BY MURRAY GLEFFE
DE PERE – All Chris Abaray did in his first year of coaching the West De Pere girls’ basketball team was guide them to the sectional final and one win away from state.
To accomplish or eclipse that feat in year two will be made more difficult by the loss of Brehna Evans and Samantha Carriveau, who combined for 35 points per game and leadership on the court.
“I was really pleased with how the girls responded last year,” said Abaray. “We had to replace a number of points from the previous season. We got off to a 4-3 start, but then I thought played excellent basketball through the middle and latter portion of the season to end up where we did.”
The Phantoms still have many pieces in place starting with senior guard Sydney Appleton.
Appleton will be asked to control the offense and provide a spark on the defensive side.
Alexa Thomson and Alivia McNabb have a year of varsity experience under their belt in the frontcourt and will be counted on for rebounding and increased scoring.
The Phantoms have a number of players (Bailey Baeten, Alivia Baumann, Rebekah Buboltz, Genesis Eggart and Breanna Schneider) that saw limited court time but could make a splash in 2018-19.
“Those three girls (Sydney, Alexa, and Alivia) obviously bring back the most on floor time,” added Abaray. “However, we are giving an additional look at over 10 girls (including returnees and newcomers) for increased playing time this season.”
Last year with their athleticism and height, the Phantoms did a lot of ‘run and jump’ to the ball and trapped in a lot of situations on the defensive side. It added up to a number of steals and fast-break points during games.
“We are a lot smaller this year,” Abaray said. “We will probably play a lot more man-to-man defense in the half-court but when we have an opportunity, we still want to force a turnover wherever the ball may be on the court.”
Offensively, West De Pere will look for more floor balance and each of the five players on the court could be asked to score.
“Last year we looked to isolate Brehna and Samantha in certain situations because they were tremendous shooters,” said Abaray. “This year we will have sets in to get the ball to the hot player during the game and we could end up with multiple players scoring during the game.”
Most seasons, a new face or transfer comes into a program and is a difference maker. This year might be no different.
“Casey Jepson was a big-time scorer for us at the junior varsity level last year,” Abaray added. “Bailey Baeten is another that is super athletic and gets after it defensively at the two-guard spot.”
New London, Shawano and West De Pere are the early favorites to contend for the Bay Conference championship.
The Phantoms will challenge themselves out of conference playing the likes of Ashwaubenon, Bay Port, De Pere, Green Bay Preble and Green Bay Southwest.
“Shawano returns the most, and New London is very well coached,” Abaray said. “There are a number of teams, though, that can knock anybody off if you’re a bit off. It will be a grind for the 14 games.”
West De Pere Roster: seniors: Sydney Appleton and Piper Linssen; juniors: Alivia McNabb, Genesis Eggart, Kaylee Olson, Alivia Baumann and Breanna Schneider; sophomores: Alexa Thomson, Casey Jepson, Bailey Baeten and Rebekah Buboltz: freshman: Imani Ninham.
For a list of the schedule, log on to foxriverclassicconference.com.