Girls will blend vets with youth

This trio of seniors and letter-winners will provide leadership on and off the court for the Hillsboro girls’ team as the Trojans prepare for the upcoming season.
This trio of seniors and letter-winners will provide leadership on and off the court for the Hillsboro girls’ team as the Trojans prepare for the upcoming season.
Returning only three players with significant varsity experience from a team that went 5-16 overall and 0-10 in league play, you might think Hillsboro girls’ basketball coach Nathan Hiebert will face another difficult season on the horizon.

Not so, says Hiebert, who begins his 11th season as head coach. Instead, he’s looking to capitalize on the experience and leadership of three returning players while blending in an athletic freshman class.

“My expectation is to be over a .500 team,” he said. “Depending on where our sub-state lands and who we get, I’m excited about getting a great opportunity.”

Varsity veterans

Seniors Abby Sechrist (5-feet-11) and Sienna Kaufman (5-8) return as starters who received honorable-mention a year ago by Central Kansas League coaches.

Sechrist averaged 4.8 points and 5.4 rebounds per game last season, while Kaufman averaged 5.9 points and 4.2 rebounds.

“Abby, statistically, really helped us in a lot of areas,” Hiebert said. “She’s one of our constants, defensively. She’s really long and moves fairly well for someone with her size. I confidently feel I could put her at guard or at post, just based on how she’s played.

“She’s better around the basket (offensively), but she’s been able to hit a shot from the outside every now and then.”

Kaufman was the Tro­jans’ primary ball-handler and defender last season.

“She’s really good about attacking the basket,” Hie­bert said. “She’s really strong with the ball, and when she gets to the rim, she’s fairly strong. She is able to get some steals when we’re using the press.

“We’re hoping she can take advantage of her strength and athletic ability,” he added. “She sees things fairly well, she reads thing fairly well. Hopefully, she can get some easier buckets for our team.”

Trinity Malm (5-8), a junior, is the third varsity veteran returning.

“Trinity brings a lot of toughness,” Hiebert said. “She really grew in her playing time last year. She started with a little bit, but by the end of the season we really needed her on the floor.

“She’s tough defensively, she rebounds really well, she has a knack for going after the ball and she has a high IQ,” he added. “I feel like she knows what she’s supposed to do and where to go.”

Additional returners

Junior Eva Franz (5-6) found more court time as the season progressed.

“We’re trying to get her confidence level to play stronger,” Hiebert said. “She has the potential. If she gets her feet set, she can shoot the outside shot. Offensively, that’s where she can contribute best.”

Junior Abby Driggers (5-8) and sophomore Addie Berens (5-9) also return, but with limited varsity time.

“She’s smart, she works hard and she asks really good questions,” Hiebert said of Driggers. “She wants to know why we do things, not just do them. She has the potential to be on the court just because she knows what she’s supposed to do.”

Berens’ size and speed will be useful to the team.

“She can move well, she jumps well,” Hiebert said. “Once again, it’s about building confidence in her game. She has a really nice shot, probably 10-foot and in. She worked a lot this summer on her game.”

Freshman potential

It remains to be seen, but the real game-changer for the Trojans may be Hie­bert’s freshman class.

“The freshmen have done a nice job as a whole,” he said. “They come from more of a winning culture, so we’re trying to harness some of that. We’ve talked a lot about having a winning attitude—what that means and the effort it takes to win. They really want to win.”

Hiebert said Teegan Werth (5-6) is a good ball handler and has the potential to be one of the Trojans’ better outside shooters.

“She’s long and she takes it to the basket, so she has a nice inside-outside game.”

Kinsey Kleiner (5-5) comes with similar skills

“She has some speed, she handles the ball fairly well, and she could be potentially one who could shoot for us,” Hiebert said. “We’re trying to get her engaged in that, also.”

Dani Klein (5-5) is more of a slasher who attacks the basket, Hiebert said.

“Defensively, she’ll just get on somebody,” he added. “We’ve had some girls in the past who were fun to watch go at it. She has that kind of mentality.

“We could potentially use her to pressure point guards when they’re handling the ball,” he added. “She has a knack for flustering people and getting her hands on the ball.”

At 5-11, Jessica Saunders moves well for a freshman at that size, and is well suited to play post or forward.

“She has a good awareness of spacing and sealing,” Hiebert said. “She just needs a little more strength in the high school game, understanding the contact and the size.

“Her mobility is improving,” he added. “She’s one who has a huge desire to be on the floor. She’s very coachable, and you see her trying to give her best effort.”

Tuesday Weisbeck, at 5-9, adds to her impact on the floor.

“She’s better around the basket, but can play on the perimeter a little bit, too. But she’s better around the basket. She’s a lefty, and it’s sometimes nice to have something slightly different.

“She’s gotten several blocks because of her size, and we’re hoping to use her size to benefit us.”

Season outlook

The Trojans will open the season Dec. 1 at Sterling, followed by the Moundridge Pre-Season Tournament the following week.

“I’d rather play Sterling later in the season, because it will mean four games in seven days,” Hiebert said. “But it’s good for our conditioning.”

After going winless in the CKL last season, Hiebert and his players are preparing to make some noise this season.

“Even last year, with not a great record, we could bother some teams,” he said.

Kingman, Hesston and Nickerson will be challenging teams to defeat this season, Hiebert said.

“Kingman brings back the Bangert twins (Bailey and Sydney),”he said. “Those two run their team so well; they’re highly skilled, strong and athletic.

“Hesston is going to be challenging again. They lost a little bit (to graduation), but they keep reloading.

“Nickerson wasn’t as good as I thought they would be last year in basketball, but athletically, they have some real potential. They’ve got size.”

Hiebert said his goal is to be prepared to compete right out of the gate.

“I know it’s going to take some time, but I want to be ready by Sterling,” he said. “We still have almost two weeks of preparation.

“We’re trying to get to the point where we’re doing a lot of stuff with confidence. Right now, we’re still trying to figure out how to do things.

“Confidence is going to be a big deal, and I like how the girls have been playing so far.”