Stagg coaches impressive run

Published 10:44 pm Thursday, March 6, 2014

Suffolk’s Keith Stagg is making quite an impression in his first year as a college head basketball coach.

His fourth-ranked Apprentice School Lady Builders defeated No. 5 Rochester College 74-59 during Wednesday’s quarterfinal round of the United States Collegiate Athletic Association Women’s Division I Championships in Uniontown, Pa.

This marks the first time since 2006 the Lady Builders have made the USCAA semifinals.

Keith Stagg of Suffolk has gotten his college head coaching career off to a roaring start with the 22-4 Apprentice School Lady Builders. (Dar Mook/NNS Photo)

Keith Stagg of Suffolk has gotten his college head coaching career off to a roaring start with the 22-4 Apprentice School Lady Builders. (Dar Mook/NNS Photo)

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To qualify for the tournament, they had to be ranked among the top eight USCAA teams, as judged by a USCAA panel measuring team records and strength of schedules. The Lady Builders are now 22-4 and finished the regular season on an 11-game win streak.

“I’m trying to take it all in,” Stagg said. “This is what we’ve been preparing for all season, just playing in the tournament, trying to play our best ball right around this time of the year.”

Though he did not want to call the run a surprise, he admitted to different expectations for his first year as head coach of a college team.

“I didn’t expect to experience this much success, and I know I owe a lot of it to the girls and to the coaching staff that was here before me,” he said.

Stagg had expected this season to be an opportunity to lay the foundation for next year. But he started noticing something in his discussions with the players already on the team.

“As we got in and we got to talking with the girls and we started figuring out what our goals were, I started seeing that their goals were lined up with my goals,” he said.

Both he and his players were going through a transition to start the season. But Stagg cited being flexible, willing to grow and change, as a key to his team’s success.

“It’s been a really positive thing in my life,” he said of his new job. “I get up, I’m looking forward to going to work.”

He credits this excitement to his disciplined and respectful players, one of which is freshman forward Julissa Riddick, a graduate of King’s Fork High School who also played there.

Stagg was impressed with the quality of the USCAA Women’s Division I Championships.

“The USCAA does such a great job of putting together this tournament,” he said.

The USCAA Division I level is different from the National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I, because the USCAA is a national organization for small colleges.

The tournament gives players at those small colleges an opportunity to experience the larger stage and play for national championships.

“It gives us a platform to perform,” Stagg said. And the performances come against some good teams with good coaches.

In the midst of the busy, high-stakes tournament schedule, Stagg identified some of his unique challenges.

“A lot of it is keeping the girls fresh, keeping their minds fresh, keeping your players engaged,” he said. “That really hasn’t been a big problem for us. A big challenge is getting everything that you want to get in during practice. Sometimes, you never feel like you covered every corner.”

The Lady Builders take on Concordia College Alabama today at 11 a.m. in the semifinals.

Stagg said his players are focused.

“They’re up for the challenge,” he said. “They want to see what it’s all about, so that’s good.”

Should they win, the national championship game will be played on Saturday.