18 deep: Jeeps on cusp of breakthroughOctober 21, 2021
By HUNTER TICKEL
DUBOIS — There's a buzz reverberating from the Northeast Dubois girls hoops program.
The noise has plenty of backing.
The number of players donning the blue and white on junior varsity and varsity has nearly eclipsed 20.
Sixth-year coach Andy Chinn said it's been a while since the school churned out this quantity.
"I hope it stems from excitement about the program," Chinn said.
Junior point guard Rhylan Kalb attributes the influx to dedication at lower levels.
"Most definitely is," Kalb said of the program reaching a turning point. "When it started in middle school and elementary school, getting the kids involved then, that brings (them) up to high school. It's definitely growing in the right way it needs to be."
The list of key cogs returning for the Jeeps is four-fold.
As a sophomore, Kalb poured in 10.5 points, five rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.3 steals per game.
"Usually, the ball will be in Rhylan's hands," Chinn said. "She's confident with the basketball. She can facilitate for us. She can kind of do it all with the ball. We're turning the keys over to her."
Three more former first-year starters include senior Brinley Royer, junior Reagan Knies and senior Hadley Fuhrman.
"Hadley plays a little more of the two and three," Chinn said. "Hadley was our leading scorer the last two or three years. She's a great shooter for us."
She scored at a 12.7 clip, pulled in 3.8 boards and contributed 1.8 steals last season.
Knies, who gives the Jeeps three returners averaging more than seven points, to go with four caroms, will log time at small and power forward.
Royer, a center, will be the bruiser down low. She gathered a team-best six rebounds last year.
The rotation will be filled out by junior guard Grace Lueken, junior Sara Livingston at the off-guard and junior Emma Betz in the frontcourt.
"Our whole team is going to make a jump," Kalb said. "It's not just one individual. We all push each other to be the best we can during practice."
With five games in eight days to kick start the campaign, including hosting Evansville Harrison, Chinn should have a pretty sound grasp on his players' roles.
"I've talked to the team, (we've) got a bunch of girls in this little grey area," Chinn said. "We are looking for a few of them to make a jump. Some of them will and some of them won't. We are going to find out. (We've) got two weeks of practice, then three games the first week. We are going to find out pretty quick."
Nov. 1 is the first official game day for girls hoops statewide. The Jeeps chose to match up with Class 4A-foe Harrison to christen a new scoreboard and welcome fans back into the gym at full capacity.
"I'm pretty excited for that," Fuhrman said. "To see some better competition, higher up in the class. Just to see how we can compete with them. That will base our season off that."
These pair of squads have never competed on the hardwood, Chinn said. As the Jeeps look for back-to-back 1-0 starts, Kalb isn't fazed by the opponent.
"I don't think so," Kalb said of pressure in the opener. "We are ready to take on new challenges coming into the season, and playing better schools, bigger schools is going to make us the best we possibly can (be)."
The Jeeps will begin Blue Chip Conference play the next day at Shoals.
"Last year, we were in the hunt late in the season," Chinn said. "I fully expect that to be the case this season. We had some games last year we could have closed out, and won a Blue Chip title. Northeast Dubois has won very few Blue Chip titles. The Blue Chip is very competitive."
Dubois went 10-13 last year and 4-4 in the conference. The Jeeps lost three conference games by single digits and fell to Vincennes Rivet after an extra period.
"That overtime loss to Vincennes Rivet that was our last regular season game of the year," Chinn said. "That will be the last game of the year this year as well. When you get to that game, it's fun if you are playing for something."
The slate includes Jasper and Forest Park at home. The Jeeps face the Wildcats on Dec. 16 and Rangers on Jan. 4.
"Very excited, our intensity has been through the roof lately," Kalb said. "I was talking to coach about it yesterday. It's going to be an extremely good year."
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