La PORTE | It’s only natural that a teen-aged daughter is going to occasionally butt heads with her father.
Differences of opinion are likely to be found in nearly every aspect of life: clothes, music, potential dating partners and, for LaPorte’s Skeeter and Jaclyn Heath, play calls and practice schedules. Skeeter Heath is in his 11th season as coach of the Slicers program; his daughter Jaclyn is a senior and the team’s starting point guard.
Though their coach-player relationship is nearing its end, their father-daughter relationship has been made stronger.
“It’s been a very, very rewarding experience. There have certainly been times we’ve gotten on each other’s nerves a little bit,” Skeeter Heath said with a laugh, “but I wouldn’t trade it for the world. As great a year as we’ve had, I’m kind of sad it’s going to come to an end here sometime in the next three or four weeks. It has been a great experience for me."
The Times No. 1 Slicers finished the regular season 18-2 and will open sectional play tonight, traveling to Hobart. It is LaPorte’s third straight winning record after the elder Heath’s coaching career started with just one .500 season in eight tries.
“It has been really enjoyable,” Jaclyn Heath said. “To do this with all my teammates and friends, all the hard work that our team has been putting in is paying off. It has been a lot of fun.”
The Slicers broke the program’s single-game scoring record twice this season, setting the mark at 124 points in a 79-point win against Michigan City on February 6. The high-powered offense gives LaPorte a chance to make a deep run in the IHSAA state tournament.
“It makes our jobs a lot easier,” Jaclyn Heath said. “All of the work we did in the offseason – shooting on the guns, working off the dribble – kind of proves itself with how many points we’ve been scoring.”
The senior point guard has been a key to LaPorte’s offensive prowess both as a distributor — her assist-to-turnover ratio is nearly 8:1 — and a scorer, both from inside and outside the 3-point arc. Despite 18 wins, perhaps a six-point loss at Penn to close out the regular season was just the jolt Heath and the Slicers’ other seniors needed heading into the single-elimination tournament.
“I think we just need to re-focus ourselves and know that this is like a whole new season,” the point guard said. “We start the season 0-0 right now. We have to know that the first loss is the end of our season and for the four seniors it is the end of our career.”
With the end of the season in sight, Skeeter Heath believes the loss allowed his coaching staff to put things in perspective.
“There’s obviously a few things we need to work on,” the coach said. “But the things that we did (wrong) are easily correctable. Sometimes when you lose a game it kind of sharpens your focus a little bit. Maybe you take a little bit better look at some things you did wrong when you lose as opposed to when you’ve won.”
The win-or-go-home gantlet of the IHSAA state tournament starts tonight. The end of an era at LaPorte is just one loss away. But no matter how far the postseason takes Skeeter and Jaclyn Heath’s coach-player relationship, both know their father-daughter bond will stand the test.
“It has definitely been a learning experience,” Jaclyn Heath said with a laugh. “It has been hard at times, but I think it has definitely made out relationship stronger. It has been a fun four years.”