By Ken Barhorst
RUSSIA — It’s going to be a different kind of girls basketball season at Russia this time around.
A tradition-rich program that has won 15, 16 and 18 games the past three seasons, suddenly has a severe numbers problem, so much so that head coach Tim Hatcher had to call in graduates so he could scrimmage. Needless to say, there will not be a junior varsity team this season.
“It’s been something I didn’t expect,” said Hatcher, his his third year as head coach. “It was the proverbial deer in the headlights look on my face when I saw the turnout, especially after the summer, when we had 19 or 20 kids.”
It’s quite a dropoff from last season, when the Lady Raiders won 18 games and came within a basket of taking the lead on Fort Loramie with under 30 seconds remaining in a tournament game. And Fort Loramie went on to win the state championship.
He has just two players back from last season in his daughter Tiffany and Maria Herron. Several others were expected back, but it seemed like when one decided not to play, it had a domino effect, and others chose to sit out.
In Herron, however, Hatcher has his second-leading scorer back. She was at an even 11 points per game. Hatcher, meanwhile, was at 4.3 per game.
After those two, it will be four sophomores and three freshmen filling out the roster, and all of them will see ample playing time.
“We have the kids that want to be here,” Hatcher said. “And they’re excited. There will be a lot on Maria’s and Tiffany’s shoulders, and everybody will know that and gang up on them. So we may take our lumps early, but the second half of the season will be totally different.”
The sophomores are six-foot post Cameo Wilson, guard Whitney Pleiman, post Lauren Monnin and guard Kylee Sherman, and the freshmen are guard Jenna Cordonnier, guard Katie Heuing and six-foot Larissa Poling.
“We have some talent in the freshman and sophomore classes,” Hatcher said. “And there’s some height, so that will help. And we have Maria and Tiff, and they’ve been playing AAU ball since the fifth grade. They will be teachers on the floor.
“Right now, my plan is to teach what I know, and that means pushing the ball, and hard-nosed defense,” he added. “Hopefully, we can stay out of foul trouble.”