The Johnstown-Monroe High School girls basketball team started strong, but coach Carl Dufford and his players expect more.
"We're still in the process of working to get better," said Dufford, whose team won four of its first five games. "We're taking a little longer than I had thought, but we're making progress and we're going to get there."
The Johnnies suffered their first loss when they fell to Utica 54-51 on Dec. 1 in their MBC opener. Dufford said the Redskins had a great game plan, taking advantage of his team's shortcomings.
"Utica played a really good game with strong play from kids off the bench and we were very sluggish," Dufford said. "We had 23 turnovers and were only 6-for-20 from the foul line. A lot of those turnovers came from Utica's strong defensive play, but we have to do better at the foul line."
Senior Marissa Sheets said the Johnnies can't let up against opponents.
"We have been playing well, but it's definitely not the way we are capable of playing," she said.
"We have a lot of youth on the team and we haven't been able to finish teams. We have to focus on our layups and free throws. Those are the ways that you put teams away."
The Johnnies defeated Danville 79-48 on Dec. 6 and East Knox 74-42 on Dec. 8 for their first two league victories.
Against East Knox, Natalie Carpenter scored 23 points, Laiken Valentine had 13 points and four assists and Paige Cannon had 11 points and nine rebounds.
"(Against) Danville and East Knox, our bench was a big factor, and that allows us to wear teams down," Dufford said. "Kerrigan Williams has been coming off the bench and we have been having her play on the block and the wing, which is a lot to ask for a sophomore.
"Kylie Workman really has come a long way for us and Maddi Lusk had to start the second half (against) East Knox when Laiken Valentine had to leave with a concussion. We also have had good play off the bench by Adeline Almendinger and Ashley Bush. Our bench players have been very valuable to us."
Through four games, the Johnnies had averaged 67 points and allowed 42 per contest. Carpenter was averaging a team-best 16.5 points, followed by Valentine (14.0), Cannon (12.8), Makenzie Spang (5.5) and Sheets (4.5).
"I'm pleased that we're working like we are, but we still realize we have a long way to go," Dufford said. "When you have high expectations, you can take things for granted. I have not seen that happen and I feel blessed that the kids know we have to keep working."