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Arlington Heights -Susie Moynihan (left) is pressured by Regina's Maeve Degan.Regina girls basketball at St. Viator. | Joe Cyganowski~For Sun-Times Media
Regina girls basketball coach Kerry Durham has instituted controlled chaos.
Durham has introduced a defense at Regina that at times puts three to four players between the arc and the timeline, all pressuring the opposing guards to pass their way through a jungle of hands and bodies.
“We just try to trap every corner,” sophomore guard Maeve Degnan said. “It puts pressure on the other team, and we go get the ball.”
Durham’s defense appears chaotic, but she said there is rhyme and reason to it.
“We do have our rules,” she said. “We do have certain ways and certain times where it is their defensive responsibility to jump, but it’s normally seen as organized chaos a little bit sometimes, because it’s never coming from the same person or it’s never a set thing that has to happen. It’s just a read on their defensive end when to jump and how to read the offensive player, so it can come from anywhere.”
Durham said her defense was inspired by longtime Georgia women’s basketball coach Andy Landers, who is noted for his remarkably consistent success over decades of leading the Lady Bulldogs.
Regina players admitted it is not easy for a group of high school girls to run a demanding college defensive set.
“It was hard to get at first,” said senior guard Erin Gavin. “Everyone goes to the jump and then you recover, so we have to work together as a team, and everyone has to know where everyone is at on the floor to make sure. We all have to keep covering each other. It is chaos, but I like it.”
On Jan. 23, as the Panthers limped through the opening minutes on the road against St. Viator, Durham’s booming voice often returned to the same refrain: “Go! Go!”
“We’re not the tallest of teams, but we really like to take advantage of our speed and push the ball and push tempo as much as possible,” Durham said. “We’re trying to make the other team play a little bit faster and make decisions a little faster than they’re comfortable with.”
Durham’s strategy worked against the Lions, leading to plenty of fast-break buckets — an ideal situation for the Panthers, whose zippy play translates well into transition points.
“It’s nice to know that a teammate’s coming right behind me,” Degnan said. “Sometimes (in half-court sets) there are not rebounders to get the ball right away, but when there are fast breaks, there’s always a teammate coming behind.”
Degnan herself injects pep back into the Panthers when energy starts to flag, Gavin said.
“She’s really good because say we get tired and need a break and someone’s legs are hurting, Maeve is that spark we need to come off the bench,” Gavin said. “Maeve is the person that when we’re tired, she lights us all back up.”