HIGH SCHOOL BASKETBALL
RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
Radford will count on Marlena Malepeai, above, and Chelsea Villanueva for leadership. Both are four-year seniors.
Rams try to rev up defensive intensity
Simplicity is the goal for first-year Radford coach Tani Dutro.
Dutro replaced David Lane as girls basketball coach in the offseason and will bring a more up-tempo pace to the Rams.
Top 10 Countdown
With girls high school basketball season approaching, the Star-Bulletin is counting down its preseason Top 10, as determined in a poll of coaches and media members:
The struggles in adapting to a new system have been evident so far in preseason as Radford is just 1-4.
Despite that, the Rams are ranked No. 7 as the Star-Bulletin counts down its top teams heading into the regular season.
Dutro is very familiar with the Radford program. She was an assistant coach the past two years for the boys varsity team and has also been the head junior varsity coach. She also teaches at the school and went to most of the girls games last season.
"I knew what (Lane's) system was, so I have tried to make it easier for the girls to transition into the things I have changed," Dutro said.
The biggest difference will be on defense, where she plans to pressure teams fullcourt and try to increase the pace of the game.
"They have always run man-to-man defense, but I just want it a little more intense," she said.
2006-07 record: 23-6 (13-2 OIA Red)
On paper: Radford returns four starters from last year's team. Marlena Malepeai and Chelsea Villanueva are four-year seniors and will provide key leadership.
Senior Brittini Fuller is the Rams' defensive specialist -- she will help with Dutro's scheme to play a more frenetic pace on defense.
Marsharen DuPont is in her third year on the varsity squad and will finally be a starter. Her shot should help score points on offense and spread out opposing defenses. Sophomore Itali Lindsey should also be a key contributor after earning valuable experience as a freshman.
The skinny: Injuries have rocked Radford as much as anybody in the preseason. Malepeai and Villanueva missed a lot of time with sprained knees and are working their way into game shape.
Sophomore Ta Nitra Byrd got hurt on the second day of practice and may be able to play as early as next week as she recovers from a pulled hamstring.
Lindsey is out after taking a shot to the head in a game last week that required stitches.
X-factor: Obviously the key will be bringing an experienced group of players together under a new coach.
"Right now our biggest challenge with players and coaches is to get on the same page and stay there," Dutro said.
How quickly they can pick up her new scheme on defense will be critical as well. A lot of players have missed time due to injuries early in preseason and will need to be in tip-top shape in order to handle what Dutro has planned for her squad.