Zion Chapel’s varsity girls basketball team has been a little “up and down,” a little inconsistent and a little short-handed in the first month and a half of the season.

The short-handed part may not change. The Rebels are 3-6 and second-year head coach Jonathan Deveridge said “it’s been a struggle,” but he was talking more about the numbers than the product on the floor.

“We were dressing eight girls for varsity games — and two of those were pulled up from the junior high team,” Deveridge said. “One of the girls suffered a season-ending injury and we’re dressing seven girls right now.”

“We’ve been making due. The depth factor has hurt us. Out of those six losses, a couple were blowouts, but a couple of those were five- and six-point games at the half.”

The coach said the third quarter of a number of games has been the Rebels’ downfall.

“As a former player, a lot of time, halftime can hurt you just as much as it can help you,” Deveridge said. “I think that’s been happening to us at times. Still, we’ve been able to pull out a few wins. That’s where we’re at right now.”

Zion Chapel’s next game comes when it opens 2A, Area 4 play at home against Samson on Jan. 7. Until then, conditioning will be a prime focus for the team.

“I told the girls, these are probably going to be the hardest two weeks they’ve faced,” the coach said. “We’re not playing in tournaments. I’m a firm believer in using this time to adjust and get in even better shape and get ready for January.”

He may wish for more players, but he likes the ones he’s got. Three seniors have been leading the Rebels. Janna Miles is averaging close to 20 points per game. Alexis Barker and Alana Bunce are the other seniors.

“They played for me last year,” Deveridge said. “This is their second year with me. Having that, even with our small numbers, having three returning starters helps a lot.”

Turnovers have hurt the Rebels. Barker has moved from shooting guard to point guard out of necessity.

“It’s been an adjustment but she’s handled it well,” the coach said. “We still turn it over way more than I’d like, but we’re starting to get the grasp of it.”

Junior forward Laci Martin has had an impact on the team. She played in junior high but did not play her freshman and sophomore years.

“I was able to convince her to come out and she has been a huge surprise,” Deveridge said. “She has a little height on her and she brings some athleticism and hustle. She leads us in rebounds and blocked shots.”

Martin’s story is fitting for Zion Chapel as Deveridge builds his program.

“With this just being my second year, I’m beating down the halls just trying to get girls to come out,” the coach said. “The thing I’m telling them is, ‘Just give it a try. You might like it, you might be good at it.’ Kids say, ‘Coach, I’ve never played basketball before.’ I tell them, ‘That’s what they pay me for.’ I’m just trying to get them out.”

Forgetting the record and the thin bench, the coach is very optimistic about his team’s improvement in the coming weeks.

“Call me crazy, but I’ve been stressing January since the first day of practice,” he said. “I’m the type of coach, I believe in being honest with myself and my players. We set expectations. I told them the early going was going to be rough.

“Even with a 3-6 record, we’re right about where I would want us to be at this point. … I honestly think we have a strong chance to make the playoffs.”

He said the area is up for grabs.

“Samson is always tough. Samson is Samson. They’re always going to be good,” he said. “Everybody else is pretty much in the same boat. New Brockton and Goshen and very young and they’ll be tough and they’ll get better.

“I’d love to win the area championship. If not, I’d like to be runner-up and make the playoffs. I think that would be huge for our program, just get back in the playoffs. I feel like it’s wide open for us to get in there.”

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