TCC coach wants confident play from Eagles heading into conference schedule
By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook staff writer
Going into Saturday’s Panhandle Conference opener against Gulf Coast State, TCC coach Franqua Bedell’s mantra was the same as it has been since the season started.
“I told the girls whether we win or lose the game does not define who we are and it doesn’t define this year,” Bedell said. “All it tells us is that we have to go back to the lab and get better.
“I’m not scared of a loss but what I’m scared of is that we don’t learn from the loss.”
The Eagles didn’t play scared by any means against the Commodores, taking the game into overtime before falling 101-96.
Bedell got another chance when the Eagles traveled to Marianna to face Chipola College in a mid-week game. They won’t play after that until Jan. 16 when they take on Northwest Florida College at home.
The Eagles aren’t looking past any of the early challenges in their conference schedule; just wanting to play well enough to repeat as the national juco champions.
They are optimistic they could repeat, especially since they got off to one of the programs best starts and went into Saturday’s game with an 18-0 record. It’s a much more mature team that has five returning sophomore from last year’s squad.
With the new additions, they’ve formed a sisterhood that guard Victoria Pearce attributed to their early success.
“As time grew, we came closer together and realized that we have the same goal,” Pearce said. “Everybody started to get hungry and everybody started to see that we can win. I think that’s where our chemistry comes from.”
Getting the newcomers to commit to Bedell’s system wasn’t difficult, Pearce said, because they’ve heard stories about the title-winning season.
“We want to taste that championship again and the freshmen want it for the first time,” said Pearce, who is averaging 9.6 points per game with a 53.8 shooting percentage.
Bedell, who is in his sixth season at TCC, set out after last season to reload the Eagles. He saw several talented players while recruiting, but he wanted players who brought more than just the ability to play.
“I’m not just asking for them to play and I think that’s what makes our team good,” he said. “The sophomores have bought into me holding them accountable for all the little things. I think I get on their nerves, holding them accountable for the little things outside of basketball.”
Jamyra McChristine, a sophomore forward who missed seven games, was a big factor in the Eagles stretch during the closing weeks of the non-conference schedule. She brought leadership that was especially effective when the team won the Title IV National Championship tournament in Washington, D.C.
The title win gave the Eagles 23 consecutive victories dating back to last season. They went into the game against the Commodores averaging 98.7 points per game as a team.
Despite seeing the streak snapped, Bedell is convinced that the Eagles are in a place that should make it easy for them to bounce back.
“It’s a culture that we’ve developed. As coaches and players, we are judged on wins and losses,” he said, not wanting to make much of the win streak they had going but instead counting on his sophomore to encourage the young players. “It’s how my leaders have led off the floor to get these new players to buy in. That’s what this is about more than anything else.”