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Saturday February 6th, 2016 10:37AM

Carrick putting Lady Lions back on winning track

By Jeff Hart Sports Reporter
GAINESVILLE -- Most of the time, coaches are just not happy people. At least, not when it comes to the performance of their teams.

Lakeview Academy girls coach John Carrick, however, has no real complaints. At least, not when it comes to his current squad of Lady Lions.

At 14-6 overall and 9-1 in Region 8-A play, Lakeview Academy is leading its subregion with less than two weeks left in the regular season. But Carrick's joy has nothing to do with records, or stats, or who they have beaten.

"We're playing as a team and that's what makes me happy," he said after practice Monday as they prepare to take on Pinecrest Academy on the road Tuesday. "I don't care about records. The goal every time is to win the next game. It's hard to get kids to think that way when people around them are telling them how good they are and things like that.

"A team is like a hand. There are five fingers and all five are important. Which one is the most important depends on what you are doing. Everyone would like to be the most important but it doesn't work like that. Everyone has to play a role and do their part. These girls are starting to do that."

It's a far cry from Carrick's first season, when Lakeview Academy finished a dismal 3-21 to end the 2010-11 season. It was also a learning process for Carrick, who was making the transition to high school after coaching at Division II Georgia College.

"There was some adjustment for all of us," he said. "That first year frankly we just weren't very good. It was eye-opening for me because I was not used to a season like that.

"But the girls wanted to get better the second year and came into the next season ready to work. Building a winning attitude takes effort and time and we started down that road that year."

The Lady Lions finished his second season 18-11 in one of the biggest turnarounds in the state. Carrick felt things were headed in the right direction.

But Lakeview slipped to 13-13 last year in what Carrick called a "disappointment."

"I was very disappointed in how last year finished because I felt we were ready to turn the corner," he said. "But that may have been the motivation we needed for this year."

It was during summer camp games that Carrick said he "saw the light come on" on what he was trying to get them to do. Last week's ugly win over Athens Christian demonstrated that the Lady Lions may have begun to find the winning attitude Carrick has been seeking.

"For me, you know you are starting to get that kind of attitude when you have the ability to win games you probably shouldn't," he said. "That game against Athens Christian was the worst game we've played all year. Yet, I think the girls felt they were going to win the game despite nothing going right. We won the game even though with the way we played we shouldn't have."

There are only two players left from Carrick's first team at Lakeview -- seniors Sam Versteeg and Kaylee McClendon -- but it's junior point guard Schyler Miller and freshman guard/forward Hanna Grogan that give the Lady Lions reason for excitement. Both are averaging just under 14 ppg and have the ability to put pressure on opposing defenses.

"They can play the game but both are also still learning," Carrick said. "Schyler makes us run and Hanna I think will be a complete player when her time is up."

But every team needs a heart and Versteeg fills that role for the Lady Lions. And it's not lost on Carrick.

"She's been here since my first day here and knows what I want from them. She won't light up the stat sheet but she's our best defender and leader on the floor," Carrick said. "We would be in trouble without her out there."

Of course, every good experiment needs a test. And Carrick said his Lady Lions are ready to see if they have what it takes.

After Pinecrest, they will travel to Towns County on Friday to face the Lady Indians, who are always tough in Hiawassee.

"We haven't passed any real tests yet but I think we'll get one Friday," Carrick said. "We can still get a lot better, which is a positive. Every coach wants to see that his team has the ability to get better, no matter how good they already are. And we can get better.

"The girls are seeing that to be successful and build a winning attitude, you have to bring it every day. I've been pleased overall with what I have seen from them this season."
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