By Rick Teverbaugh
The Herald Bulletin
ANDERSON, Ind. —
With graduation taking its toll across the county in girls basketball from the year before, more than one coach thinks the balance of power may indeed have moved to the north and west as the season gets underway this week.
“Most people think Elwood will be the best team in our (Central Indiana) conference,” said Frankton coach Dean Riddle. “We scrimmaged against them before the season, and they have a very nice team.”
The Panthers have a new coach with a familiar face in former Alexandria player and boys varsity coach Mickey Hosier.
“It is great to have some talent,” admitted Hosier. “You can't win without good players. I am fortunate to come into a program with great athletes. Now I am learning how best to use them.”
The Panthers were 17-6 last season and closed out the year by winning eight of their final 10 contests.
Elwood has nine varsity girls who are either juniors or seniors.
“Most of the girls played volleyball, but they are not in basketball shape,” said Hosier.
There is great likelihood that will change quickly as Hosier wants to alter the team's defensive approach.
“Last year they used a half-court zone,” he said. “We'll still do that. But I like to press and to change defenses. This season will be a challenge to become as good as we want to be, but I am looking forward to it.”
The Bulldogs of coach Kevin Brattain are a deep bunch. The top three scorers from a year ago (Kirsten Rich, Mackenzie Boles and Kaitlin Dobbins) are all back, and two of them averaged scoring in double figures.
“I think we're like a doughnut,” said Brattain. “We're pretty good on the outside, but we have to fill the hole in the middle.”
Morgan Tarlton was the team's No. 2 rebounder a season ago, and she graduated.
“We've got a 6-foot sophomore in Samantha Kern, who did pretty well during the summer,” said Brattain. “I think we're going to be pretty good. Boles is back to nearly 100 percent.”
Last season, Lapel posted an 11-8 mark and came within three points of knocking off eventual sectional champion Winchester in the opening round.
The Eagles have a loss of mammoth proportions as the state's leading scorer from a season ago, Kelsey Key, graduated.
“We're not going to replace her with a player or two,” said Riddle. “It is going to take the entire group.”
Frankton does have some experience returning, but many of those players will be asked to do things they didn't need to do a season ago.
“We are trying to establish our identity and learn how we need to play,” said Riddle. “We aren't going to change much defensively, but we've had to completely revamp our offense.”
Peyton Dellinger, Kaylee Irwin, Katie Key, Ashtyn Rastetter and Emily Benefiel are a quintet who each have two or three more years of eligibility remaining.
“I think it will be more important this year to measure our season in effort and improvement instead of wins and losses,” said Riddle. “This is a transition year. I think we'll see a lot of improvement this year that will be good for our program.”
The Arabians have a solid crew returning from a season ago when they posted a 13-9 mark. But they must regain some momentum after winning just two of their final eight games.
“We return (Kiawna) Cottrell, (Taylor) Siefken, (Skyla) Baird and (Kelsey) Wendling,” said PH coach Holly Hollinger. “My new faces include Sam Hammel, Adrianne Phillips and Kelsey Burton.”
So the team will approach the season with some questions but with a tremendous belief in the abilities of the players.
“We are a very young team but with lots of rare talent waiting to be developed,” said Hollinger. “I have a very excited group ready to grow and improve each day. They are extremely athletic.”
The Tigers have a lot of missing pieces from last year's 6-16 entry.
Shanna Kelly, Peyton Quinn and Carlee Wihebrink graduated, and Paxton Quinn decided not to play.
Still, the team returns Courtney Skinner, Desirae Litchfield, Kelsey Crisp, Kennedy Aiman, Macie Cox and Morgan Oliver.
“Although we lost a lot from last year's roster, we are extremely positive heading into this season,” said Alexandria coach Tina Bolte. “The group that we have returning has put in a lot of hours in the offseason. We had a good summer. I keep telling people it was like a mini-season because we worked hard, improved, and took a huge step forward.”
Several players will have added responsibilities.
“There are a number of girls that do not have a lot of experience that are going to have to step into big roles for us,” said Bolte. “There are a few freshman and sophomores that I think have the potential to be varsity players for us. Our seniors are going to have to step up as leaders and help some of these more inexperienced players get comfortable on the varsity court.”