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The Journal Gazette

  • File Northrop senior Niomi Dube, left, says coach Rashida Muhammad changed the program's culture.

Friday, December 01, 2017 1:00 am

Hard work is paying off for Bruins seniors

1-win season as freshmen propelled girls to get better

AUBREE REICHEL | The Journal Gazette

The Northrop seniors started from the bottom as freshmen with a 1-19 season. Now they're off to a 6-0 start.

“We knew that we could get to this point. We just had to work hard every day in practice,” senior Niomi Dube said. “(We tell the underclassmen) they can do it, too. We were the same as them, we just kept working each year to get better and better.”

The Bruins are in their second year under coach Rashida Muhammad, who led the team to a 15-8 record last year, and has shifted the culture of the program.

“She really changed the culture because she believed in us and kept working with us,” Dube said. “She never gave up on us. She knew that we could do it.”

A year ago, the team was 2-4 in November but improved to 8-5 in December, including a 59-58 come-from-behind win over South Side that proved the team could be successful.

“I think the biggest thing from that November to this November has been the mindset,” said Muhammad, who got married in the offseason. “These girls believe they can win and now they're executing. I think it was just the confidence level compared to last November to this November.”

A similar situation happened this year with a 68-58 win over Carroll on Nov. 17, the third game of the year.

“A lot of people thought we were going to lose but we had confidence in us, and we knew we could get it done,” senior Arielle Thatcher said. “It gives us more confidence in what we can do. I think we have more confidence than we had last year because we have the exact same people as last year, so we can still do what we've been doing because we have the same players.”

The team's depth has also added to the improvement.

“We have a lot of players that anybody can go off one night,” Dube said, “and no team can key on one player and anybody can step up.”

The intensity of practices has also played a pivotal role in the team's transformation.

“Coach tells us that the way we practice is the way we're going to play,” Thatcher said. “So we like to push everybody like the opponents are going to push us because they're not going to take us soft. So we push each other like our opponents will.

“I feel like we need to talk. We need to work on once we have a lead, don't relax. When we're up, don't relax because we're beating someone by so much. Don't allow them to get back in the game, keep it going and keep the effort up.”

The attitude, though, is always something the team is working on.

“(We have to be) focused through the season, stay humble and take each game one at a time,” Dube said. “We know that we have to keep working hard. We can't just be (satisfied) since we're starting out so good. We have to keep working hard and keep going.”

areichel@jg.net