The former Woodrow Wilson head coach is hoping to lead an upperclassmen-heavy Cherry Hill East team to its best season in years.
Bernie Hynson has been coaching Cherry Hill High School East girls basketball for less than a month.
The way some of the players talk about their new head coach, however, it seems like Hynson has been in charge of the program for years.
Hynson, the Cougars’ third head coach in as many years, has injected energy into the team in his first few weeks on the job, both through the style of play he is implementing as well as with his positive attitude with the players off the court.
“He really tried to get to know us as a person before basketball even came into the picture,” senior Erica Brunson said about Hynson. “I appreciated that so much.”
Hynson came to Cherry Hill East after having coached the girls basketball program at Woodrow Wilson High School in Camden for nearly a decade. Hynson had plenty of success there, winning more than 100 games and leading the Tigers to a Group III state championship in 2014.
“I basically let them know we’re going to play together,” Hynson said about his message to the team the first day of practice. “I’ve done that at Woodrow Wilson for the past eight years. I’m just stressing that to them, them paying attention to detail and the things that need to be done.”
Hynson is bringing a fast-paced playing style to Cherry Hill East where the Cougars are expected to move the ball quickly on offense and play an aggressive style of defense where pressure is constantly put on the ball handler.
“We want everybody to get a chance to touch the ball,” Hynson said. “We want to make sure we’re moving it and when we get up the court, shooting wide open shots.”
“These girls are very talented,” Hynson added. “We need to make sure we’re using their skills in the right way.”
Cherry Hill East’s roster features a slew of returning juniors and seniors who have plenty of varsity experience. However, they say the team’s new playing style is unlike anything they’ve been a part of before.
“We’ve done a lot of stairs. You see all of these steps?” junior Yanelli Villegas said, pointing to the two levels of bleachers in the Cherry Hill East gym. “We’ve run all these.”
“We did things in order to get in shape,” junior Maggie Balderstone added. “We did things where he explained the basketball part of it, which I don’t think any of us have ever experienced, at least at East.”
Senior Maya Drayton, one of the Cougars’ top returning players from 2017–18, believes the fast-paced style will allow the Cougars’ to be creative and take advantage of their talent.
“We have a game plan, but he’s allowing us to play our style,” Drayton said.
There is a hunger among the upperclassmen-heavy roster to make noise in the Olympic Conference American Division this season, something Cherry Hill East has struggled to do in recent history. The Cougars have won exactly seven games in each of their last three seasons, with most of their struggles coming in conference play. Cherry Hill East has gone winless in division games the past two seasons, with their last American Division win coming against Eastern Regional High School in February of 2016.
However, this year’s team believes the past is old news and the Cougars are capable of surprising many in the Olympic Conference this season.
“We’re going to be dangerous this year because we’re having fun and we have the chemistry together,” Villegas said.