff — they’ve been great with the leadership, and the thought was a lot of these juniors and seniors have been playing varsity for so long that this would be the next step up. They are starting to see that, and with that is coming their confidence.”
EHT has a tough slate of games in February, as the month starts out with a home game against Absegami then a road tilt at ACIT, and the Eagles have to finish out their CAL American schedule with Vineland, Bridgeton and Millville, all of whom will be looking to play the spoiler role.
“The playoffs were an absolute goal. A home game would be ideal, and there’s still a possibility for that. The CAL Tournament is another big thing and I think we belong in that, but that’s going to mean finishing either No. 1 or No. 2 in the division,” Swift said. “Coming in we thought that was a realistic goal. And just having a winning season. So, those were the three goals: a home playoff game, get into the
CAL Tournament and have a winning season, and we’re kind of right there with all of them.”
Swift said there aren’t a whole lot of differences between coaching girls vs. boys. The biggest difference, he said, is that in the boys game sometimes pure athleticism can make up for deficiencies, but on the girls side it’s much more important to be technically sound and execute within the offensive and defensive philosophies of the coaching staff.
“A lot of it (in girls basketball) is if you can execute, you can be competitive and win. From the boys end, if you just have the athletes, sometimes you can just roll the athletes out there and they just kind of take over. Where as in the girls game, if you can control the turnovers and execute things you can really be in every game. If you play hard on defense and execute on offense, you’re right there in every game, and I think that’s something our girls are learning,” he said. “It’s not that much different between boys and girls. With girls, it’s much easier to tell when they are having a bad day. I think they are more honest and upfront about it. But they’ve been great, they come to practice and are able to shelve all that, which is something I’ve been surprised about. They are positive and work hard, and we’re just taking it day by day.”
Contact Dave O’Sullivan: firstname.lastname@example.org; on Twitter @GDsullysays