By CAREY FOX
Times Sports Editor
Coming off a season in which the program won just three out of 18 total games, the Northview girls' basketball team will have a distinctly different and youthful look for the 2011-12 season.
The Knights graduated their top-two returning scorers, their leading rebounder and won't have the services of third-leading scorer Taylor Carter, who is focusing on softball. Gone are Lauren Webster (9.7 ppg.) and the six-foot presence of Chelsea Sampson (9.3 ppg., 6.4 rpg.).
However, Northview brings back juniors Ashley Hughes and forward Sierra Girton along with Cassie Weddle.
Hughes tallied just over three points a game and handled the point guard duties at times. She also scrapped in the paint for rebounds as well with nearly three per contest to go with just under two steals per game for the Knights.
"Leadership is a very important role that we have to fill with the loss of Lauren and Chelsea," head coach Scott Buell said. "I challenged Ashley and Sierra to step up and fill that role and they both have done an admirable job so far."
Weddle provided a big spark off the bench and Buell is looking for the junior guard to continue that this year.
"Cassie has had an excellent start to the season. She has been one of our best players in practice up to this point," Buell said. "She has been playing extremely hard and making a lot of positive things happen on the court. Hopefully all of that will carry over into a game situation and rub off on other players."
Also coming back is sophomore Leanna Knight, who saw action in 17 games last season and is a tough defensive player, using her athleticism to lock down the opposition. Coming off a foot injury suffered in cross country, Knight is getting back to full speed as the season begins this week.
"Leeanna has been slowed by her injury, but has been practicing at full speed for the last week or so," Buell said. "She is a very important component of this team because she is the most athletic player we have and is the best defender on the team."
Joining the experienced returnees is a large freshman contingent that currently has five, first-year players on the varsity roster.
Despite being new to the high school hoop season, this freshmen class brings some impressive junior high credentials to the table after winning 47-of-50 games in their junior high careers.
The freshmen group brings added size and athleticism that the team has lacked at times. However, Buell cautions that there will be some growing pains for the group that includes Mikayla Rowan, Whitney Halfhill, McKenzi Kumpf, Mallory Smith and Abbey Timberman and Sydney Buell.
"The freshman have been very successful, but the jump from eighth-grade to varsity basketball is a huge transition," Buell said. "The speed of the game will be the biggest challenge for them. We have been trying to simulate that speed in practice but there is going to be a learning curve for them to adjust to the pace of play. We have to learn to react, because if we have to stop and think, it is too late in a varsity basketball game."
Buell believes that this year's team will feature extended depth, which will be a luxury compared to last season.
"Our depth is going to be much improved from last year. We basically had six who played last year and so far this year we are looking at eight or nine in our rotation," Buell said. "One of the challenges for the coaching staff is to figure out what rotation gives us the best chance to win. We have a lot of options and may even change lineups as our opponents change."
The Knights open the season in the Terre Haute Tip-off Classic Thursday night at West Vigo High School against the host squad beginning at 7:30 p.m.
"We are much more talented than we were last year. We have a lot of new parts to piece together, but I like what I have seen so far. We are working hard in practice, absorbing everything that the coaching staff has been teaching and improving each day," Buell said. "When you are as young as we are as a team there is always some uncertainty. We have to be patient and try to get better each day in practice. The start of our season is going to give us a good indication as to where we are at as a team. We start with some tough opponents in the Tip-Off Tournament and then Riverton Parke and Mooresville next week."
2011-12 Northview Girls' Basketball Schedule
|Thur.||at Tip-Off Classic||7:30 p.m.|
At West Vigo
|Nov. 11-12||at Tip-Off Classic||TBA|
|Nov. 15||Riverton Parke||7:30 p.m.|
|Nov. 17||at Mooresville||7:30 p.m.|
|Nov. 29||vs. T.H. South||7:30 p.m.|
|Dec. 3||vs. Brown County||6 p.m.|
|Dec. 9||at West Vigo||6 p.m.|
|Dec. 13||at T.H. North||7:30 p.m.|
|Dec. 16||at Edgewood||6 p.m.|
|Jan. 3||vs. Greencastle||7:30 p.m.|
|Jan. 6||vs. Owen Valley||6 p.m.|
|Jan. 10||at Cascade||7:30 p.m.|
|Jan. 12||at||Martinsville||7:30 p.m.|
|Jan. 18||at Danville||7:30 p.m.|
|Jan. 20||vs. S. Vermillion||6 p.m.|
|Jan. 24||vs. Clay City||7:30 p.m.|
|Jan. 27||at Sullivan||6 p.m.|
|Jan. 31||at Plainfield||7:30 p.m.|
|Feb. 2||vs. Bloomfield||7:30 p.m.|