Trojan girls challenged to increase their impact

Coach Nathan Hiebert will look to this combination of seniors and letter-winners to provide the foundation for the girls? basketball team this season. Pictured from left are Tara Proffitt, Alex Ratzlaff, Darcy Heinrichs and Allison Weber. Ratzlaff and Heinrichs started last season for the 18-5 Trojans. Don Ratzlaff / Free Press?Opportunity? is the buzzword for the Hillsboro girls? basketball team this season.

With two starters and only two other players with significant varsity experience returning, coach Nathan Hiebert is looking for all of his girls?regardless of their status?to step up their game this winter.

The Trojans graduated five seniors from last year?s 18-6 state-qualifying team. They accounted for 66 percent of the scoring and 57 percent of the rebounding. Shooting guard Addie Lackey averaged a program-record 20.1 points, and point guard Danae Bina averaged 13.2 points and 2.6 steals.

?We lost two of our main outside shooters last year, so we need to find some people,? Hiebert said. ?If we can?t score from the outside, it?s going to be tough because teams can just pack it in (the lane, defensively).?

Returning starters

Hiebert?s two returning starters are junior guard Alex Ratzlaff (5-foot, 10 inches) and senior post Darcy Heinrichs (5-8). Ratz?laff, the team?s No. 3 scorer at 11.7 points per game, was a second-team all-league selection.

?One of the biggest benefits she?ll bring to the team is that she is extremely athletic and has some really good skills,? Hiebert said of Ratzlaff. ?She?ll probably be one of our best shooters from the outside, she is our best scoring threat. There?s no hiding that.?

The Trojans will need her scoring skills, but Hiebert expects teams to be focused on stopping her. Playing with the kind of pressure game in and game out often results in sporadic results for a player, he added.

?The thing we need to make sure is that we give her quality opportunities (to score), and not expect her to take on very challenging situations,? he said. ?To be more consistent we need to give her good looks, using her to score, but also opening opportunities for other girls as well.?

Meanwhile, Heinrichs? primary contribution last year was on the defensive end. She averaged only two points per game on offense.

?We?re asking her to do a lot more offensively just because we need to find more scorers and she has more experience, ? Hiebert said. ?Her biggest benefit is that she is very smart. She positions her body fairly well.?

That will benefit the senior on both ends of the court.

?Last year, I remember several games where she was outsized,? Hiebert said. ?When we went to Pratt, she played against Jenson Maydew, who was a lot larger and one of the best players in our league. Darcy did an amazing job on her defensively.?Alex Ratzlaff (left photo) and Darcy Heinrichs (right photo) are the two returning starters for Hillsboro this season. Free Press file photos    Alex Ratzlaff (left photo) and Darcy Heinrichs (right photo) are the two returning starters for Hillsboro this season. Free Press file photos

Varsity experience

The two other varsity-tested Trojans returning are both senior guards. Allison Weber (5-1) and Tara Proffitt (5-4) combined to average 2.3 points per contest.

?Allison doesn?t make a lot of mistakes,? Hiebert said of his likely point guard. ?She?s very similar to Darcy, just at a different spot.

?She handles the ball fairly well, but we?re asking her to be more aggressive offensively, to try to create some things. The year before she shot the ball really well. Last year she struggled with that, but we?re hoping this year she can shoot it from the perimeter. That will open things up.?

Proffitt, meanwhile, brings speed to the mix.

?Tara is extremely fast, but I think one of her best assets is that she can get easy transition buckets,? Hiebert said. ?She?s aggressive and can take it to the rack for some easy buckets.

?She probably has the next-best shot after Alex,? he added. ?We just need to make sure that she can calm down and get her feet set. She?s athletic.?

Young potential

Beyond those four, Hie?bert has a gaggle of mostly sophomores and freshmen who bring untested potential to the varsity level.

Marah Franz (5-5) is the lone junior in the group.

?Marah does some good things defensively,? Hiebert said. ?She?s very smart, she gets to her spot. She?s going to have to learn how to be more aggressive and more assertive. Last year on the JV she did a good job of frustrating the ball-handler.?

Three sophomores, Brooklyn Wiens (5-5), Rebecca Kaufman (5-7) and Savannah Unruh (5-3), are best-suited for the guard position. Each has shown the ability to score as JV players.

?They?re going to be thrown into the fire a little bit,? Hiebert said. ?There?s going to be some games when some girls have some good repetitions and the next game they really struggle. We?re trying to keep them positive and help them roll through things.

?There?s a lot of learning that?s going on right now.?

Hiebert said he likes the aggressiveness he?s seen in freshman Sienna Kaufman (5-4).

?She might get an opportunity to back up the point-guard position just because she?s a bit stronger and more aggressive,? he said.

Height advantaged

At the forward and post positions, Hiebert has three untested underclassmen who bring to the table an asset that can?t be taught: height.

Sophomore Callie Linnens and freshman Abby Sechrist come in at 5-9, while freshman Elli Weisbeck is 5-11.

Hiebert likes Linnens? intelligence and desire for the game.

?She loves basketball, so she?s a lot more aggressive than the other girls,? he said. ?She?s mainly going to be around the basket.

?Abby and Elli have some really good size. They?re like sponges?all the freshmen are,? Hiebert said. ?Abby will play more on the perimeter, she can shoot the outside shot. She?s aggressive and doesn?t make the same mistake twice very often.

?Elli can do some really good things, just with her size, on both ends of the court. She has a desire to compete as well.

?For both of them, their size and length are going to help us.?

Evaluation

More than usual, Hiebert said preseason practices have been about evaluating his players and how the pieces of the puzzle will fit.

?I don?t have my starting five or my top 12 yet,? he said. ?We?re really trying to figure out how we?re going to put it together. Most of the sophomores and several of the freshmen have an opportunity (to contribute).?

Hiebert is hopeful but also realistic as the season opener approaches.

?We?re going to have some challenges,? he said. ?I don?t see any easy games on our schedule. We can still be successful in a way, but we?re going to have to battle and be prepared.

?The girls are going to have to be ready each and every game. Some games they?re going to get more opportunities, and if they do well and take advantage of those opportunities, they might find themselves getting quite a few minutes.?

Hiebert said the key to success this season will be how the girls embrace their assigned roles.

?Everyone?s got to be excited and willing to do their part in bringing value to the team,? he said. ?We talk about role players, but every role is vital. So when everyone come in, they have to bring something to the table. They can?t just be a body on the floor.

?If they?re great at defense, they better be playing amazing defense every single time. If they?re great offensively, they need to make sure they?re getting the ball in the hole.?

The Trojans open their season at home Friday against Remington. Tip-off at Robert C. Brown Gymna?sium is scheduled for 6 p.m.

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