WILLIAMSTOWN -- The Mount Greylock girls' basketball team needed a little extra coaching early in the season.
Not the typical on-court coaching, but off-court coaching. The Mounties roster features so many young players that the team had very little idea on how to start a game. Not the opening tipoff kind of start, but all the things a team does before a game. Coming out of the locker room, warmups, introductions, national anthem. It was all foreign to this group of Mounties.
Lucy Barrett is the only returning starter on the team this year, and she's just a sophomore. Mackenzie Flynn and Heather Tomkowicz are both juniors returning to the team after seeing playing time off the bench last season. Margot Besnard, the team's lone senior, did not play basketball last year.
"Before the first game it just hit me," coach Paul Barrett said. "I had to go through what happens on game nights. Where we go after the locker room, where we go before the game, absolutely everything.
"I mean Lucy was only a freshman last year. She was following the lead of the seniors. And [Mackenzie] is the same. She and Heather both were just sophomores following along."
It has been a similar approach on the court, as well.
"I've always been a fundamentals coach, so we're always looking to instill that emphasis," Barrett said. "But as far as putting in new things, there is a definite learning curve."
Lucy Barrett ranks third
Freshman Arianna Walden ranks second on the team in points per game with an average of seven. Flynn is averaging six. Barrett sits at 14.4 points per game.
Besnard is still trying to catch herself up with the basics of the game after not playing the past few winters.
"For me personally, it's just been learning the fundamentals again," the soccer goalkeeper said. "And getting them down.
"It's basically learning how to shoot, how to dribble, how to move my feet on defense. Those are the hardest things for me."
But just like the entire Mountie team, Besnard is improving at a rapid pace. She entered the week averaging just over four points per game.
Perhaps even more valuable is the senior leadership she brings along. She may not have been on the team the past few seasons, but Barrett said she has stepped into a leadership role right away. She was a captain on the soccer team this fall, a team which featured Lucy Barrett and Sarah Stripp as well. With Besnard playing goal, she over saw what defenders like Barrett and Stripp did. That connection has helped the team grow.
While height is not an advantage for Greylock, speed and athleticism are.
"We're a young and very athletic team," Lucy said. "We have the athleticism and we can push the ball. It's more just fundamentals that will get us to the next point of working together and winning games."
The Mounties are learning how to run their plays. They're learning exactly what has to be done on the court to help them win games. That has been the focus through the early part of the season.
A young team often needs to just focus on themselves and not worry about what other teams are doing on the court. That's exactly the mentality Greylock is taking.
"We're just trying to run our plays through and get them down," Lucy said. "What we were working on [Tuesday] was just running our plays and if we run them right there will be many more options open. Other people get open on those plays, we just have to get them down."
The early-season schedule didn't lend any favors to a young team trying to find its way. Greylock played Hoosac Valley, Lenox and Drury in the season's first three games. The Mounties responded with three straight wins over McCann Tech and Mount Everett, but after playing Lenox on Jan. 11, the schedule doesn't get any easy.
The Mounties play Drury tonight, then St. Joseph's in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic on Saturday. They then challenge Wahconah, Lee and Pittsfield -- all North Division teams with heavy tournament experience.
The offense is beginning to come together for the Mounties. With Barrett leading the way, Greylock is averaging just over 38 points per game.
"Our biggest improvement has been in our offense," Besnard said. "Just our knowledge of the plays and where to move has gotten better every time we have played a game."
The Mounties know the offense has a lot of potential, but are paying special attention to the defense.
"Sure we're all trying to score more," Flynn said. "But we have to play better defense. That's what we have to win on. Defense is what you win on, not offense."
Solid defense can be a spark to solid offense, however. The Mounties' speed allows them to work a quick transition game.
With speed, a defensive stop has the potential to turn into offensive production.
"We don't have size, but we have a very fast team and our points come off transitions," Besnard said. "That's really what happens when we win. Our transition points make up that difference. But when our transition offense isn't working, then our entire offense kind of falls apart, so it starts with the defense."