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Lady Bears have high expectations

| November 27, 2013

The importance of playing defense is just another way of life for those involved with the River View High School girls basketball team and as the team enters the 2013-14 season, its head coach definitely sees that aspect having a bearing on success.

A pretty good example sits at the corner of U.S. 36 and Ohio Route 60 near Warsaw where a billboard recognizes the school’s six state championships – five of which belong to the girls.

“We still need to develop a better defensive mentality,” said Kevin Smith. “It comes down to it. We have to stop people to stay in games. We need to get defensive stops tohave a chance in the end and we did that last year and in years past but we’re still not to where really get after it and challenge everybody for 32 minutes.”

If that early challenge is solved, the Lady Bears could become a lethal.

The Lady Bears enter the campaign with a senior-laden roster, including its two top scoring threats of a year ago, Andi Daugherty and Sam Ringwalt.

“I think we have good leadership. It’s a little different having as many seniors as we do,” said Smith. “We’re really relying on that experience on the floor. They have a little more maturity and that helps develop some things out on the floor.

“They have kind of taken it upon themeselves to make sure that things are going in the directions they want them to go. It’s one thing for a coach to be constantly on them and motivating them but for a group of seniors to take that upon themselves is something special.”

Daugherty returns as a fourth-year starter whose value is not only recognized by her coach, by also by Ashland University with whom the 6-foot-1 guard/forward recently signed a letter-of-intent. She and 5-9 forward Ringwalt are joined by classmates Bailey Moore, Ashley Stewart, Sofie Hjorth and Lindsay Lupher.

“Sam and Andi have played quite a bit,” Smith said. “This is Andi’s fourth year and Sam is a very big factor for us. She’s going to be asked to do a lot of things this year than she had in the past. I push them and demand a lot from them but they’re also pushing themselves and challenging each other in practices. They expect a lot of themselves and they don’t want to do anything other than their very best.”

Also on the team are juniors Jessie Gibson, a 5-10 forward and Kristi McFarland, 5-9 forward and sophomores Cassidy Whiteus, a 5-3 guard and Katie Lahna, a 5-8 forward.

Manning the guard positions the 5-5 Moore and 5-4 Stewart will play on the wings while the 5-7 Hjorth will run the point. Lupher at 5-9 will add some punch in the post position but has been slowed by a knee injury.

“Bailey and Ashley will be in roles they haven’t been in before,” Smith said. “They’ve responded and done a nice job and When Lindsay comes back from her injury she’ll be a contributor but it’s going to take a while for her to get into basketball shape.”

A foreign exchange student who competed in the elite division of her age group in Europe Hjorth has been a welcome addition.

“Sofie has experience and brings another person in who can handle the ball,” Smith said. “Last year Andi had to bring the ball up up the floor and pass it before we could get into our offense. Now we’re a little more diverse and that’s huge for us. She fills a very big role.

“The European game is a little different and she’s still adjusting to the physicality. Plus, the terminology is different and the language is different so it’s going to be a process throughout the year just learning all of that. She’s grown tremendously the last few weeks but to fully grasp everything isn’t going to happen overnight.”

The expectations are very high for Daugherty, the team’s reigning All-Ohioan.

“I expect a lot out of Andi,” Smith said. “I told her that before we really even started practices. This is her last year and everybody knows about her, everybody knows what she does and now she has to go out and do it when everybody tries to stop her and physically take her out of the game. It’s a huge task because she’s going to get double-teamed and she’s going to get to see all those defenses to take her away but her determination and maturity need to overcome that. She continues to work extremely hard on her game and has gotten better. She’s a great team player.”

Smith believes that his team will again compete with Zanesville Rosecrans for the East Central Ohio League Gray Division title and sees cross division rivals Zanesville, Dover and New Philadelphia as huge challenge.

“Rosecrans and us fight for the championship year in and year out,” Smith said. “It’s going to be a challenge every night. “Different teams have different strengths. It’s going to be a grind.”

River View’s non-league schedule is also challenging with the first three games of the season non-ECOL opponents. It opened the season November 22nd at Maysville and took on Ridgewood the next day. Down the road, other teams they will face are Garaway, West Holmes, Utica, Danville, Tri-Valley, Philo and East Knox.

“Comraderie is a big thing with that many girls in the senior class,” Smith said. “They’re not only teammates but they’re also good friends off the court which I think is another benefit to us. It’s been a class that I kind of grown with. They’ve been around for a while now and kind of have a real good grasp of what we do philosophically and defensively.”

“Staying injury-free and healthy will be a key to our season. Depth is an issue so we’re going to have them ready to fight tooth and nail every night we go out there. That’s our job as coaches and we’re fortunate to have kids who buy into that and take that challenge.

Category: High School, Sports

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