Girls basketball teams are readying themselves for conference play after enjoying success in early season tourneys.
The Lady Eagles were off to a strong start, winning their first two games and taking third place in their tournament, the Tip Off Classic.
The returning players head coach Scott Germain will be relying on this season include junior and three-year starter Kaylee Bastien (5’7), and seniors Danielle Sellers (5’8) and Olivia Brower (5’8).
“These three girls saw minutes last year at the varsity level (and) we will be looking at them to be the leaders on the court,” Germain said.
On the bench, sophomore Kalli Farmer, junior Taryn Pena, junior Regan Rippelmeyer, junior Cheyanne Newland, sophomore Claire Foster, senior Sam Floarke, junior Rachel Garcia and junior Jackie Baskett all will compete for minutes.
“We have a very deep bench and this is something that we have not had in the past,” Germain said.
To succeed this year, Germain’s girls will have to continually improve through their practices and carry that over into games.
“Last year we had a great team that each player understood their role,” he said. “With a young team like we have this year it’s going to take some time for everyone to understand what they can bring to the table and as soon as that happens I believe that we can be a very good team.”
Another key to winning games will be playing a hard-nosed defense.
“Team Defense is what we like to preach and these young ladies understand that you win and lose ballgames on the defensive end,” Germain said.
“With a young team you want these girls to understand how valuable each and every possession is, as soon as we figure that out I believe this team can make some noise when you want to be playing your best basketball come Regional time,” he said.
The Eagles host Wesclin Thursday.
First-year Dupo girls basketball coach Josh LeMond took over a team that lost its last 94 games and was having a difficult time maintaining enough of a roster to field a team. But what a difference a year makes.
The Tigers won the first game of their season, finished the Dupo Cat Classic tourney in third place, and boast a 2-3 record.
“We’re still a young team. Every time we play a game it’s a learning experience,” LeMond said. “They’re starting to put it together. Once they can put four quarters together I think we’ll be a good team. It’s just getting there.”
LeMond has 18 girls on his team — a stark difference from the six to eight girls who have come out in previous years. Five played last year as freshmen.
The team’s goals for this year are simple but important.
“We want to compete in every game,” LeMond said. “For the longest time this team had been seen as a easy win on every team’s list.”
The girls also want to win 10 games and make it beyond the regional play-in game.
“We’re trying to take it a game at a time,” he said. “We also want to compete in every game. Once they realize they can play with teams I think they’ll be a pretty good team.
“We’re moving forward, It’s been a good start to the season. I’ve always told the girls when we lost a game I take full responsibility. When we win I give them all the credit. They’re starting to believe that.”
The Tigers travel to Marissa Thursday.
The Lady Hawks also have a new coach, Brian Hart, who likes what he sees so far in his young team.
“Our goal is to be one of the most competitive 1A teams south of Springfield by February,” Hart said. “It’s attainable, but it won’t be easy. After three games and only 10 practices we are on pace to get to that level.“
Hart’s key returning players are Kendra Davis and Lauren Prader, who are already heating up the hardwood with 66 and 41 points, respectively. In addition, seniors Chasity Papenberg, Erin Unververth and Brittany Laurent will be expected to step up and contribute.
“They were a pretty hard working team last year so we would like to maintain that culture and continue to work even harder,” Hart said. “If we continue to work hard and then play good defense, take good shots, and minimize turnovers this will be a very successful team. You can tell in practice by how well they listen and their eagerness to learn that they are serious about winning.
“The best teams typically do three things very well: take good shots, play good defense, and have less mistakes than the other team. If we can do those things we will have great year and a lot of fun.”
The Hawks host New Athens Thursday.
The Lady Pirates are a small team, but head coach Neil Siburt has high hopes for his girls to achieve their goals.
His key returning players are senior Paige Bangle, junior Morgan Redohl and junior Grace Nappier.
“The goals I have for the team are to win more games than the previous year and individually have every player improve in every category from last year,” Siburt said.
The entire team returned from last year, so Siburt is looking to build on last year’s strong work ethic. He also hopes to see fewer turnovers and to see better decisions as a team.
“(And) keeping everyone healthy will be big. We don’t have a lot of depth so we need everyone in good health.”
The Pirates’ next game is Thursday at Lebanon.
The Lady Bulldogs are off to a 2-2 start, head coach Matt Lucash believes that with hard work his young team can give themselves a chance to win any game.
Among the key returning players is Hope Elliott, who was second on the team in scoring last year and is strong at both ends of the floor with the ability to play all five positions. Junior Mia Reed was third in scoring last year as a sophomore.
“She’s very athletic for a post player and we have some things designed to get her more involved in the game,” Lucash said.
Reed had 19 points and 11 rebounds in the first two games.
The team’s main goal for the season is to be competitive.
“We always look to finish with a winning record and we hope that we can overcome that hurdle in our conference for the first time this year,” Lucash said. “We had a three-win conference record last year (our most in the MVC), but we are going to work on improving that.”
To ‘Dogs fans, this year’s team probably looks pretty different from last year.
“This year we have a number of post players and we are working to get our guards more involved with open shots,” Lucash said.
He also sees improvement on the defensive end of the floor.
“All of the girls are pretty unselfish and they understand what our goals are defensively. They have worked pretty hard in practice to grasp some concepts I am teaching and hopefully come our stretch run in the conference and regionals we’ll be ready to respond.”
There are also a couple of new making burning up the scoreboard. In the ‘Dogs games against Gibault and Columbia early this season, their leading scorers have been freshmen.
“Kat Finnerty (had) 12 points against Gibault, and Taylor Augustine (had) 16 points against Columbia,” he said. “Those two are going to see a lot of varsity time this year and look to be the face of our future.”
The ‘Dogs next game is Thursday, when they host Civic Memorial.