The Marion girls’ basketball team will rely on the leadership of three returning senior starters to fuel the Warriors this season in a return to Class 2A under the direction of sixth-year coach Kelly Robson.
Marion went 15-7 last year, and 16-6 in 2015-16, a stark turnaround from Marion’s 6-15 record a year earlier.
To build on the success of recent years, the Warriors will look to returning first team, All-HOA selection Kourtney Hansen to lead the team. The 5-foot, 8-inch senior forward was Marion’s leading scorer with 14.5 points per game. She also averaged 8.9 rebounds and 5 steals.
Robson said he’s seen Hansen grow in confidence and leadership.
“She’s just becoming more assertive,” he said. “She’s a pretty quiet kid, but she’s becoming a little more vocal.
“Last year she needed to take a bigger lead because we didn’t have a big returning senior class. I’ve just seen her grow in confidence. She’s leading very, very well.”
Senior Sam Richmond (5-5) is a returning starter at guard. She recorded per-game averages of 5.1 points and 2.3 rebounds a year ago.
“(Sam will) need to be stronger on defense,” Robson said. “I think offensively, she’s going to be a plus for us.”
Senior guard Courtney Herzet (5-4) is Marion’s third returning starter. She averaged 2.9 points and 1.3 rebounds per game last season.
“Courtney will really work hard on the defensive end of the floor,” Robson said. “She also has worked really hard this summer on becoming a better shooter.”
Replacing Taelyn Pagel and Marissa Jacobson—two graduated seniors—as projected starters are senior forward Alli Molleker (5-9) and junior guard Corrina Crabb (5-6).
“If (Courtney and Sam) could do some damage from the outside, that would help Alli and Kourtney get some more business inside,” Robson said. “We’re going to rely on Sam, probably, and Corrina to handle the basketball for us.”
Additional returning players who will be looked to for contributions include seniors Jessi Lewman (5-10) at forward and Corin Parmley (5-4) at guard.
“Jessi’s going to be a good quality inside player,” Robson said. “(Corin) may be our best full-court guard defender.”
A majority of Marion’s six seniors saw their first varsity action as juniors last season.
“It’s been nice to see them continue to grow and continue to want to do more and more and more every year,” Robson said.
“Some classes of girls just haven’t really understood that, it seems like. This group, because they were thrown in the way they were, has understood it pretty well. They’re doing a nice job of leading the other girls.”
A strength of Marion’s seniors is their chemistry.
“This group was quite successful last year, winning 15 games,” Robson said. “Can we go beyond that? That’s what they’re hoping for, and I guess we’ll work in that direction. Their strength is their togetherness, and now their experience is going to make them stronger and they get to be senior leaders.”
Key to the Warriors’ success this year will be limiting turnovers and valuing each possession, Robson said.
He praised the team’s intensity and desire.
“Our league is generally pretty tough, so we will need to bring that desire to the court every night,” Robson said, adding that Sedgwick and Sterling will be the Heart of America teams to beat.
“It’s not like we can go out every night and expect to win, but I think we can go out every night and expect to compete well,” Robson said. “And if we do the things that we should do, we’ll win our share.”
Marion will host Southeast of Saline in its season-opener Friday.