When Gerry Andersen took over the Lely girls basketball program last year, one of his biggest challenges was getting the Trojans to believe they could win.
Lely went just 1-23 in his first year after winning two games the year before. But during last season and particularly during the offseason, the Trojans began to show signs of growth.
“These girls worked really hard in the offseason,” Andersen said. “During team camp and summer workouts, I saw a huge difference in them. It’s a really good group of girls. They get along really well on and off the floor, and that makes it much easier to step on the floor and play as a team.”
Lely is seeing the results of that chemistry on the floor, with Lely starting the season 3-4 after Tuesday’s 34-27 win over Cape Coral-Mariner. That gives the Trojans as many wins already this season than they’ve posted in each of the last two years combined.
The Trojans have already shown themselves to be a resilient squad, rallying from a halftime deficit for two of their three wins. In a 52-49 win last week against South Fort Myers, Lely trailed by 13 at halftime before scoring 40 second-half points to pick up the win.
When the team met before the season, they aimed high and set lofty goals.
“It might sound funny, coming off a year with just one win, but the girls really want to compete for a district championship this season,” Andersen said. “And that goes to show the belief they have in one another.”
The Trojans have just one senior – co-captain Gabby Popoli – and seven sophomores on the roster. Lely is also building depth through its junior varsity and freshman squads. According to Andersen, Lely is the only Collier County girls basketball program with teams at all three levels. Overall, Lely has 34 players in the program.
“We have a group of sophomores who can be a really special group by the time they’re all seniors,” he said.
The Trojans’ talented core of sophomores includes starters Bella Holan, Katie Miller, Kenya Stuart and leading scorer Cherrie Terry, who is averaging 12.5 points per game. Junior Jamera Dieudonne, one of the few holdovers from last year’s squad, is averaging 10.5 points per contest.
“We don’t have a team where it’s just one girl doing all the scoring,” Andersen said. “The girls have really bought into the team concept. They always say ‘there is no me, just we’ and they’ve done a nice job living up to that.”