Chemistry is a key component.
“We all have a certain trust,” Caitlyn O’Neal said. “We’ve all played with each other for a long time. I know Raven and Siera have moved in, but we have this certain chemistry. I have a lot of confidence in our team because together we’re going to be one. It’s not all about one person.”
Another key is balance. Durbin, Givens, Black and the O’Neals each average seven or more points, and any can break out for a big scoring night when she is the open option. Daniel, Black and Givens each averages four rebounds or more.
“On any given night, anyone can go off,” Black said. “Kiersten can hit five 3s or whatever. It works for us because everyone wants to win. It doesn’t matter if you score 20 or four or don’t score at all, you always know one of us is going to step up and get the job done.”
Then there’s intangibles.
“If you look at these kids play ... one thing that sticks out in your mind is their will to win,” Keisling said. “They refuse to lose. The reason we’re balanced is because they share the ball so well. They have a never-say-die attitude. They have a winners mentality, and the other thing you might add to the mix is they’re all very good students. Smart kids take you a long way when you combine that with ability.”
Keisling’s influence has to be factored in. He was the fifth coach in five seasons when he took over three seasons ago. Giving the program stability has helped the Panthers to a 59-15 record in his span.
“It’s a blessing having Coach K as a coach,” Caitlyn O’Neal said. “It helps a lot having the same coach for three years because we’ve already gone through our defense, all we have to do is improve. Each year we improve on what we’ve established. He’s a really great coach.”