Richey-Lambert girls varsity basketball team is coming into the year with a new head coach. Jon Barnhart, a former assistant under Kara Triplett and current History teacher in the Richey School District, is now leading the charge.
Barnhart comes with lots of experience in coaching basketball, having a total of 14 seasons either as a head coach or an assistant coach for students ranging in age from elementary school to middle school.
“I grew up playing a lot of basketball, but most of my background comes from getting into coaching in college. Part of my college coursework was in coaching and I was fortunate to have classes taught by members of the Montana State University coaching staff,” he said in an email.
But while Barnhart has quite a bit of background in basketball, he views his time as an assistant under Triplett as something very special to him.
“I thoroughly enjoyed my time working with Coach Triplett and the boys’ program and I owe her a lot,” he said. “I could not have asked for a better mentor or friend for the past five years, she welcomed me in and allowed me quite a bit of leeway in coaching the JV,”
Fusion placed fourth in last year’s district tournament and followed that up with one win at the divisional tournament, but Barnhart is hoping to take it one step further.
“With the players that we return from last year, we want to take the next step and not just qualify for divisionals but get a top-three finish at the district tournament and then parlay that into a couple wins at the divisional tournament,” he said.
The Fusion has nine returning players this year and Barnhart expects that experience will pay dividends once everyone is fully healthy.
“Courtney Herman, Isabelle Fatzinger, and Ella Robbins were varsity starters last year and are back. We also return Alyssa Hill, Jaylyn Klempel, Shawna Eggert, and Paige Carda, who all saw a lot of JV time,” he said. “We were unfortunately bitten by the injury bug early and are currently without two players who saw significant time last year in Lauren Krenning and Laurel Sponheim.”
The potential for the new players on the team is something Barnhart saw right from the get-go.
“We added a couple of girls who have played in the past but did not play last year in Sarah Helmuth and Amber Pflughoft. We have two foreign exchange students who are playing as well, Dalia Hasan and Amira Kasymova.”
Now with a few weeks of practice under their belt and the beginning of the season on the horizon, Barnhart has noticed some real team strengths, but he also understands that practicing the basics is imperative because limiting mistakes will be a key to their success.
“I believe our biggest strength is our athleticism. We have quite a few girls that can get up and down the floor quickly and can guard different positions, which gives us a lot of flexibility defensively,” he said. “As far as practice goes, we have spent a lot of time on fundamentals. As a team, we want to do all the little things right. Ball handling and passing have been probably the two areas we have worked on the most.”
This may be year one for Barnhart as the head coach of the Richey-Lambert girls varsity team, but with his background and his knowledge of the game, his expectations for himself and his team are pretty high.
“I spent the past five years with Coach Triplett and the boy’s program, and we were very successful both at the Varsity and Junior Varsity level, and I plan to carry that success over to our girls’ program as well. I am blessed with a great assistant coach in Shasta Senner. Our expectations as coaches is to set a solid foundation of fundamentals for our girls and to continue to grow our program,” he said. “As far as the team goes, we expect to compete in every game we play this year. I believe we have the talent to compete for a top-three finish in our district and to make some noise at divisionals as well. I know that our girls believe they have the ability to accomplish that.”
The Richey-Lambert Fusion girls basketball team will open the season on home court in the new Lambert gym in the Richey-Lambert Tip-Off Tournament on Friday, Dec. 13, beginning at 3 p.m.
Richey-Lambert boys basketball look to improve from last year
Kara Triplett, now going into her eighth year as the Fusion boys basketball coach, 25 years total as a coach at Lambert, is thankful for all the help along the way in her time as a coach.
“My mentors who have helped me as a coach are Deb Prevost, Rollie Sullivan, Rod Torgerson and Rocky Nelson, who are all great teachers and coaches.”
Triplett is excited to open up the new season in the Richey-Lambert Tip-Off Tournament, even if the opening game poses a tough test.
“We love hosting the tournament,” she said. “Froid-Lake is so balanced and athletic.”
Triplett is confident from what she has seen from her team in practice to believe that this team is up for the challenge.
“We seem team-oriented and unselfish,” she said. “The guys are working hard.”
Richey-Lambert finished second last year in the district tournament. For Triplett and this team, it’s a new year and she hopes just to be the best team they can be by the district tournament and let the chips fall where they may.
“We really focus on getting better together every day and we want to be playing our best basketball by the District Tournament,” she said.
The season will begin for the Fusion on Friday, Dec. 13, at 3 p.m., on home court in the new Lambert gym.
“It seems like, for coaches, there’s never enough time before the first game,” Triplett said. “But I know the guys just want to get games started and to get a feel for where we are in relation to other teams and competition.”