Believe it or not, but Bloomington Kennedy girls’ basketball coach Quinton Johnson wasn’t fazed by his team’s 0-8 start to the season. Guess Johnson knew his team pretty well.

The Eagles have found themselves, winning nine of 10 games, evening their record at 9-9 and moving into a tie for first place in the Metro West Conference. Johnson said he anticipated the Eagles’ slow start, considering the brutal early-season schedule he concocted.

The slate included powers Eastview, Lakeville North, New Prague, Hopkins and Osseo.

“Even then, we were close in most of those games,” he said.

As his players gained experience, if not victories, Johnson tweaked the Eagles’ defense “to take advantage of our size and athletic ability,’’ he said.

Suddenly the season did an about face, led by 6-foot-1 power forward LaShayla Wright-Ponder, who averaged 20.4 points per game during the losing streak but bumped that up to 28.8 since the Eagles started winning. Kennedy has moved up to No. 11 in the Class 3A QRF ratings. It’s the only team in the top 20 of the 3A QRF rankings that doesn’t have a record above .500, which Johnson said was a positive and a negative.

“That shows how tough our schedule is for a 3A team,” he said. “But this year, our section decided not to use QRF for seeding. That worries me because some coaches who vote might not look at how we got our record and just seed teams with the most victories.”

Still, Johnson knows no matter where his team is seeded, Kennedy will be tough to beat in the postseason.

“You want to be playing your best at the end of the year, and we’re playing pretty well,” he said. “And I think there’s still a lot of room for improvement.”

JIM PAULSEN