The leaves have all fallen from the trees. There’s snow on the ground and it’s really cold. On the bright side, SLCC students can always seek the warmth of Bruin Arena at the Lifetime Activities Center on the college’s Taylorsville Redwood Campus to take in some great hoops action.
That’s right — Lady Bruin’s basketball is back and in full swing and there’s a lot to smile about if you’re a fan of the team.
“We’re gonna win,” SLCC shooting guard Haley Holmstead said. “I think we’re pretty fun to watch—we like to push the ball in transition, and obviously we can score which I think is fun to see.”
Holmstead isn’t kidding. This Lady Bruin team can pile on the points and have put up scores of 102, 97 and 92 points in three of their seven wins so far this season. To put that in perspective, SLCC’s opponents haven’t scored more than 85 points against the Lady Bruin defense, and that high score came in a 102-85 win over Pima College.
The Lady Bruins have an early-season record of 7-2 and are getting ready for the tough conference schedule ahead of them. Teams in the Scenic West Athletic Conference (SWAC) are known for an up-tempo style of basketball, so SLCC’s squad has got to focus on more than scoring.
“Defense—that’s the key,” Lady Bruins head Coach Betsy Specketer said, who is in her 15th season on the SLCC sideline. “It’s especially important for our freshmen–learning off-ball defense and rotation, and finishing the possession with a rebound.”
Specketer feels that it’s important for her players to not relax on the defensive end and to play team defense to make things tough on opponents and to create scoring opportunities.
“It’s about not taking a possession off,” Specketer said. “Defense is a team effort, and it’s a tough part of the game. You have to be pretty tough-minded to be successful at it.”
Specketer’s formula apparently works because she’s amassed well over 300 wins in her time here at SLCC.
While Specketer has had much success over the span of her long career, it’s the short-term goals that keep her humble and focused. She stresses to her team that little things in basketball — like rebounding and a good work ethic — are the cornerstones of team success.
“I think we’ll work hard this season, but I’m hoping that they’ll work smart,” Specketer said, who exercises and mountain bikes when she’s not running the show at Bruin Arena.
“When [players] start to figure out all the parts of the game, from transition defense to half court defense and finishing the possession, then it really isn’t that hard—it’s just a job and you go out there and do it,” she said.
It’s often said that teams in sports tend to take on the personality of their head coach, and the Lady Bruins are fuel to that fire. Like Specketer, the young women that play for her have intelligence, humility and are respectfully confident.
“I really believe that 90 percent of the game is between the ears,” Holmstead said, a sophomore who recently broke her own single-game scoring record of 40 by dropping 44 points on Nov. 12 against Northwest Community College.
“It was fun, you know—you can’t help but smile when you have a game like that, when everything’s going right and all your shots are falling,” she said.
It’s no secret that Holmstead is the offensive pulse of this Lady Bruins team. She leads the team in several categories, but her scoring and leadership are her main contributions out on the floor.
“My strength is definitely scoring, and I say that humbly,” Holmstead said. “I’m still working on my defense. I need to improve on that and on my rebounding. I’ve worked a lot on my jump shot, because it will open up more scoring opportunities for me.”
Coach Specketer is very pleased with the progression and hard work that she’s seen out of Holmstead. It’s not easy to play college basketball, and the Lady Bruins put a lot of time in on practice, game film, workouts, travel and more in addition to studies and trying to maintain some kind of social life.
“With Haley—it’s nothin’ I’m doing, everything about her shot is pretty much textbook perfect,” Specketer said. “Whether it’s innate, or whether she just started shooting a basketball at age one, I don’t know but the girl can just shoot it.”
Though she’s a star on the team, Holmstead doesn’t do it alone. Though Salt Lake doesn’t have a lot of sophomores, Specketer feels that she’s got what she needs on this squad.
“What a lot of people don’t realize is that we’ve only brought three players back from last season, we were really sophomore heavy last year,” Specketer said. “But the three that we bring back, in Alli Blake, Jami Mokofesi and Haley are really what we need in the production areas—the scorers, the rebounders, etc.”
Specketer is happy with the way the team has started the season, but she’s expected this from her team. She feels that Holmstead, Blake and Mokofesi have filled the necessary leadership roles on the team well.
Basketball fans have a great opportunity to see the Lady Bruins in action this week, as they take on the College of Southern Idaho on Friday, Dec. 10 at 5:30 p.m. and on Saturday, Dec. 11 when they’ll play North Idaho College at 3:30 p.m. The Lady Bruins play all their home games on the main gym floor at Bruin Arena.
“When they come see us, fans can expect a lot of fast breaks, hard work and hustle,” SLCC forward Alli Blake said. Attendance to all Bruins home games is free with a student ID, and almost free for everyone else.
“There are a lot of ways to get in, and we’d love to have as many people here as we can get in our facility. It holds 5,000 and I’d love to fill it,” Specketer said.
For those that can’t make it to the arena, all Bruins home games will be broadcast live on Comcast channel 17, as well as on MCC Radio’s live web stream.