GREEN  High school basketball teams can be a lot like a game of Jenga.

Remove a key piece from the stack and the whole pile can come tumbling down. The Green Bulldogs haven’t crumbled, but they have been searching for alternatives and answers in recent weeks with their floor general out of commission. Senior point guard Abbie Pearce leads Green in scoring, but she’s been missing in action due to a high ankle sprain. In her absence, the path has gotten significantly tougher for her squad.

“We obviously started off really strong and in the middle part of the season, we lost our senior leader and point guard,” veteran head coach Tracy Miller said of Pearce’s absence. “We weren’t really deep to begin with an we’ve had to move some kids around to different positions.”

Injuries were a theme of the season before it even began for Green. Junior guard Jenna Trainer suffered a torn ACL in her most recent AAU season and according to Miller, wasn’t supposed to be back on the court until some time this month. Instead, Trainer was determined to be ready for the Bulldogs’ season opener against Kenmore on Nov. 26 and she reached her goal, playing a big part in the team’s 72-30 triumph over the Cardinals.

“Jenna Trainer has been remarkable all season,” Miller said. “She fought and fought and fought to get back for the opener and she’s one of our go-to girls … she’s done a fantastic job and has played point guard with Abbie out.”

With just four seniors on the roster, Green skews young in terms of its experience and that can be a formula for trouble against a Federal League that includes perennial area powers Hoover, Canton McKinley, Jackson and GlenOak. 

Even a recent game against Lake, one of the teams in the bottom half of the league along with Green, proved that the Federal League’s depth is strong. Playing without Pearce, Green held a six-point lead with two minutes remaining, but the homesteading Blue Streaks kept the pressure on and forced a few Green mistakes down the stretch to emerge with a 49-46 win.

The two schools have developed a friendly rivalry across multiple sports tracing back to before Green joined the league, and while the two teams’ players and coaching staffs have what Miller described as “a good relationship,” the close loss still stung for the Bulldogs.

“At the end of game in the locker room, I looked at their faces and they looked shocked, baffled and upset,” Miller said. “I let them know and tried to get them to understand that we’re a young basketball team in a very tough league and we need put this one behind us and look ahead to our next game.”

What will make the difference for Green in terms of improvement is whether the Bulldogs can learn from such defeats rather than be discouraged by them. If they can draw lessons and insights from such defeats rather than be haunted by them, there’s the potential to reverse the outcome in future contests.

The immediate future isn’t an easy one. Upcoming games against Jackson, Wooster and Norton all promise to be stiff tests and while the chance to run down the Federal League’s leading teams is gone at this point, there is the potential for meeting any of the league’s other six teams in the North Canton Division I district bracket once the postseason begins.

The entire league is in the same district, which makes it a grueling test for whichever team emerges as the district champion. 

The overarching mindset Miller wants his team to have in the closing weeks of the season is to not be defeated by their stumbles up to this point and to leave the past behind in search of future victories.

“One of our things even after the Lake loss was to stay positive. I’m their leader and I have to stay positive and hopefully that reflects onto the kids,” Miller said. “I’m proud of their heart they’ve shown and we just have to put two good halves together and learn to come out in the third quarter and keep it going.”

As the pieces shift and the season rolls on, the Bulldogs are trying to find the answers for the questions they face and come out on top. 

Reach Andy at 330-580-8936
On Twitter: @aharrisBURB