Varsity Basketball

Joanna Chadwick: Results are the ultimate judge

“Potential” is a fascinating word.

Basketball teams have potential to win a state title. Players have the potential to be Division I players.

Potential is really just the possibility of something happening . . . if all goes right, this could happen.

Potential doesn’t always pan out. We’ve seen it happen with athletes who are tagged as Division I prospects, but end up not playing, not going to college.

We’ve seen it happen with teams we expect to contend for titles.

Lost potential is frustrating. Just ask Derby coach Ryan Herrs.

I’m confident I made a solid prediction in picking the Panthers to win Ark Valley-Chisholm Trail League Division I because of the players on that team, specifically seniors Cameron Cornelius and Jabril Richardson. Both are athletic, both can score.

This was the season for the Panthers, who were focused on getting to the Class 6A tournament for the first time in seven seasons under Herrs.

But Derby is 6-10 overall and fifth in AV-CTL I at 4-5.

“It’s frustrating, from top to bottom,” Herrs said. “From the players to the coaches, the fans to the parents. It’s disappointing. You want to be better than you are at that point.”

Derby isn’t the first team to have this happen. Every year, there’s a team for which great things are expected, but they don’t pan out.

The Panthers opened the season 3-1, squeaking out three wins by seven points. At that point, Herrs knew there were issues.

“We knew we were struggling,” Herrs said. “We were 3-1, but we had not played very well at all. We knew we were pretty fragile, and it was easy to see for us.”

Scoring was the main problem. Derby scored 39 points in the opener against Maize, a 14-point loss. The Panthers have scored in the 30s twice, in the 40s six times and in the 50s twice. They’ve gotten more than 65 points once, a 100-86 loss to Southeast on Saturday.

What started out as a concern turned into a confidence issue.

“Guys have gotten their heads down,” Herrs said. “æ.æ.æ. We have moments where we could score, and then it takes everything we had to put points on the board.”

As the struggles continued, a downward spiral continued. And what happened next was as expected as grass turning green in the spring.

“Then officials become a distraction, which should never happen,” Herrs said. “Then outside influences start talking to kids and telling them things that aren’t true. And you see your team starting to disappear.”

Herrs has tried to refocus his team. He has emphasized doing the little things that so often win games — diving on the floor for a loose ball, being strong on the rebound, playing tight defense, finishing a fastbreak.

There’s still time, though. Derby, which beat Campus on Tuesday, clearly has talent and could be a scary foe come sub-state play.

Herrs is optimistic.

“You win a game, finally, the sun kind of shines a little brighter, things are more positive, like it’s possible,” he said.

The potential is still there. Derby just needs to reach it.