A core of varsity veterans greet new Trojan coach

These seniors and returning letter-winners will form the core of this year’s Hillsboro High School girls team. Pictured are (from left): Amanda Faber, Megan McCarty, Tina Frick, JuliAnne Chisholm, Lora Andrews and Hannah Marsh. Not pictured: Amy Neufeld.

Don Ratzlaff / Free Press

With a bevy of varsity-tested returners, including the team’s top three scorers, each of whom received all-league recognition a year ago, first-year coach Dale Honeck will have a strong foundation upon which to build a successful team this season.

The Trojan three-some of JuliAnne Chisholm (5-feet, 11 inches), Tina Frick (6-2) and Hannah Marsh (5-7) combined for nearly 26 of Hillsboro’s 43-point average a season ago and were named all-league first team, second team and honorable mention, respectively.

Now returning as seniors for their fourth year of varsity play, they join fellow senior and starter Lora Andrews (5-9) to form the Trojan core this season.

“We have a pretty good nucleus of seniors,” Honeck said. “Those kids have some pretty good background and playing time, and I see them all as being a factor to our team.”

Chisholm led the Trojans last season in both scoring and rebounding at 12.6 and 7.8, respectively.

“She’s a real player, just based on her athleticism,” Honeck said of Chisholm. “She loves basketball and she’s a pretty good player.”

Frick averaged 6.5 points and 3.1 rebounds and shot a team-high 55 percent from the field, while Marsh chipped in 7.0 points, 2.5 steals and 2.2 assists from the guard position. Andrews averaged 3.3 points and 2.6 rebounds at forward.

Augmenting those starters were then-sophomore part-time starters Amy Neufeld, who averaged 5.1 points and 3.0 rebounds, and Amanda Faber, who averaged 3.3 points on 42 percent shooting and pulled down 2.5 rebounds.

For all the experience returning, Honeck will be looking for underclassmen to lead the team at point guard after Audrey Weinbrenner, a starter last season as a sophomore, decided not to play basketball this year.

The leading candidates for that role are sophomore Cassie Kroeker (5-5) and freshmen Candace Weinbrenner (5-4) and Samantha Soyez (5-9).

“We’re going to be real young at that position no matter how we do it,” Honeck said.

“Point guards are extremely important to a team because, in my opinion, they have to be the quarterback on the floor,” he added. “So we’ll have ninth- and 10th-graders leading girls who, some of them, were starting high school varsity when these point guards were in the sixth grade.”

Honeck describes his approach to the game as being post-oriented.

“I believe it’s a lot like golf-the closer you are to the hole, the better your chances are of making it.

“It’s just like anything else-if you can control the middle of the court, whether it’s on defense or offense, that’s a big part of the game.”

Honeck has depth in the middle. Frick is the natural post at 6-2, but Chisholm and freshman Dakota Kaufman (6-0) will give him options to work with, too.

“Juli won’t be a post player, but we can get her into that post area out of our offense anytime we want to,” Honeck said. “She will take the ball to the hole-she has the skills and the size and the jumping ability to do something down inside.”

To relieve some of the defensive pressure inside, Honeck said he has players who can shoot effectively from the perimeter.

“I’m not big on firing up 3-pointers, but there are places where we can get it-but it’s not the goal of our team.”

Marsh led the team with 12 3-pointers last season, but shot only 16 percent from behind the arc after shooting 41 percent as a sophomore.

“Hannah was playing at the point a lot last year, but that’s not her game,” Honeck said. “But she has that quickness she needs on defense and is not a bad little shooter from the outside.”

Honeck said his team will emphasize defense.

“Defense is a big deal to me,” he said. “That’s really what I coach probably the best.

“When I get it going the way I want, I like to do a lot of defensive changes,” he added. “Some people call it junk defenses. I believe that’s one thing the defense can do-it can dictate what the offense has to do. That’s true in any sport.

“I think changing defenses is good and I’ve always done that-forever. That’s my thing.”

Honeck said his starting lineup at the start of the season likely will be comprised of the four experienced seniors and an underclassmen at point-but the battle for playing time is wide open, he said.

“I wish people would get off who starts a game,” he said. “The least important time of a game is the first five minutes. Nobody wins a basketball game in the first five minutes. Most of the time you don’t win a game in the first half.

“Playing time is the key. Some kids play a lot better coming off the bench, and they bring something onto the court that the other girls didn’t have.”

Honeck said the December schedule should tell him more about playing time and team roles.

“When we get to Christmas vacation, we’ll have seen most of these kids playing,” he said. “We’ll have some quantitative data to look at, and we’ll have minutes played. That’s one of my big issues.”

Honeck said early practices have been going well, but he’s pushing his girls to develop a “high energy” approach to the game.

“You’ve got to have that high energy,” he said. “You’ve got to have your feet moving on defense, you’ve got to get up under your opponent. You can’t be standing 6 feet off them with your hands down. You’ve got to make them know you’re there.”

The Trojans will open their season the first week of December with three games at the Cheney Invitational. Then they will play non-league games against MCAA foes Halstead, Nickerson and Wichita Collegiate before the break.

Though he watched the MCAA teams last year as a spectator/principal, Honeck said he didn’t really evaluate them as potential opponents because he had no idea he’d be coaching.

Honeck said Wichita Collegiate, Hesston and Ellinwood field good teams each year and he doesn’t expect anything different this time around.

“That’s one of the things I’ve got to do yet-get some scouting on these other teams,” he said.

In the meantime, Honeck likes the hand he’s been dealt in his inaugural season as HHS girls’ coach.

“I’m really pleased with the girls,” he said. “They’re just a neat bunch of kids. If I could have gone through and picked out 20 kids out of all 240 kids (at HHS), I don’t think I could have picked 20 better ones.

“They’re all good kids and they’re working hard.”

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