With fall fading into winter, basketball season has arrived, and Hendricks County girls’ squads hit the court for real this week.
Brownsburg is coming off a 20-4, sectional championship season, but graduated seven seniors.
“We will be nervous at first as we do not have a great deal of varsity experience,” Brownsburg coach Amy Brauman said. “I am hopeful that as the season progresses, we will begin to settle down and play tough basketball.”
Aliyah Walker (7 points per game, 5.3 rebounds per game) is the lone returning starter.
“Aliyah is strong in the paint and is also able to drive to the basket,” Brauman said. “Even though she is only a sophomore, she returns with significant varsity experience.”
The Bulldogs have two returning letter-winners in Hannah Mingus and Hannah Linville. Zhane Roper saw varsity time last year, while Isabella Zoog and Ellie Reinhart step up from JV. Three freshmen – Reilly Olmstead, Devon Courtney and Rebecca Schrad – will see extensive minutes.
Tri-West went an impressive 16-6 last season, bowing out to regional finalist Indian Creek in its sectional opener. The Bruins will feature a different look with standout Lauren DeSutter gone to Franklin College.
“Team chemistry will be a major focus for us as players get used to playing together and adjusting to new roles,” Tri-West coach Brad Acton said. “With an overall inexperienced team, we are looking to improve every day and get better as the season progresses.”
Post-player Karen Jones is back after being Tri-West’s leading rebounder and second-leading scorer (14 ppg in second half of the season) last year. Katrina Headlee (8 ppg) returns at guard, as does Marisa Meyer (6 ppg), the Bruins’ lone senior. Madison Sprecher, Claire Johnson, Marita VanDyke, Lacey Meyer, Lexi Jobe and Olivia Benner will also see varsity action.
Cascade finished 14-8 last year, as the Cadets ended with a heartbreaking one-point loss to regional-qualifier Speedway, who they beat by eight two weeks earlier. Cascade returns four starters from that squad, has three more players with varsity experience, two athletic freshmen and a quality transfer.
“We had a great summer, but we have to find a leader,” Cascade coach Don Helmick said.
Returning starters are Sydney Stein (14.3 ppg, 9.8 rpg), Rox Gaddiss (12.7 ppg, 5.2 rpg), Audra Smallwood (5.2 ppg) and Mallorie Smith (3.1 ppg, 6.2 rpg). Katie Smith, Casey Bell and Kyndall Norris also played significant minutes last season. Top newcomers will be freshmen Makayla Collier and Bailey Walker, and transfer Hayden Stinnett.
Helmick listed Cascade’s keys to success this season.
“Leadership, playing a full 32 minutes, practicing hard all the time, playing defense and not getting down on each other or self,” Helmick said.
Former Avon Indiana All-Star Kaley May is back in Hendricks County as the new coach at Danville. After graduating from Butler in 2012, May spent a year as the JV coach and varsity assistant at Southport.
“I have high expectations as a first-year coach to take this team to the level of play that I think they are capable of reaching,” May said. “I have a lot of great girls that make my job easy, so I am very excited to get this season started.”
Danville (12-11 last season) has two seniors in Haley Lynch (2.4 ppg, 3.4 rpg) and Chelsea Gould (8.2 ppg, 5.5 rpg), and May expects both to exert leadership. The duo is part of a quick and interchangeable group of guards that includes returnees Hannah Newby (7.7 ppg, 4.9 rpg) and Allie Lake (7.2 ppg, 2.8 rpg). Morgan Bear (8.1 ppg, 6.2 rpg) should be a force in the paint, and Maleha Motter (4.5 ppg, 3.8 ppg) will play forward. Ashlyn Simms, who transferred back to Danville from Plainfield, will be a defensive stopper at guard.
“I have a nice combination of size and speed, so my main task will be creating a functional tandem of the two,” May said.
Plainfield went 9-12 last year, a rare losing season for the program. This year’s Quakers will be a mix of age and youth, with three returning senior starters and three freshmen and two sophomores in the rotation.
“We need to find a comfort level with each other and learn how to play connected on the defensive end,” Plainfield coach Curt Benge said. “It will take some time to find the right combination and develop the roles on our team.”
Starters Sophia Wilson (8.6 ppg, 3.2 rpg), Mackenzie Reeder (4.3 ppg, 5.6 rpg) and Kiah Ferrell (6.2 ppg, 6.7 rpg) are back, as are letter-winners Maddie O’Day (3.1 ppg), Kyndall Spears (6.4 ppg, 5.1 rpg) and Kylie Dostin (1.8 ppg). Along with Wilson and Reeder, fellow seniors Shelby Gilmore and Nina Nugent lead the Quakers on and off the court.
“They understand our culture and have valuable experience to help bring the other players along,” Benge said.
Top newcomers include freshmen Kayla Casteel, Riley Blackwell and Blakeley Shurig.
Avon coach David Cupp admitted the Orioles face a stern challenge this season, as their top five scorers from last year are gone – one to graduation, one transfer and three who chose not to come out.
“While we have made significant progress as a team since last year, we will have to get acclimated to playing at the varsity level,” Cupp said. “This team does give me everything they have every day, and their improvement since last season has been really incredible.”
Avon (5-17 in 2012-13) has two players with significant varsity experience in Paige Batalis (2.4 ppg) and Megan Hunt (3.4 ppg). Lexi Short and transfer Destiny Harvey will also be key contributors for a squad Cupp really enjoys coaching.
“If I’m going to be spending time away from my family, I certainly love the fact that I’m spending it with this group of young women,” Cupp said. “All of the girls that will put on our uniform this year will make our school proud.”
Bethesda Christian athletic director Shane Lightfoot has stepped in to coach the Patriots this year, as the program is coming off its first-ever winning season (12-9).
“We lost three good, experienced seniors to graduation, but I believe we have girls who are ready to step in and take on expanded roles this year,” Lightfoot said.
Returning players include Emily Hayden (5.5 ppg), Toria Schneider (0.5 ppg), Lydia Trapp (3.0 ppg), Casey Patterson (1 ppg), Hannah Joiner (2 ppg) and Lauren Buck (1 ppg). Claudia Lopez, Sam Baker and Elizabeth Elliott are Bethesda’s top newcomers.
“The biggest key to improvement this year will be confidence,” Lightfoot said. “Many of our girls will be stepping into new or expanded roles and their success will, in many ways, be dependent on whether they trust themselves, our process and each other as the season progresses.”
— Follow Hendricks County Flyer sports writer Brent Glasgow on Twitter @BGlasgow37