The Lady Indians basketball season got underway last week as COVID-19 testing was held on a drive-through basis. Tryouts will be conducted once the results are received and players cleared. On the coaching end of things, Darryl “Poorboy” Croff comes in as a first-year varsity coach with seven assistant coach seasons under his belt. Clearly, he faces a unique situation this time around.

“I have seven returning starters, including four who were all-conference, and there’s a young group coming up that’s pretty good,” Croff said last week. “The varsity should be pretty good. I got them COVID-19 workouts when this first started, and I hope they did them. I saw four or five so far and they said they’re working out.”

Some of the returning players include Abby Bullcalf, Arena Matt, Alena Burdeau and Tatum and Walker Running Crane. Three juniors who played JV last season will be seniors this time so the starting squad might be all seniors.

“This year we should be pretty good with that many girls coming back,” Croff said. “We’ll play the same way as always - I call it ’32 minutes of hell’ – we’ll press all 32 minutes. We lost so much time with the COVID-19 and summer and no open gym, but with a month of practice we should be ready.”

The new head coach is well aware of the seriousness of the pandemic.

“The way basketball used to be, it’s all different now,” he said. “Parents got to help, probably more than before. Everyone’s got to take care of everyone, especially after the games. When we’re coming home, we’re trying to keep them on the bus.”

The coach explained in years past the teams would take the bus to away games, but parents would often drive many of them back home. “That’s not happening now,” Croff said. “It’s safety first.”

Once the COVID-19 testing results are in, tryouts may begin.

“The kids have been cooped up since last spring,” Croff said. “I sent them workouts and hopefully they’ve been doing them. I’ll know if they have once they come in to try out. It’s kind of frustrating, but we will adapt to it.”

Folks will have to wait until 2021 to watch the opening games, and spectators will at least be very limited in number, if allowed at all. Nevertheless, fans can watch all sorts of high school sports by signing up with the NFHS Network, including Runnin’ Indians and Lady Indians games. There is a small monthly fee for an account, but it may be canceled at any time. Visit https://www.nfhsnetwork.com for more information.

Lady Indians fans will have to wait for a home performance as the team goes to Shelby on Friday, Jan. 2, for a varsity-only contest, followed by a trip to Libby on Friday, Jan. 9. Their first home games come the week after, hosting Havre on Jan. 14, then Columbia Falls on Jan. 16.

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