Patriots thinking 'reload,' not 'rebuild'

Herald File Photo by Sarah Ann Jump
Sophomore forward Rebekah Gordon will be one of the returning starters from last season's Heritage Hills girls basketball team that recorded 17 wins, including a season-high 14-game winning streak. While the Patriots did graduate five seniors from last year's roster, the team is focusing more on the word "reload" this season rather than "rebuild."

By JONATHAN SAXON
jsaxon@dcherald.com

As the Heritage Hills girls basketball team gets set for their upcoming season, one thing that immediately stands out is the youth of their roster.

Gone are the seniors, headlined by the school’s all-time career-leading scorer Abby Wahl, who helped carry the team to 17 wins last season. But Patriot head coach Kim Brown and the players aren’t worried about the prospect of a letdown this season.

“We lost five seniors, most teams think ‘rebuild’. I think they feel ‘reload’,” Brown said. “They don’t feel like they’re going to take it on the chin. I don’t want to change that attitude.”

That being said, there will be some changes in the team’s style of play this season to accommodate the skills and talents that they do have.

Last year’s approach, with Wahl and then-freshman Rebekah Gordon operating in the post, was heavy on pounding the ball into the lane and working from there for shots. But Brown and the players believe that speed will be the team’s biggest strength, and they’ll use it to establish a more uptempo offense on the court.

“You build your team around the personnel. Our team is faster this year, so we want to run the floor,” said Brown, who noted that the offense will still have elements of their inside-out approach, even though it may not be as post-focused as it was last year. “(We’re) using what we did last year and morphing it into a more full court game instead of the half court set where everyone saw us pound it inside nonstop.”

So far it seems the team has bought in to the refined approach and are excited for what they could accomplish with a more versatile style that will make their opponents account for every girl on the floor instead of keying in on the paint.

“We definitely want to run the ball. If we can get our fast break option, that would be number one,” said senior guard/forward Claire Heckel. “If we have to set up our offense, kick outs are our best bet.”

“We definitely need to spread the floor,” added senior guard/forward Morgan Vaal. “Since we’re going to be (running) more than we did, we’re going to be cutting more. And whenever we get the ball inside, we’ll have more opportunities on the outside when the defense crashes.”

Defensively, Brown will base most of the the team's schemes on a man-to-man system, but there will also be zone elements thrown into the mix as well.

The big defensive principles will be centered around pressing ball handlers hard, trapping in the corner, and generally making life miserable so opponents will turn the ball over. Of course defense can change game-to-game based on available players and matchups against opponents, but Brown was staunch in her insistence that Heritage Hills is a man-to-man basketball team.

“Keeping the ball out of the lane and making the other team shoot from the perimeter has been my philosophy since the get-go,” she said, a sentiment shared among the team, though the girls are also excited about the effects they could achieve through zone.

“I think because we’re such a fast team we can press (for) much of the game, but personally I like zones,” said sophomore guard/forward Avery Neff. “People think zones are for the slow (teams), but it gets you more steals.”

Brown says that expectations are high across the board for the team and she is expecting every player to do their part as they look to accomplish their goals for the year. Brown believes the backcourt combination of Neff and freshman guard/forward Hadley Lytton could be a strong focal point for the team.

She says both players can handle the ball well for their uptempo needs and both can shoot the ball well from outside. Brown also likes the connection that Neff seems to have with sophomore center/forward Rebekah Gordon, a versatile big who can score in the post and shoots well enough to be a threat almost everywhere on the floor. Heckel is another shooting option on the perimeter, but Brown will also look to utilize her growth spurt and try to get her touches in the post. Vaal will be valuable for the vocal leadership and basketball IQ she provides the team.

One thing that Brown wants the team to carry over from last season was the confidence that the Patriots played with.

She said last year’s group felt that they could go out on the floor and play with anyone on a given night, and wants her team to have the same mental standard this season. The early loss in sectional last season to Mount Vernon left a bitter taste in the team’s mouth, so it’s important that they approach the court expecting to do well as they march towards their goals of winning their conference and making a run in the postseason.

“That senior class carried themselves with high expectations,” Brown said. “And they went out every night believing they could win the game. The girls come in this season believing (that). I feel like we have the potential to make a strong run toward the end of the season.”

Brown is eager to see her team in action in their upcoming scrimmage to get a better sense of where they are and how they are picking up the schemes, and the Patriots share her enthusiasm as they look to embark on another basketball season for Heritage Hills with their regular season set to begin November 3 at Northeast Dubois.

“I feel like we could be just as good and maybe even surpass last year,” said Vaal. “I feel like we need to go and get it.”




More on DuboisCountyHerald.com