BROOKVILLE — With virtually all of its ammunition back from last year, the Brookville Lady Raiders basketball will take a shot at taking things deeper into the postseason this year.
For the defending District 9 Class 3A champions that means making more noise in the state playoffs. After winning their first title since 2013, the Lady Raiders went on to win their first PIAA playoff game in 33 years in a first-round win over Northwestern.
After falling to East Allegheny in the second round and finishing 19-6, it wrapped up a huge season that saw the Lady Raiders improve by 13 victories and wins the most games since going 19-7 in 1997-98.
All of that is something that veteran head coach Mark Powell wants to build on this year. He collected his 200th win in the district final.
He’s not alone in season goals.
“We definitely have higher expectations than what we’ve had in several seasons and maybe more than that,” said Powell, whose team opens with Clearfield Friday in the annual tip-off tournament. “I thought we definitely exceeded expectations and because of that, our expectations are higher.
“To be honest, the girls have embraced that really well and worked hard. We seem to have a mission in mind and that’s to get back to where we were and one more step. We want to exceed last year.”
Along with just about everything else, Powell welcomes back junior Marcy Schindler who averaging 10.5 points, 8.7 rebounds, 2.2 steals and 2.3 blocks per game. All but her steals led the team.
“She’ll be mostly inside at power forward, but she has a nice game from perimeter too,” Powell said. “We think Marcy has set herself for even a better season. She’s worked hard in the offseason. Last year was a mini-breakout season and it could only get better this season.”
Schindler and twin junior sisters Morgan and Madison Johnson were recognized as District 9 League All-Stars, Madison an honorable mention player. Morgan was second on the team in scoring (9.8 ppg.) while leading the team in assists (60) and finishing second in 3-pointers (23, team-best 40 percent). Madison (7.6 ppg.) was the team’s third-leading scorer
All three were part of a five-player group that averaged two or more steals per game. That should tip off what worked well for the Lady Raiders last year, forcing turnovers and turning them into points.
They forced 26 turnovers per game, leading to 21 points per contest. Conversely, the Lady Raiders gave it up 21 times, leading to 13 points for their foes. Those numbers played a big role in the Lady Raiders’ success, but those numbers could be much better. While they shot around 34 percent and limited opponents to under 30 percent for the season, Powell’s team had some uneven shooting nights he wants to reduce this year.
“We’re really focusing on finishing more so this year than last year,” Powell said. “We left a lot of points on the table. We created turnovers, but didn’t score and that’s what we’re focusing not only putting ball in basket, but putting players in best spot so they can succeed. We’re really looking at that. That’s one area we can def improve on. Sometimes it’s a bucket here and there and that’s a game changer. We can improve on all facets, defensively, offensively and handling the ball, but as a group our No. 1 focus is finish.”
Both Johnsons, senior defensive stalwart Jillian Taylor (team-best 2.4 steals per game) and junior Leah Kammerdeiner were all regular rotation players at guard last year as was junior Kira Powell (5.9 ppg., team-leading 32 3-pointers), who suffered a knee injury early in the loss to East Allegheny. She’s working her way back into full strength, so the rest of the guard unit will look to fill in some of those minutes as she gets back to 100 percent.
Senior Sophie Sharp and junior Brooke Ganoe saw limited varsity time last year and are battling for minutes at guard. Returning inside with Schindler are seniors Lexis Hatzinikolas, Mikayla Aikens, Jenna Grant and junior Lauren Hergert.
Hatzinikolas and Hergert were the second- and third-leading rebounders behind Schindler at 6.0 and 5.8 per game while basically sharing a position and combined to score 8.9 points per game. Those two were a big reason the Lady Raiders nearly averaged as many offensive rebounds as defensive.
“Lexis and Lauren, both are coming off excellent seasons and each brings something different. We’re looking for big things out of both of them,” Powell said. “Jenna and Mikayla Aiken, our other post players, all of them are capable. I look at our size, one of first times, at being a strength. I’ve never had a 6-foot girl since my first season. We have great size, energy and a lot of it. It’s definitely a strength.”
One year of maturity with a state playoff run under their belt could go a long way for the Lady Raiders in improving on Powell’s biggest concerns.
“Hopefully we gained a lot of experience from last year, experiencing the higher pressure games late in front of bigger crowds,” he said. “We’re a year older. It doesn’t mean you get better, but as turnovers go, I think you’ll see us handle the ball better this year. But in our style, we’re going to turn it over.”
Like last year, there won’t be much of a postseason bracket in D9 Class 3A as this new cycle has Moniteau and Karns City as the only other teams. It’ll be a sub-regional setup with the D9 champion likely facing District 5’s Chestnut Ridge if it has a playoff-worthy record. The setup doesn’t change Powell’s outlook.
“I think the kids are very focused on getting one step further than last year,” Powell said. “We had a lot of fun last year and getting to what we got, but they want more and they’re focused on getting to that point.”
Madison Hill will be the junior varsity coach, with Jim Hill as the varsity assistant.
Seniors: Sophie Sharp, Jenna Grant, Jillian Taylor, Lexis Hatzinikolas, Mikayla Aikens. Juniors: Brooke Ganoe, Leah Kammerdeiner, Marcy Schindler, Morgan Johnson, Madison Johnson, Lauren Hergert, Kira Powell. Sophomores: Avery Gilhousen. Freshmen: Elizabeth Wonderling, Alayna Haight, Elissa Molnar, Tayler Rafferty, Ella Zimmerman, Jordan Cook, Karlee Stiver, Lauren Barnacastle.