Terrell Brought Stability in 6A Girls State Title Run
Coachingjobs like this don’t come open often.
Four of the five starters who played in a state semifinal last season, including two Division I talents, returned for the Fort Myers girls basketball team.
Chad Terrell understood as much when he took the job, but he knew rolling the ball out on the floor and riding the Green Wave to a state championship wasn’t realistic. It was going to take a little more work than that to get back to Lakeland for the Final Four and bring back the program’s first state crown.
Terrell, who’s worked at Fort Myers as a security guard for 10 years and also coaches football and track, needed to build an experienced staff, create a system the players could buy into and adjust that system throughout the season.
“It’s probably less than one percent that this type of job opens up,” Terrell said. “My job wasn’t to come in here and reinvent the wheel. It’s just to find a way to fine tune some things and get us back to Lakeland and get us over the hump.”
Despite a ton of talent, the team didn’t have a consistent voice last season when it fell to Palm Beach Lakes in the Class 6A semifinals. Coach Ron Riis resigned before postseason play and Jimmy Roberts took over the rest of the way.
“It was a lot of ups and downs,” senior Cameron Boland said. “It was very hectic for us mentally in trying to figure out how we were supposed to play as a team with different coaches.”
When Roberts left the bench at the end of the season citing a need to spend more time with his family, Terrell accepted the job, vowing to create stability within the program.
In the process, he brought on two coaches who were instrumental in this season’s title run which concluded Saturday with a 60-45 win over Oakland Park Northeast in the 6A final.
Terrell was honest with himself, admitting there was a lot he didn’t know about the ins and outs of basketball and coaching girls.
Longtime Lee County assistant coach Arthur Cedeno, who spent seven years at Lehigh and three at Estero, was his answer to the first problem. Cedeno has spent his life studying the game, excelling in the Xs and Os portion of it.
He came onboard along with Shari Gear, who brought 16 years of coaching experience with her. Gear coached the Fort Myers girls to their first district title in a decade in 2012 before stepping away to devote herself to her family.
“Our motto was trust. Trust the game plan, trust the coaches and believe we can do it,” Cedeno said. “That’s what got us there.”
The team bought into a system defined by its defense. The understanding was a good portion of the Green Wave’s points would come in transition off turnovers by the opposition.
While Cedeno helped craft a full-court zone press that carried it through the regular season and part of the postseason, Gear made sure her players were conditioned to play the type of ferocious, unrelenting defense needed to win a championship.
“I don’t take it easy on them,” said Gear, whose calls for 60 wall touches in 10 minutes during practices elicited groans from her players.
“I told Chad from the beginning that the difference between boys and girls in coaching is men make the mistake of thinking they have to go lighter on the conditioning, they have to go lighter on the weight training (with girls). That’s not the case. Girls may not be as strong or as fast (as boys) but they can take just as much conditioning. These girls know I don’t really play when it comes to that.”
The Green Wave cruised to district and regional titles. But, as the competition increased in Lakeland, Terrell and his staff weren’t against making adjustments to the system that got the team there.
Terrell and Cedeno didn’t wait long after Fort Walton Beach Choctawhatchee proved it could beat the full-court press in the state semfinal to shift to a half-court trap that silenced the Indians the rest of the way.
Against Northeast, Terrell made a game-changing substitution, inserting 6-foot-2 Alexsis Johnson into the game to add some size to the lineup. Johnson played 21 quality minutes, finishing with 15 points and eight rebounds.
“It’s just coaching instinct,” Terrell said. “You just try things to see what works.”
This season everything Terrell touched turned to gold.