Monarch's turnaround in girls basketball from a 4-20 team in 2017-18 to a 14-game winner this past winter defied one of the more practical sports ideologies — that, if done right, breathing life back into a program at any level of athletics will be a long and arduous process.
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But if the Coyotes continue to trend the right way, it'll be a testament to how good the pairing of coach Gail Hook and senior star Emerson Herrmann truly turned out to be.
Hook returned to the program she built this season following a three-year absence and immediately challenged her best player. It's not that Herrmann's junior statistics weren't great — having nearly half the team's points and more than one-third of its boards were more than eye-popping — but all parties knew the Coyotes couldn't consistently win with one player trying to do everything alone.
Hook wanted more balance. And Herrmann abided.
The result was a 10-win improvement and Herrmann being named the BoCoPreps.com girls basketball player of the year.
"My game improved this year thanks to my teammates," Herrmann said. "Instead of trying to do everything myself like I did junior year, just being able to trust them opened up my game even more."
Trust isn't always easy. For Herrmann, she said she gained it after seeing the commitment her teammates showed in offseason workouts.
The University of California San Diego commit said she realized: "They want to be here. And they want to commit themselves to the sport like I do."
Hook thinks they were taking a cue from their leader.
"Her work ethic, her energy and her relentlessness, I think it really started to ignite our other players," Hook said. "And it got them to start looking to score more, defend better and rebound more."
Monarch went on to lose its first game of the season — 51-48 to Prairie View in overtime — despite Herrmann's eight rebounds and 11 points on an effective 5-of-8 shooting night. But the Coyotes' fortunes quickly changed and followed with a 10-game winning streak.
During it, Herrmann created more for her teammates and asserted herself all over the court despite facing continuous double and triple teams. On Dec. 11, she secured a rarity in the high school game — a 30-point, 20-rebound game. The senior shot 10-of-18 from the field, hit all of her 10 free throws, and had five offensive and 15 defensive boards in a win over Heritage.
"She was just so relentless and played a lot like Alexis Johnson, who was one of the best players to ever play at Monarch," Hook said. "As soon as she would look to score, she wasn't satisfied. So, she would always follow her shot or try to get something a little bit more higher percentage. She just exuded that kind of energy and passion."
As for coaching Herrmann, it was a "piece of cake."
"She was always encouraging in ways we were trying to make her better and make her more effective," Hook said. "She never made any excuses and acknowledged everything we said. She has a great basketball IQ. It was very easy to coach her."
Herrmann finished her senior season with 16 double-doubles, averaging 15.6 points and 11.1 rebounds. She finished her career with 1,073 points and 710 rebounds.
Brent W. New: email@example.com and @brentwnew