Kim Schlein thought about what would be a good title for her season this year. The second-year Cross Creek coach had a few suggestions.
"Well, I guess 'What to do when you lose two of your best three players,' would be a good fit," Schlein said. "Or maybe 'Flip-flopping,' because we sure did a whole lot of that this year."
The flips and flops were necessary after her squad, an expected challenger to Hephzbiah for the region title this year, crashed right out of the starting gate.
What Schlein salvaged out of that earned her the nod as The Augusta Chronicle All-Area Georgia Girls Coach of the Year.
"When I think about the great area coaching jobs this year I start with Kim," Richmond Academy coach Harry Bufford said. "She didn't have the best team. She didn't win the most games or go the deepest in the state playoffs. What she did was coach like no other coach I saw had to. She dealt with more adversity than any other area coach this year."
Center Shay Rawls averaged 17 points and 15 rebounds last season then signed with Georgia State. But the torn knee ligaments she suffered in a preseason scrimmage ended her senior year before it ever began.
Senior forward Stacey Lampkin averaged 15 points and 12 rebounds as a junior. Troublesome knee ligaments sidelined her in mid-December, and it was almost February by the time she worked her way back into the lineup.
Cross Creek fell from 18-7 in 2005 to 14-15 without its two post stars and their 32 points and 27 rebounds a game.
But it was a proud 14-15.
"At one moment she had this great team," Bufford said. "Then the next thing she knew she had two flat tires. I bet the first thing her girls did was drop their heads when they lost that second girl. Kim had to remind what was left of her team they could still win with those two flat tires."
Schlein said she never learned more about coaching than she did this year.
"A lot of times I would watch film and look at what the other teams were doing with us," she said.
"Then I would just lay in bed for hours thinking how I could switch our defense to make us better. Or who to put in on offense that could help. I spent a lot of nights thinking about what we could do with what we had left."
Schlein switched up defenses game by game, trying to find the best fit for the particular match-ups that night on the floor.
Lampkin's return before the region tournament was enough of a boost to earn a state playoff spot.
"Regardless of how our season turned out, our kids learned so much this year," Schlein said. "And it wasn't just basketball. We had a lot of life lessons and a lot of growing up. It made me real proud to be their coach watching the changes we went through."
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