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Putnam County coach James Barnett gives instruction during the Lady Panthers’ 42-30 loss to Hinckley-Big Rock in the Class 1A IVCC Sectional semifinals. In his first year as coach, Barnett led Putnam County to a 24-5 record and a regional championship. NewsTribune file photo/Amanda Whitlock
Putnam County junior Daniela Pavlovich knew success was in store for PC’s girls basketball team.
After all, the Lady Panthers had plenty of talent and experience coming back for the 2012-13 season.
But first-year PC coach James Barnett got even more success out of the group than Pavlovich expected.
“I feel like we had our time coming soon because sophomore year we didn’t do well, but I feel like we’re a talented group,” Pavlovich said. “I feel like (Barnett) coming to be the coach made everything better. Barnett just topped it off. He’s a good coach. I’m happy he’s our coach now.”
Barnett installed new schemes and changed the mentality of a PC program that had won just 25 games in the five seasons before his arrival.
The result was the program’s best season in three decades.
The Lady Panthers went 24-5 for their first 20-win season since 1982-83 and won the Class 1A Midland Regional for the program’s first regional championship since 1983-84.
PC also placed second in the Tri-County Conference regular season and third in the TCC tournament and won the Princeville Holiday Tournament.
For all those accomplishments, Barnett is the 2012-12 NewsTribune Girls Basketball Coach of the Year.
“He definitely turned us around, that’s for sure,” PC junior Carly Gonet said. “He gave us a new attitude and a new outlook about how we think basketball should be. It definitely worked in the end.”
Barnett changed the mentality by expressing early his belief that the Lady Panthers could win 20 games and compete for a regional title while instilling a structured and disciplined practice atmosphere.
“I think one of the biggest things is the fact that just being good enough wasn’t good enough anymore - we had to show we were better than that,” Barnett said. “It all started with hard work from Day 1. I told them at the very beginning if they did all the little things, then the big things would fall into place. I think they bought into that.”
The Lady Panthers also bought into new schemes.
Defensively, Barnett put in man-to-man, full-court pressure defense that pestered PC opponents into many turnovers.
“It was just the hard-nosed defense I preached to them down in junior high - full-court man-to-man, don’t let your girl by you, seal the seams and limit teams to one shot,” said Barnett, who had his current players when he was the PC Junior High coach. “The defense, I think, resembles my attitude more than anything else.”
Offensively, the Lady Panthers pushed the ball off turnovers, but also had a new half-court system.
“I wanted to get them into more of a structured offense, so we went with some of our set plays then we ran our flex offense throughout the year,” Barnett said. “I think by running a set offense, it gives them a sense of where they need to be and some guidance.”
In installing the new systems, Barnett was patient enough to make sure they were successful on the court.
“He changed the defense and offense. He wouldn’t give up. If we didn’t understand it, he would go through it until we would get it,” Pavlovich said. “Once we got it, we kept it going and it was good.”
Barnett and his Lady Panthers expect more good things to happen next season with everybody back.
“We’re going to work hard in the summer, and I think we’re going to start where we left off last season,” Gonet said.
Kevin Chlum can be reached at 220-6939, or at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsEditor.
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