3/6/2014 6:01:00 AM All-Courier Basketball: Bradshaw's Hendrix is Coach of the Year Deana Hendrix earns Courier's prep hoops Coach of the Year honors for returning Lady Bears to state in her first season
Les Stukenberg/The Daily Courier Deana Hendrix, seen huddling up with her team back on Nov. 19, 2013, in Prescott Valley, took Bradshaw Mountain to the state playoffs this winter in her first-ever season as a head coach at the varsity level.
Deana Hendrix encountered a few bumps in the road, but she navigated through them with diligence and poise as the first-year coach of the Bradshaw Mountain girls' basketball team in 2013-14.
This past year, Hendrix inherited a strong-willed, talented and competitive group of players from departed lead mentor Efren Badilla, who had spent the previous two winters guiding the Lady Bears to the state tournament quarterfinals.
For her ability to adjust to a new situation with a mostly veteran bunch while directing the Bradshaw program to its fourth consecutive state playoff appearance, the Daily Courier has named Hendrix its 2013-14 high school basketball Coach of the Year.
For Hendrix, this season was her first foray into the realm of head coaching. In the past, she served for nine campaigns as a varsity assistant coach and as a JV head coach at Phoenix Moon Valley High, her alma mater.
Late last November, before the season started, Hendrix reflected on the road in front of her. Three of Bradshaw's five starters and seven of its 11 players from the 2012-13 squad dressed for Hendrix in 2013-14. Six of those girls were experienced seniors.
"They've all played together for a while, so it's me getting to know their style of play and them knowing what I expect from them, and we're trying to merge the two," she said. "The whole team, from top to bottom, has a high basketball IQ."
This season, that merger, if you will, worked pretty well for the Lady Bears, who finished with a 23-6 overall record (13-6 in power-point games) and a 4-2 mark in the highly competitive Division 2, Section 1 - a section in which four of its seven teams qualified for the postseason.
Despite missing the cut in the three-team sectional tournament in mid-February, Bradshaw qualified for state with an at-large berth as the No. 15 seed and hosted a first-round playoff game Feb. 19 in Prescott Valley.
Facing No. 18 seed Peoria, the Lady Bears narrowly succumbed to the Panthers, 46-44, falling in the opening round for the first time since 2011. (Peoria would move on to upset No. 2 seed Sierra Linda in the second round before being beaten by eventual state semifinalist Scottsdale Saguaro in the quarters.)
Nevertheless, over the course of the season, Bradshaw proved quite resilient, playing one of its toughest schedules in recent memory.
Hendrix installed a faster-tempo offense while still focusing on the team's patented full-court pressure defense that it had developed under Badilla's watch.
Those tweaks paid immediate dividends.
The Lady Bears opened the campaign on a 10-game winning streak from Nov. 26 through Dec. 12, highlighted by nabbing a championship at the annual Scorpion Shootout tournament in Goodyear late last November.
Bradshaw didn't lose its first game until mid-December at D-1 power Peoria Liberty, 50-46. After that setback, the Bears proceeded to put together a nine-game winning stretch from Dec. 16 through Jan. 11.
In the midst of that run, Bradshaw claimed the Lady Badger Winter Classic title at Prescott High for the second consecutive season in early January.
A week later, on Jan. 14, Tempe Marcos de Niza - which went on to make the second round of the D-2 tournament in late February - handed the Lady Bears the first of only two double-digit losses all season, 63-46.
Bradshaw began section play with a setback at home to eventual state quarterfinalist Kingman, 56-53, Jan. 17. Those back-to-back losses represented the lone losing streak of the entire campaign, but the trying time seemed to bring the team even closer together.
The Lady Bears moved on to win four of their last six, including a big 60-41 victory over eventual section champion Flagstaff Coconino Jan. 24 in PV.
A 59-52 loss at section tournament runner-up Flagstaff High Jan. 28 and a 51-39 setback to 2013 D-2 state champion Saguaro in the season finale Feb. 7 at home were the only other hiccups.
In the state tournament versus Peoria, Bradshaw led by a narrow margin at halftime and was tied with the Panthers at the end of the third period.
The contest stayed even at 44-44 with a minute and 45 seconds left in regulation - and Peoria didn't seal the victory until 20 seconds remained in regulation by converting its free throws down the stretch.
Despite the playoff loss, Bradshaw can hang its hat on another great season, proving that once again it belonged in the postseason mix.
Hendrix, a former college player at Indiana Tech in Fort Wayne, Ind., was quick to credit her athletes for their efforts.
"Not the way we wanted to end it," Hendrix told the Courier after the game on Feb. 19. "But they played hard, and I'm proud of our team."