Crossroads won the first CIF girls basketball championship in school history last season primarily using a zone defense installed by Coach Kevin Cormier.
This season new coach Malik Abdul-Mansour is teaching a man-to-man (or girl-to-girl) defense, asking his players to apply severe defensive pressure. Ideally, each player would cut off the opponent’s movements similar to what Ben Howland teaches at UCLA.
It’s a learning experience for the many returning players, but progress was evident in a 45-23 non-league win over New Roads on December 16.
If a different defense was good enough last season, why not now?
‘We’ve been moved up one division by the CIF and the girls are seeing the competition is much tougher,” said Abdul-Mansour.
The new coach is a UCLA graduate and subscribes to the theory that defense will be all-important if the Roadrunners qualify for the playoffs again.
Asked how the players reacted initially when the defensive requirements were installed, Abdul-Mansour said there wasn’t a strong reaction either way. Most seemed willing to try something new.
During the game against New Roads Abdul-Mansour shouted instructions every time Crossroads was on defense.
“Get yours,” he kept saying, to make players aware they couldn’t jog up-court but instead had to quickly locate the player they were guarding.
If a New Roads player was open even for a second the coach yelled, “who’s got number 15?” It didn’t matter what the score was.
The game wasn’t close at any time. Crossroads had a 12-0 lead after the first quarter and extended it to 16-0 before New Roads scored the next five points. The halftime score was 21-10.
Center Christina Murray dominated inside and guard Megan Baer led the scorers with 19 points.
There have been more challenging nights for the Roadrunners. They’ve been routed by both Palisades and Windward.
Abdul-Mansour is concerned by a lack of depth because two of last year’s seniors who are now in college aren’t available as key reserves anymore.