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James Irwin girls' basketball hopes to snap out of yearly losing slump, might take time

By: Chhun Sun
January 8, 2018 Updated: January 10, 2018 at 8:08 pm
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photo - Sophomore Krystina Hagood is James Irwin girl's basketball's top scorer, averaging 21 points per game. (Photo courtesy of James Irwin athletics)
Sophomore Krystina Hagood is James Irwin girl's basketball's top scorer, averaging 21 points per game. (Photo courtesy of James Irwin athletics) 
Don't feel sorry for the James Irwin girls' basketball team.
The Jaguars are aware of their situation and know their past is littered with losses.
And once again, they're struggling this season with no seniors on the roster.
Following Monday's nonconference loss against Pueblo Centennial, the Jaguars were 2-5 after snapping a four-game losing streak last Saturday thanks to an overtime win over Rye.
Last season, they finished with seven wins - the second most in school history. And the Jaguars might have another long, tough season ahead of them.
They play in a Tri-Peaks League that boasts three teams - Lamar, St. Mary's and Colorado Springs Christian School - ranked in the top four of the state's Class 3A rankings.
"We have to start growing more and working harder," James Irwin point guard Krystina Hagood said.
As a sophomore, she's the most experienced Jaguar. She plays on a couple of travel teams, and she's clearly the go-to player because of her ball handling skills, long-range jump shots and 21-point average - which ranks her second in 3A.
The problem is, Hagood doesn't get much help. Junior Tanea Warner is James Irwin's second-leading scorer at 6.3 ppg.
"We have a sophomore who has to do everything," second-year Jaguars coach Anthony Byrd said. "It doesn't have to be like that. I constantly tell the girls, 'One girl can't do everything.' But in practice, we rely on her so much. Then in the games, now we need help."
Byrd inherited a program that hasn't had a winning season since it started in 2006 and went through three other coaches. He decided to pick up the responsibility even as he continued to coach the boys' basketball team.
It's a tough situation for a struggling program. James Irwin is an academics-first school with 426 students, so the girls' basketball program takes what it can get. The Jaguars don't have the numbers to sport a junior varsity team and settled for 11 players on varsity this year.
Byrd said he spends most of practice teaching the girls fundamentals, such as boxing out and establishing a pivot foot.
"Not having that lower level hasn't helped develop some of those players that really would be better suited to play on the JV team and gain that experience," James Irwin athletic director Mike Prusinowski said. "It's tough when you're fairly new to pick up that varsity experience." 
Prusinowski looked to change years of losing by hiring Byrd, whom he said has a fun, easygoing personality that draws in students through open gyms and one-on-one interactions.
"We were hoping that would have an impact to get more girls out," Prusinowski said, referring to the coaching change, "but even that hasn't helped out as I thought it would."
For the past two seasons, the Jaguars played without a developmental team.
But they hope that this year's players continue to learn and, more importantly, return next season.
"You have to approach every game with a winning mindset," Hagood said. "Some people go and look at the stats and I look at the stats. ... But with the stats, they can just have a good game. You just have to play the same game and try to get better."
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