Friday, February 23, 2001

Holmes' Hallman takes charge


Junior guard has become leader coaches craved

By Mark Schmetzer
Enquirer contributor

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Erica Hallman
(Glenn Hartong photo)
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        The Holmes Lady Bulldogs were ranked fifth in The Enquirer's coaches' poll and trailing by seven after the first quarter at No. 4 Highlands last Saturday when junior guard and fifth-year starter Erica Hallman gathered her teammates.

        “I was like, "We've got to step up and play defense and put the ball in the basket,' ” Hallman said.

        The Lady Bulldogs shaved two points off the deficit by halftime, tied the score after three quarters and ended up with a 50-44 victory. This week Holmes is No. 4, while Highlands dropped to fifth.

        “It made me feel great,” she said. “It made me feel like I was getting my point across.”

        That was the side of Hallman's personality Holmes coach Alison McCarthy and the Lady Bulldogs staff have been trying to get out of her since last season. Hallman had little left to prove athletically — she was fourth in the state in scoring with a 24.5 average last season — and the coaches were hoping she would become more of a leader.

        “We've had talks with her all during last year and this year about leadership, both vocally and by her actions,” McCarthy said. “We told her that what she does determines what the rest of the team does. If she mopes and complains, it pulls them all down. If she plays aggressively, they'll play aggressively. She's become more of a leader, both verbally and by her actions. She needed to work on her body language. She had to learn that, when the other girls need confidence, they get it from her.”

        “At some points, it's easy,” Hallman said. “At some points, it's difficult.”

        Hallman took charge again Thursday night, scoring 15 of her 31 points in the third quarter to rally Holmes over Newport 69-65.

        Hallman's leadership has helped a young Holmes team mature into one that could be a factor in the postseason tournament. The Lady Bulldogs (15-11) play their District 35 opener Monday against Notre Dame at Notre Dame. Last season's team went 13-12 in the regular season before reaching the Ninth Region finals. That team included just two seniors.

        The returning players' experience from last season's team allowed McCarthy have a deeper rotation. She now feels comfortable using as many as 10 players. They include junior guard-forward Valencia Jackson, who averages 10 points a game, as well as juniors Heather Herindon, Breshaun Humphrey and Gilane Collins, sophomore Jonna Patterson and freshman Ashley Wimzie.

        “Last year, we didn't have any subs,” McCarthy said. “We didn't have any consistency with our subs. This year, they're able to come in and contribute.”

        Last season's tournament experience has McCarthy feeling confident about Holmes' chances this season. She composes a schedule loaded with tough teams early and late. She believes the early schedule helps her players know what they have to learn. The late schedule helps them get tough for the tournament. That's why Holmes' last four opponents were No. 8 Campbell County, No. 3 Newport Central Catholic, No. 2 Bishop Brossart, Highlands and Newport, which is tied with Notre Dame for sixth.

        “We've told the girls over and over that records don't mean anything,” McCarthy said. “You could be 2-20 and still get a shot at the tournament. Everybody's 0-0.”

        Hallman's confidence in her teammates has allowed her to share some of the scoring load — her average was down by 2.5 points from last season — while improving her rebounding and steals numbers.

        “My defense just keeps getting better and better,” she said. “I'm dishing the ball more. If they're open, I usually see them. If I don't, I tell them it's a mistake and that I'll get them next time.”

        Hallman also has started thinking about the next step. The University of Kentucky and Xavier both have stopped by to see her play, and she's been invited by the University of Cincinnati for a Bearcats' game. Hallman, who has a 3.8 grade-point average, isn't leaning toward any college yet.

        “It's too early,” said Hallman, who plans to sign during November's signing period. “I want to have fun next year and not worry about it.

        “I wouldn't mind staying close to home, but I'm willing to go away. It depends on who has the best package.”

       



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