MORRIS – Plainfield South had just suffered a lopsided loss to Pleasant Plains in the Morris Girls Shootout.
But that did not really matter. The Cougars, 7-19 last season, were missing a couple of their key players, and the idea this summer is to prepare for the school's best season ever.
"We won seven games last year, four in the Southwest Prairie Conference," coach Leah Carter noted. "That's the most wins and most conference wins ever. Plainfield South girls basketball has not been good.
"It takes that breakout year to really get a program going, You win more and kids want to play. This is our pivotal year."
Carter, who is entering her fourth year at South, also is the head softball coach, having taken over for this spring season, and she coaches girls tennis.
"Our school has always been good in softball," she said. "I walked into a gold mine there. Kids who start in softball stay with it.
"There were 16 in this senior class who played basketball as freshmen. There are two left as seniors. Understand, basketball is not an easy sport. If basketball were easy, everyone would do it. An established program always should have 6-10 seniors in it. But basketball is a very grueling sport, and if kids aren't motivated to keep playing, they don't."
Carter said a program's breakout season, which she feels the upcoming one can be, can attract athletes who stay with it.
"What really is most rewarding in coaching is seeing so much growth in a program," Carter said. "These girls know it's time to put the change that we're going to see into practice.
"I told these girls, 'You will beat all the school records. You will be the standard at our school.' "
Senior guard Tyler Everett, who sat out some of the shootout after tweaking her knee, and sophomore point guard Jaianna Brooks, who also was absent, will be among the keys to the Cougars' success.
Everett, who averaged 12.8 points last season and is the team's best defender, and Kaylin Doran are the only seniors. Among the juniors are 6-4 Ally Fink and 5-6 Antwanetta Boswell, who combined for more than 12 points and 11 rebounds last season. Carter said Boswell likely will be the team's second-leading scorer.
"It's all these juniors plus Tyler [Everett]," Carter said. "I saw them play as eighth-graders and knew they would be the group to make the change in the program."
Brooks also will contribute to the improvement, her youth notwithstanding.
"Jaianna came up as a freshman last year and earned the point guard job," Carter said. "It wasn't given to her.
"She's been playing AAU out of Joliet. I saw her recently and she has made big improvements. She played amazing in a shootout at Grayslake."
Everett, who has hopes of playing college basketball, has matured as a leader on and off the court.
"We're very young," Carter said. "We rely a lot on Tyler. She is going to amp it up this year. She is more in control and is beginning to be more of a leader.
"She was sitting next to me on the bench this game and was saying things that I've been saying. It's nice to have someone who mimics our philosophy."
South hopes to have the full cast available for this big weekend.
"We're in a shootout Saturday at Niles West and the top four teams will play at Allstate Arena before the Sky game, which is Sunday at noon," Carter noted.
Carter was a three-sport star in volleyball, basketball and softball in high school at Salem, scoring more than 1,000 points in basketball She played three sports at Judson and again scored more than 1,000 points.
A special education teacher, she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer years ago and is proud to say she has been cancer free for six years. She was away from coaching for a while but is happy to be back at it.
Now, for that one major goal – helping the girls in the Cougars' basketball program turn the corner.
"This is a real good group of kids," she said. "Even when they're losing, they don't give up. They have a better attitude than we had the last couple of years by far. Now the parents know we have their kids' best interest at heart, and that's a big part of it, too.
"My goal is for us to double our wins, win 15 games, next season and finish in the top half of the conference. We beat the three Plainfields – East, North and Central – the second time around last season and hopefully can sneak by someone else next season.
"It takes that one breakout year."