Times Sports Editor
The Northview girls' basketball team hasn't forgotten last year's 1-20 overall record from last year, but are planning on building upon it as the entire varsity roster returns another year older and wiser. There was plenty of reason for optimism as the squad played perhaps its best game in a sectional loss to Terre Haute North that helped the squad according to second-year coach Scott Buell.
"I think (the sectional game) gave them some confidence heading into the offseason. We've had a real good summer and we've had a good preseason, Buell. "We hit the weight room hard, jumping boxes and playing a lot. I think we've seen that carry over into practice. Hopefully we can start building on that starting Thursday night."
There were no seniors on last year's roster and the team will have three of them this year as guards Ashley Hughes and Cassie Weddle return along with forward Sierra Girton.
"No seniors last year and we've got three this year," Buell said. "They've been doing a pretty good of leading us. We still need to be a little more vocal on the floor. Those three have been through a lot and hopefully they can give us good leadership throughout the season."
While Northview didn't have a player that scored in double-digits, Hughes did a little of everything for the Knights as a guard, averaging nearly six points per game along with four rebounds and two steals per contest. Weddle typically came off the bench and provided four points and nearly two rebounds and Girton gave the team a post presence with three points and four boards.
One of the most disappointing aspects of last year as the loss of 5'10 Mikayla Rowan due to injury early in the year. Rowan returns as a sophomore after providing a team-high 7.8 ppg. and 7.2 rebounds per contest over 11 contests.
"It's huge," Buell said in regards to Rowan's return from injury. "The biggest thing I think will be rebounding. I was looking at our Greencastle game from last January and we put a very small team out there on the floor. This year with both Mallory (Smith) and Mikayla (Rowan) out there, we'll have a lot more size. It will help on the boards and it will help a lot defending the basket and it will give us a post presence on offense. Hopefully that will open up our outside for the shooters."
Smith, a 5'11 sophomore, one of seven players in that class, has been one of the most pleasant surprises to the coaching staff and Buell is looking for some important contributions from the forward.
"Probably at this point, Mallory Smith is our most improved player," Buell said. "She's been playing really well. She's got a ways to go, but she's gotten a lot better. Really, all of them have gotten a lot better. We've seen things at this point that we couldn't do at this point last year. We walked in to the coaches' office after that first practice and just had a smile on our face. We could see the progress that we had made. We just need to continue to build upon it."
"They all, except for Mikayla (Rowan), got a lot of playing time. What we went through last year makes you tougher. We basically saw everything bad that could happen last year," Buell commented. "We just need to keep that in the back of our minds and use that as motivation to propel us into having a really good season. A lot of playing time and a lot of experience, having freshmen out there on the floor, you've got to live and learn in those situations. Hopefully we can put that together and get us a bunch of victories and fight to get back around the .500 mark."
Abbey Timberman was one of three freshman starters in the sectional contest over the Patriots and she returns after averaging nearly five points a game along with 4.8 rpg. McKenzi Kumpf and Whitney Halfhill were the other two players that started as freshmen. Halfhill will be key as a point guard for the Knights and Kumpf gives Northview another athletic forward as she averaged over three rebounds per contest. Other players expected to contribute on the varsity squad after logging action in multiple games are junior Natasha Barrett, along with sophomores Brittany Fagg and Sydney Buell, who is recovering from a hip injury suffered during the soccer season.
Buell touched on the team's improvement in its ball handling as being one of the keys to this season's success after Northview averaged 23 turnovers per contest.
"They've gotten better handling (the ball). Just a lot more physical strength is helping that out," Buell said. "Learning how to use their body a little better and just working on ball handling and keeping their heads up and seeing the floor. It's looked better in practice so hopefully once we get into game situations it will look better as well."
The Western Indiana Conference should provide some excellent basketball with Sullivan returning center Rhagen Smith and several key players from a team that advanced to the regional. Edgewood also brings back some experience despite graduating some talented parts of a team that played for a regional title.
"Obviously I would put Sullivan up there at the top," Buell said of the conference race. "You've got a Division I athlete in the middle and some good guards and shooters around her. Edgewood is still going to be good even though they lost a lot of players, they have some good players coming back. Brown County is going to be tough with Sasha Robinson and Owen Valley has got a pretty good team. I think they have three or four seniors back from a team that was right around .500.
"So our conference is very good as far as girl's basketball goes," Buell added. "It's going to be a dogfight so hopefully we can get off to a good start. We've got several conference games before Christmas. Hopefully we can get some confidence going and beat some of those teams early and get us in the running."
The Knights open the season Thursday at West Vigo High School in the Terre Haute Tip-off Classic against Greencastle beginning at 6 p.m.
|Nov. 8-10||Terre Haute Tip-off Classic||6 p.m.|
|Nov. 13||at Riverton Parke||7:30 p.m.|
|Nov. 15||vs. Mooresville||7:30 p.m.|
|Nov. 27||at T.H. South||7:30 p.m.|
|Nov. 29||at Rockville||7:30 p.m.|
|Dec. 1||at Brown County||6 p.m.|
|Dec. 7||vs. West Vigo||6 p.m.|
|Dec. 11||vs. T.H. North||7:30 p.m.|
|Dec. 14||vs. Edgewood||6 p.m.|
|Dec. 18||at Greencastle||7:30 p.m.|
|Jan. 4||at Owen Valley||6 p.m.|
|Jan. 8||vs. Cascade||7:30 p.m.|
|Jan. 10||vs. Martinsville||7:30 p.m.|
|Jan. 16||vs. Danville||7:30 p.m.|
|Jan. 18||at S. Vermillion||6 p.m.|
|Jan. 22||at Clay City||7:30 p.m.|
|Jan. 25||vs. Sullivan||6 p.m.|
|Jan. 29||vs. Plainfield||7:30 p.m.|
|Jan. 31||at Bloomfield||7:30 p.m.|