The Beachwood High School Lady Bison basketball team had come off from a tough year when new head coach Mike Coreno started practices last fall.
Many of the juniors on the team were freshmen when the school performed its best season ever in 2010-2011 under Melvin Burke, ending with a 19-5 record and advancing to the district semifinals for the first time in school history.
But in May, the girls were shocked when their much-loved coach’s contract was not renewed over a team donation controversy.
The 2011-2012 season saw a new coach and an 8-12 record, and then Coreno was handed the whistle to a group of talented athletes who’d seen little consistency in their high school careers.
“The first couple months were crucial,” said Coreno, the team’s third coach in three years and a recipient of the AP Ohio 2012 Coach of the Year Award.
Coreno started coaching basketball in 1993 and took his first head coaching job at St. Peter Chanel in 2000, when the team made it to the regional semifinal tournament.
His last job was at Shaker Heights High School, where he played the Lady Bison under Burke.
“I’ve seen them, knew them, I knew the potential was there,” he said. “We just had to get on the same page. I came in knowing that they had talent, knowing that they loved to play basketball.”
The team and Coreno certainly adjusted to each other.
“It was not a difficult transition,” Coreno said. “The kids work really hard … My stle is not that different from Burke’s. We like an up-tempo game.”
Coreno set small goals, he said: first, he wanted a winning season. Then, it was, make it to districts.
The team finished the season 23-3 and advanced to the District III regional semifinal game, where they took a loss to Orville last Saturday.
Two of the team’s standout players – Mikah Aldridge and Aneisha Hardin, both recognized by AP’s Division III All-Ohio Team — are juniors this year, and Coreno only has high hopes for next year: state champions.
“Once we set the bar that high, we have to reach for it,” he said.