Littlestown girls' basketball seniors Jill Gauthier and Janelle Kress discuss the team's training program and the stereotypes that come with being girls in the weight room. Matt Allibone
Although his team picked up a win Friday night, Avery Eyler was still a little disappointed.
The Littlestown senior basketball player thought the Thunderbolts could have played better in the second half of their 52-43 home win against Biglerville. The Bolts allowed a three-point, fourth-quarter lead to slip away briefly before going on a 13-6 run to close out the Canners.
"We could have done so much better defensively," Eyler said. "I was frustrated at first and it was hard but we pulled through."
A year ago, Eyler and his teammates would have been happy with a performance like Friday's. The Bolts went 7-15 last season and finished below .500 for the 15th straight season. But so far this season, things have been different for Littlestown.
The Bolts (7-4, 5-2 YAIAA Division III) have already matched last season's win total and are in line to make the District 3 Class 4A playoffs. The last time Littlestown made districts was 2007-08, when current Central York coach Kevin Schieler guided the team to a 12-13 record.
The solid start has given the Bolts a new sense of determination, and the players are no longer content with just giving a good effort.
"Years in the past we would come in just trying to keep it close," Eyler said. "This year we're looking to be better than the game before. Improvement is what it's all about now."
What's led to Littlestown's improvement? The team is much more experienced this year, having only lost one starter from last year's team. The Bolts also have a solid scoring duo in Eyler and Logan Collins, who are both averaging a little over 13 points per game.
But Littlestown's biggest strength has been its defense. First-year coach John Forster has team playing primarily in a man-to-man scheme, and the Bolts have held teams to fewer than 50 points seven times.
"It's a philosophy of mine," Forster said. "We always played man-to-man full-court defense when I was playing at Frostburg (State University) and obviously I took that with me. What we've done here is strictly breaking down those skills and where we need to be help-side. Guys are buying in."
Forster, who served as an assistant at McDaniel College last season, grew up in Maryland and came to Littlestown with very little knowledge of the team's previous struggles. Because of that, he said he hasn't been surprised by the team's success so far.
"I did not know what to expect, during open gyms we had guys playing multiple sports so I didn't really get to see them until the first day of practice," Forster said. "I had heard a lot of good things about the guys we had coming back. And really it's just been about having fun and helping these guys believe in themselves."
With three weeks still remaining in the regular season, Forster doesn't want the team thinking too much about the playoffs. Still, he said it would mean a lot for the team's seniors, who went 10-56 the last three seasons.
"I ask them everyday at practice, 'What do you want your legacy to be at this school?,'" Forster said. "Everyday we try to drive that point home."