Dragons' girls basketball preview
November 1, 2012By Andrew Smith of New Palestine High School
NEW PALESTINE GIRLS BASKETBALL
Last year: 11-11, 5-2 HHC (2nd, best finish since 1995).
Returning varsity players
The Dragons are as young as they've ever been as they embark on a new season. Graduation took the entire varsity rotation from a year ago, including two-time All-HHC performer Bethany Murrell, who is now playing collegiately at Florida Gulf Coast University. They also historically play one of the strongest schedules for a school its size in the state, so there will be a very quick chance for the Dragons' youngsters to measure themselves against top competition. They'll be building on a team that went .500 in back-to-back seasons, and posted a 5-2 mark in the HHC last year -- a second-place finish that marked the program's highest since 1995.
Guard Ivey Spreen is the lone upperclassman on the roster. Like all of her sophomore teammates, she has primarily been a junior varsity player, but saw some varsity spot duty each of the last two seasons. Her leadership and example will be invaluable for the Dragons as they look to build with younger players. Wing Adie Lorsung also has some varsity experience, as she saw spot duty for the Dragons a year ago -- and then was the starting rightfielder for the HHC champion softball team in the spring. She is also the leading returning scorer from the Dragons' JV team a year ago.
Among those younger players, the Dragons' strength is up front, with freshman forwards Haley Stratman, Natalie Kehrt, Carly Hackler and Katlyn Keele. The Dragons possess a lot of size -- all four players are between 5-9 and 5-10 -- and athleticism among that group. Sophomore Payton Kost also provides some inside depth.
At the guard position, Gia Nitschke was a leader on the JV team and will be counted on again to contribute. Freshman Taylor Shull and sophomore Emma Laughlin will likely handle the point. Both are quick 5-4 guards who can set the table -- Laughlin had a strong finish to the JV season last winter, including a 17-point game in the penultimate contest of the year.
The Dragons open the season with three tough games against 4A teams -- Whiteland (Nov. 10), at Franklin Central (Nov. 13) and at Westfield (Nov. 20) -- before hosting Arlington on Nov. 27. The Golden Knights are one of two new foes on the schedule -- Connersville will be the new season finale opponent on Jan. 30. Those two replace Warren Central and Columbus East on the Dragons' docket. Other highlights include a varsity doubleheader at Greenfield-Central on Dec. 7, a trip to defending 3A runner-up Mt. Vernon on Dec. 13, the Hancock County Tournament on Dec. 27 and the Franklin Grizzly Cub Classic the next day.