Dana Wells is a chipper person.
Even when Allentown High School started 2-5 in girls’ basketball this winter, Wells, the Redbirds’ coach, still wore a welcoming smile and spoke in fast, positive tones.
But lately, Wells has been extra chipper. Her Redbirds have given her every reason to be.
Going into the coach’s favorite time of year, the postseason, Allentown is 10-5 in its last 15 games.
“I absolutely love this time of year. It’s March Madness for high school,” Wells said. “Everything is clicking for us, too. We’re not relying on (senior) Lauren (Coiante) for everything. People realize they have to step up and that Lauren can’t do everything.”
Allentown lost to Colts Neck High School, 56-35, on Jan. 19. It was early in the team’s 15-game winning stretch. But Wells’ squad still didn’t have it all figured out.
After the game in the locker room, the Redbirds got in a circle and talked things out.
“We said, ‘Hey look, Lauren carried us and allowed you guys to grow and develop, but it’s a lot of pressure for one person. Now everyone needs to contribute on both ends,'” Wells said.
After that talk, the Redbirds took the team dynamic to a new level. They went 6-1 in their last seven regular season games, beating four opponents by double digits.
In a 67-29 victory over West Windsor-Plainsboro High School South on Feb. 5, 10 other Allentown players scored. Maddie McCrea and Sophia Conti recorded 12 and 10 points, respectively.
In another high scoring victory, 69-43, over Doane Academy of Burlington on Feb. 2, eight other players scored and McCrea (22 points) and Brianna Schweitzer (12) reached double digits.
McCrea, a sophomore, has really emerged as a complement to Coiante.
“Maddie is a versatile kid who can take you inside. But she can also step out and lose her defender,” Wells said. “Most forwards aren’t used to defending that because most Colonial Valley (Conference) forwards can’t shoot.”
“This is just the beginning for Maddie,” Wells added. “She has a future. Now that she has confidence, there’s no stopping her.”
Wells could also have been talking about her team. Allentown has earned a chance to make a run in the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group 3 sectional tournament.
Allentown is the No. 7 seed in the state sectional tournament, and it will play as the host to 10th-seeded Jackson Liberty High School in the first round on Feb. 26.
In the Mercer County Tournament, the 10th-seeded Redbirds lost to seventh-seeded Princeton High School, 37-30, in the first round on Feb. 14.
Wells is confident that her team can compete in the sectional bracket. She viewed the county competition as a good way to prepare for the sectional games.
“Real games bring about real situations, so it’s more effective than practice,” Wells said.
“But we absolutely can make a run (in the state sectional tournament),” she added. “We’ll be competitive and if we bring our best effort, we’ll be successful.”
Wells closed that sentence with a hard inflection. She is as upbeat as ever.