By Craig Harper
For the Courier
LAKEWOOD — Doug Maier couldn’t have planned it better. Though the first-year Dakota Ridge girls basketball coach inherited a team that won just seven games and lost its final five last season, it did return six seniors.
“It’s a dream come true for a lot of coaches,” Maier said of senior leadership. “I really thought when I took over, with what we have we could be an 18-to-20-win team. And we’re moving in that direction.”
Indeed. Behind the senior front-court duo of Lauren Wood and Jae Ferrin, the Lady Eagles whipped Bear Creek 56-38 on Dec. 19 and improved to 6-2 overall and 2-0 in 5A Jeffco League play. Their two losses to Valor Christian, ranked No. 3 in 4A, and Grandview, No. 4 in 5A.
Maier fully expects the Lady Eagles will contend for the Jeffco title along with Lakewood and Ralston Valley.
“We have a little swagger to us just because we’re excited,” said Wood, who scored a game-high 21 points to go with 17 from Ferrin. “I felt like we would (start strong) from the beginning. We all put in the time and effort right from the start, and we’re willing to work for it.”
Aided by Dakota Ridge’s relentless full-court pressure, Wood and Ferrin, both 5-foot-10, helped contain Bear Creek’s Amber Gray. A 6-3 space-occupier who averaged 11.6 points and 10.6 rebounds, Gray managed just four of her 11 points in the first half, when the Lady Eagles built a 28-15 lead. The Bears committed 13 turnovers leading to 17 points and shot 23.8 percent from the floor in the first half. Wood and Ferrin combined for 18 of their team’s first 21 points in the second half as the Lady Eagles went up 49-27 early in the fourth quarter.
Maier has changed Dakota Ridge’s style of play, and the girls have responded.
“Last year, they were a lot more possession-control and they weren’t scoring anywhere near as many points as we are,” Maier said. “We are up-tempo, zone press the entire game. We’ll be up-tempo the entire 32 minutes and we switch it up multiple times. We’re a tough out because you’d better have three or four different press offenses to compete with all the presses we throw at them. And we’ve got good length we can put up front.
“And that’s the only way you can play against a big kid like that,” Maier said of Gray. “You can’t beat her in the half-court. You’ve got to beat them in the full-court long before it gets to her.”
Aside from a coaching change, the biggest personnel difference for the 2013-14 Lady Eagles is the return of Ferrin, who skipped last season because of a conflict with the coaching staff after earning all-conference recognition as a sophomore. “She brings a lot to the table,” Maier said. “She’s a college athlete; she’s got Division I skills.”
“I’ve played with her ever since I was little, and she’s a great asset to have back on the team,” Wood added. “She’s very aggressive. She hits the boards and puts up points for us, and we’re happy to have her back.”