BY YANEEK SMITTH, BEACON CONTRIBUTOR
Head Coach: Dick Heller, third year
Last Year: 7-17 (3-11 SBC River)
Key Returning Players: Annie Tibbels, 5-5, Sr., G; Kayla Rodriguez, 5-7, So., P; Grace Hollenbeck, 5-5, Sr., G; Maddie Harris, 5-5, Sr., G
Forecast: Last season was a rebuilding year for Danbury.
1 – Gabrielle Maringer – SO
3 – Kamil Stephens – FR
10 – Emma Holzaepfel – SO
14 – Sydnee Perram – SR
20 – Josie Skinner – FR
21 – Annie Tibbels – SR
22 – Eliza Brickner – SO
25 – Grace Hollenbeck – SR
30 – Abi Frattaroli – SR
32 – Madyson Ritz – FR
35 – Natalie Rose – FR
41 – Kayla Rodriguez – SO
42 – Maddie Harris – SR
52 – Olivia Valenti – JR
The Lakers endured their share of growing pains and Dick Heller, in his third season coaching the team, is hoping the team is better for it.
Aside from the graduation of Kalee Rakosky and Kayla Welter, there are a number of key players that return for Danbury. But those losses were significant.
Rakosky was a key contributor last year, leading the team averaging 9.1 points and 4.2 rebounds. Welter will be missed as she averaged 4.9 points and 5.2 rebounds, which led the club. Rakosky (38%) and Welter (33%) were also the top 3-point shooters for the Lakers.
The lineup is pretty undersized. Annie Tibbels, a 5-5 point guard, returns, as do guards Maddie Harris (5-5) and Grace Hollenbeck (5-5). The frontcourt features 5-7 posts Kayla Rodriguez and Olivia Valenti.
Last year, Rodriguez averaged 8.4 points and 4.2 rebounds and Tibbels averaged 6.0 points and 2.5 assists, followed by Harris (3.7 ppg) and Hollenbeck (3.7 ppg).
Those are the likely starters, but who the reserves will be is a little less certain. Heller says two 5-3 guards, Sydnee Perram andliza Brickner, will likely see time as part of the rotation, and freshman Natalie Rose (5-9 post), Kamil Stephens (5-3 guard) and Josie Skinner (5-2 guard) could see action, too.
“Our (veterans) have to stay out of trouble,” said Heller. “We’re pretty thin (on the bench).”
Thus far, Heller is pleased with what he has seen from his team in its scrimmages.
“We were competitive, and we saw some of our weaknesses,” he said. “It was a step in the right direction.”
Heller feels comfortable with the Lakers ability to score points.
“No one stands out, as they take their turns (scoring),” he said. “We feel comfortable with our opportunities to score. We’ll do it by committee.”
“This group has worked exceptionally hard over the summer,” Heller said. “We developed (our skills) a lot last year and we’ll see if that can carry over. I think the growing pains from last season will help us.”
With just two players taller than 5-7, Danbury is going to have to employ a variety of defensive schemes to keep opponents, particularly ones with size, at bay.
“We’ll mix it up (between zone and man-to-man) and see what works the best,” Heller said. “We’re not tall, so we’re going to have to come up with a variety of things.”
Offensively, the Lakers will get out and run when they can and employ a continuity-based offense to keep it simple.
Heller sees Hopewell-Loudon, a recent addition to the conference, as one of the best teams in the Sandusky Bay Conference’s River Division. The rest of the division includes the likes of Tiffin Calvert, Gibsonburg, Lakota and New Riegel, among others.
“I don’t see a weak spot in the league,” said Heller. “Hopewell-Loudon has to be the favorite. They were really good last year.
“If we compete, play as a team and do our best, the wins and losses will take care of itself.”