Woman behind unbeaten Patriots

Published January 29, 2006

Freedom coach Nancy Kroll has guided the Patriots to a 25-0 record, which follows last year's 28-2 campaign. Kroll talked with Times staff writer Scott Purks for a few minutes this week as the Patriots prepared for the district playoffs.

PURKS: Overall it has been a pretty good year for Hillsborough County girls basketball. A lot of teams with great records were ranked in the state polls. That's a change from recent years. What's going on?

KROLL: I think there's more good coaching going on and that coaching is going year round. More teams are working together in AAU over the summer.

PURKS: What's the most important element to your team? It could be chemistry, desire, execution, ability or any number of other things. What would you say it is?

KROLL: I'd say we execute well. And a big reason we execute well is that we make a strong effort in practice to execute just like we want in the game.

PURKS: You score a good amount of points (more than 60 a game). How are you doing that?

KROLL: From our pressing defense. We get a lot of easy baskets off of our defense. We want to get as many layups as possible. So far we've gotten our share.

PURKS: During the holidays you won the tournament named for your husband (who died in his early 40s of an aneurysm in 1999). What was it like to win the Craig Keeler Memorial Tournament in the gym where you once served as an assistant coach with your husband?

KROLL: Winning that tournament (over Academy in the final) in that gym is impossible to put into words. I think (Craig) would have been proud of my team and the way I coached. It was emotional, and you know, it still is. But every time I walk in that gym it does get a little easier.. PURKS: Can one of these county teams win a state title? Can your team become the first since Academy in 1996 to pull it off?

KROLL: We truly believe a state title is a possibility and we're working very hard to make it happen. We are focused and we believe. But we will have to play our best basketball right now to do it. Right now.