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This hoop team is Da Bomb

TULLY TALK

Matt Roberts still wonders what he was thinking when he agreed to

coach a youth basketball team in the Burbank Park, Recreation and

Community Services Department league this season.

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Roberts, a hard-nosed coach who grew up on the East Coast, has

coaching experience, along with a great deal of confidence in his

ability to teach, motivate and challenge players.

The coach wasn’t even fazed by the fact that all but one of

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players had no basketball experience whatsoever.

“How hard could it be,” Roberts said. “Basketball is basketball,

right?

But Roberts didn’t stop long enough to realize that trying to

teach basketball to 8-year-old girls -- who have never played before

-- is like trying to explain the theory of relativity to a toddler.

“I think it was the first or second practice when I really

realized what I had gotten into,” Roberts said. “For people who don’t

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have kids, it’s hard to explain the short attention span of a

third-grader.

“I remember I was trying do some drills and I was running the

girls, and some of them would just go and run over to their parents,

who were watching, and sit in their laps.

“I guess I was kind of strict, because when the players would do

something bad, they would run. Lets just say, in the early going, the

girls did a lot more running and a lot less drills. I knew, if

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anything, we were going to be the best conditioned team in the

league.”

Roberts, who worked with former Coach Ron Quarterman at Burbank

High, was convinced to take the coaching position by his 8-year-old

daughter Taylor. And when the group picked the name Da Bomb Squad,

Roberts just prayed the whole experience wouldn’t blow up in his

face.

“I went into this thinking that I am just going to teach them the

game of basketball like I had taught it before, even on the

high-school level,” Roberts said. “I wanted to run some of the same

types of drills, the same kinds of plays and give the girls the same

information I had used with the older, more experienced teams.”

So there he was, on the city’s courts trying to teach a group of

eight girls things like pressure defense, the proper way to set a

screen and man-to-man zones.

“I really expected to get some calls from parents telling me that

I was working the girls too hard, or that I was making the game too

complicated for them,” Roberts said. “But the parents were very

understanding and they realized what I was trying to do.”

*

With new basketball skills fresh in their young minds, Da Bomb

Squad prepared for its first set of practice games, enlightened by

the knowledge that everything they had been taught would lead to a

whole lot of winning.

However, the players lost both of their preseason games.

Undaunted by the early setbacks, Roberts and Da Bomb Squad

ventured into the regular season with wide-eyed wonder.

Showcasing its defensive prowess, Da Bomb Squad won its first

game, 7-0 -- games on this level are typically low scoring.

When the team continued to win, starting the season 3-0, Roberts

was able to see the fruits of his labor finally beginning to pay off.

“The girls were just great about running our set plays, which we

scored off of a lot,” Roberts said. “They really picked up on what I

was teaching and they were willing to try anything.

“But the only bad thing was that we were inconsistent. At times we

could look like a high-school team, and some times we looked like a

kindergarten team.”

In the fourth game, Da Bomb Squad finally suffered its first loss,

falling to the Lady Knights.

The team overcame the defeat, and Roberts’ girls rolled to eight

straight victories to finish the regular season 11-1. In 12 games, Da

Bomb Squad outscored its opponents, 112-36, and gave up an average of

just three points a contest.

The team advanced to the league-championship game March 20 at

Luther Burbank Middle School, and took on the only opponent to beat

Da Bomb Squad -- the Lady Knights.

In front of a packed gym, fans witnessed a defensive battle, as

neither team could score the first two quarters. With the third

quarter winding down, Katie Coderko hit a free throw to give Da Bomb

Squad a narrow lead.

In the fourth quarter, the team received another point on a free

throw from Erika Thrasher. Da Bomb Squad stepped up its defense in

the final quarter, which helped secure a 2-0 win.

“The girls worked so hard during the season and they put a lot of

time and effort into this team,” Roberts said. “It is really a great

group of girls and they encouraged each other. They deserve the

championship.

“I couldn’t be more prouder of this team.”

There is a group of girls -- Coderko, Thrasher, Kacee Cartee,

Kristen Hale, Nalani Hernandez, Selena Jackson, Taylor Roberts and

Nicole Smith -- that is also pretty proud of a coach who took the

time to care, and the patience to introduce young players to the game

of basketball.

* JEFF TULLY is the sports editor of the Burbank Leader. He can

be reached at 843-8700, or by e-mail at jeff.tully@latimes.com.


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