Plymouth girls basketball preview

PLYMOUTH — Plymouth girls basketball fans might not see many faces they recognize on the floor this season.
The Lady Pilgrims return one starter in junior forward Amber Redinger and one other player with meaningful varsity playing time in fellow junior and guard Lauren Tanner. Beyond that, the team is mostly new.
“You don’t recognize too many after that do you? asked Plymouth head coach Dave Cox, entering his 20th year at the helm for the Lady Pilgrims. “Amber started 21 games out of 21 last year. Lauren played in all 21 games and started in five. We don’t have a lot of minutes after that. I think Brittany Himes might have played in two or three games, (Brittany) Gantz might have played in two or three. So, experience-wise, we’re really, really young after that.”
The Lady Pilgrims are off to a 1-1 start with a season-opening win over Peru and a loss to Triton Thursday. The team boasts just two seniors in Himes and Victoria Dewar, who was sidelined with an injury last season, and while they recognize there’s going to be a learning curve for their younger teammates, the duo believes the squad has the makings to have a solid season.
“Our whole team is really young. We only have two girls that really have much varsity experience,” said Dewar. “It’s hard to come out expecting to play like a varsity team, but we’re practicing hard, and it’s only going to get better. We have good relationships on the team; the chemistry is there. If we just keep working hard, we’ll get it.”
“I think we play well together as a team,” echoed Himes. “We don’t have a lot of negativity towards each other. Our chemistry as a team is pretty good.”
This year’s squad is decidedly junior-heavy with Redinger and Tanner leading a cast of seven classmates in guards Gantz and Meagan Fisher, forward Andria Shook — who finished with 46 points as a sophomore last year — and two forwards who took their sophomore season off last year in Carly Baker and Marissa German.
While they’ll need some time to readjust to the game, Cox is happy with what he’s seen in the early going from Baker and German.
“Marissa German and Carly Baker came back out this year, didn’t play as juniors. We’re just really pleased with them,” he said. “It’s going to take awhile for them to get back in basketball mode. You don’t sit out a year and not, but we’re real pleased with where they’re at. I think they’re going to need that to get better. They’ll help us on height, rebounding, things like that and so forth. Both of those girls also I think can score.”
Both Baker and German are listed at 5-11, as are Redinger, Shook and freshman Hunter Stevens, a record-holder in junior high track and field. Between Redinger and Stevens in the low post, Baker, Shook and German off the blocks and at mid-range and shooters Gantz and Tanner on the perimeter, inside-outside balance should be a strength for the team in 2011-12.
“We’ve got two pretty good shooters in Tanner and Gantz. I think shooting outside will be OK,” said Cox. “German is a really good mid-range, 10- to 12-foot shooter. Redinger and Stevens will be on the blocks. I think one of our strengths is we should, before the season’s over, have a pretty good balance between the inside and outside.”
Adding to the mix at the guard position are speedy sophomore Savannah Mae, junior Meagan Fisher and freshmen Haley Harrell and Allie Wright.
“Savannah Mae has split some varsity time as a sophomore; she’s got real good speed,” cox said. “Then we go down to the freshmen. I like Harrell, I think she’s a real steady force in there; I think she just is really calm, doesn’t get rattled. I think Stevens is certainly going to be in the rotation in the post… She can just flat out run for a big kid. Little Allie Wright is just a tough, hard-nosed kid that eventually will really be able to play some D.”
Last year’s Lady Pilgrims finished with a 14-7 overall mark and a 4-3 Northern Lakes Conference record, falling on a last-second shot to eventual champion Culver Girls Academy in their sectional opener in Plymouth’s first non-sectional championship finish in three seasons. The team looks to return to its erstwhile sectional dominance as well as finish at the top of a balanced NLC.
“I think it’s going to be pretty even,” Cox said of the NLC. “(Elkhart) Memorial is still the favorite; they’ve got a lot of horses back. I think Warsaw and NorthWood are back pretty solid. Northridge and us are both going to be pretty young, and Wawasee I think is not quite as young as us but right in there too. I think it’s going to be a balanced conference. We’ve got most of our tough games at home, so hopefully that’ll help us.”