It's just after 8:00 AM on the campus of Independence High School. School won't resume until the 9th. The sun hasn't even peaked past the clouds. But the Falcons are already hard at work.
The early starts are a bit "old school" but for Nate Johnson, IHS' former athletic director in his first year coaching the Falcons, the early starts are just the beginning of his "old school" ways.
The first thing players noticed with their new coach were his "different phrases." "When we get water breaks he says, 'wash out,' instead of 'water break," said junior Kahlaijah Dean. "Wash out", as Johnson defends, is an old football term from his younger days coaching.
But while times have changed, good defense remains just as important to winning games and for the 2016 Independence team, junior Jai'auna Kinder is the one leading the way. "I like playing defense," said Kinder. "Just the thrill of being able to have the ball and steal it."
In the Arvin Tournament this December, Kinder came away with 18 steals; an important part of setting up the Falcons' transition offense. "She's just one of those players that you need to be on the floor," Johnson said.
While Independence players may be used to having postseason success (having won the D-II valley title the last two seasons), Kinder, in her third year playing varsity, says success in Arvin is a good indicator for the postseason. "It put in our head that we're capable of anything," she said.
Thanks to her solid defense and her teammate's clutch shooting, the Falcons are hoping to continue their nine game win streak into league play.