The East girls basketball team expects to compete this season. The Aces (2-2 overall, 2-1 City League) struggled with underclassmen last season to find consistency and finished 5-16.
They beat South and Kapaun Mount Carmel to start the season before losing to Southeast on Friday.
"This year we have really matured," East guard Elana Reed said. "Our team has been together for a while now, and we played together over the summer. We have that connection this year. We all know what we need to do and what we want to do."
Sophomore guards Tori Span and Relina Johnson got to learn the hard way a season ago by playing in the City League against the likes of Heights, Carroll, Northwest and Southeast as freshmen. They have taken that year's worth of experience and have made strides as contributors this season.
"Defensively Tori has been unbelievable for us this year defensively and running the show," East coach James Cole said. "Heading into the Southeast game, she only had three turnovers in three games. That's what you want from your point guard."
Cole said his chief goal heading into the season was for his team to play hard every game, but he said he would be disappointed if it finished with less than 11 wins.
Frankamp's out _ After falling hard and hitting his head during Tuesday's game against Bishop Carroll, North sophomore guard Conner Frankamp will miss tonight's game against East because of a concussion. He is expected to return in January, after the winter break.
"It changes a lot," North coach Gary Squires said. "He's averaging (31) points a game. We have other kids. I've told them, 'You're going to have to step up.' They've been doing a good job of that."
He's especially pleased with guards Tarius Williams, a guard, and junior Jacob Urban. Junior Jordan Kinder and seniors Cody Bridges and Darryl Hinojos are strong in the lane. Senior Kevin Price, who's back from an injury, will help inside, as well.
"This puts more pressure on those kids," Squires said of not having Frankamp. "They're ready for the challenge. But you take that many points out of the offense, we've got to find a way to score. We'll probably go inside more."
Owls coach looks for team identity — Garden Plain coach Sarah McCormick has not had to witness to a lot of losing in her time at Garden Plain.
The Owls' girls coach is 42-12 at Garden Plain, which includes starting her third season off 3-2. Her skills and her patience have been put to the test in the first five games.
"We're making young and inexperienced mistakes right now," McCormick said. "What we're trying to do is just build confidence, learn and get better everyday. I'm also trying to stay as patient as possible and grow as a team."
The Owls return three players from their 20-6 (Class 3A third-place team), but only two had significant playing time. Garden Plain has been outscored by an average of 15 points in its two losses. Those losses dealt by the hands of Hillsboro (4-0) and Moundridge (3-2), top schools in Class 3A and Class 2A. On the flip side, when the Owls have won, they've won big. They've outscored opponents by an average of 19.6 points per game in their three wins.
"I told them that the excuse of being young and inexperienced cannot last the whole season," McCormick said. "The winter break is going to be a very important time for us."
Following its game at 2-1 Medicine Lodge tonight McCormick will use the time to address the mistakes that lead to turnovers and have individual meetings with players to further enforce expectations. Garden Plain sophomore point guard Alli Heimerman has been pushed by McCormick. She is averaging 10 points and is expected to slip into a leadership role as the season progresses because of her potential.
"She's a young player, but she's forced to make decisions like an upperclassman would," McCormick said." I've told her, 'I know you're an underclassman, but you don't get leeway as most underclassmen will.' She's accepted that."
No moral victories — Bluestem boys coach Todd Leed told his team Wednesday morning that previous teams had lost at Trinity Academy by at least 40 points. Bluestem lost by 14 on Tuesday night.
"I told the guys, 'We're not here for moral victories this year. We're here to win,' " Leed said.
Bluestem is 4-1.
"This is my third year, and it's a process," Leed said. "It started with the guys who are juniors and seniors, getting them active in the summer, playing in summer league, going to camp, coming to practice, getting in the weight room. We're on a schedule."
Leed, after his team lost to Collegiate in a Class 3A game last season, decided to run his team in similar fashion. He uses 10 players, running five in and five out every four minutes.
"We have 10 kids that can play varsity basketball," Leed said. "We've had a different leading scorer every game. (Until the Trinity loss), every player had scored each game."