Rambo expecting to see signs of improvement
EUREKA SPRINGS -- In his second year of coaching the Eureka Springs girls basketball program, Brian Rambo makes no bones about the direction he wants to see the program go.
"When I was hired we had a meeting and the first thing I said was I am not here to lose," Rambo said. "I am here to win. We are going to put the work in. I am not here to be mediocre. But it's a process."
Rambo inherited a program that waded in mediocrity, advancing to the state tournament only once in school history and making the regional event four times in the program's past. The Lady Highlanders won four games last year and was winless in 4-2A Conference games.
"They have always been around eight to ten wins per season," Rambo said. "It has never been outstanding. They have only been to state once and regionals maybe three or four times. At best, it's been really average."
Rambo came to Eureka from Western Yell County where he lost only five games during his final campaign. He struggled to navigate his first season with the Lady Highlanders, playing the season with only seven players on the roster.
The limited numbers created a multitude of problems, from potential in practice to foul trouble in games.
"We were shell shocked in the first five minutes of every game last year," Rambo said "There was no way for us to simulate game speed last year in practice. You can go through dry and work rotation, but it's just not the same."
Rambo's roster increased to 10 players this year, led by senior guard Taylor Osterhout (5 foot, 7 inches) and junior post player Abbey Moore (5'-10"). Rambo said the team would be as effective as that experienced duo.
"Taylor is a leader and will have to be a leader," Rambo said. "We need her to mentor the younger players and score points. Abbey is athletic and plays very long. She's going to have to be strong in the paint and stay out of foul trouble. If we can get these two to stay in the game we have a chance to win a few."
Rambo said he would like to see the program move from the bottom of the conference standings to somewhere around the middle, eventually aiming for the top, something he has to build from the lower levels.
"The junior high team didn't win a game last year," he said. "We have to change the attitude here and it takes some time. We are going to be playing in a great new gym and when we start winning it should get some people's attention."
Rambo was limited in how he could play schemes last year. With a few more players to choose from he has the ability to play big in the post of spread the floor and go smaller with multiple guards.
Junior Samantha Mueller (5'-4") and 5 foot-6 inch senior Jazmine Urioste will hold down the other starting guard position with sophomores Brianna Smith (5'-6"), Taylor Little (5'-6") and Hayden Mayfield (5'-5") filling in when Rambo goes with the small lineup.
When Rambo wants to go big, he can pull from a trio of post players, including junior Haley Comstock (5'-11") and sophomore forwards Thalia Ortega (5'-3") and Jordan Moyer (5'-4").
"We can go five guards if we want," Rambo said. "We couldn't do anything last year but play who we had. We have some options this year. Obviously, we are more talented. I think we are going to have a chance to win some of those close games this year. We averaged about 22 points per game last year. We scored 21 in the first quarter the other night (in a win over St. Paul in the season opener). We have been preaching to them to practice hard. We want practice to be ten times harder than games. We are trying to break some old habits."
Mountainburg is expected to be one of the favorites to win the conference with Magazine, Johnson County Westside and Hackett all battling for position near the top. Rambo said the Lady Highlanders needed to fight to stay ahead of Hartford, Union Christian and Decatur in the eight-team conference.
"We need to be in the middle of the conference this year," he said. "We were dead last last year. We need to get in that fourth or fifth slot to consider it a good season."