EATON — As Dave Honhart is set to begin his sixth season as Eaton’s girls basketball coach he feels this may be his most talented team in recent years.
The Eagles, who went 9-16 last year and won a sectional title, will need to replace a gritty group of seniors
“We lost some mainstays in Becca Mowen, Annika Gels and Emily Dungan. Pretty much all three of them were starters and big contributors from the time they were sophomores on,” Honhart said. “And we lost an important player in Anna Black, her career was up and down in terms of injuries. Not only are those good basketball players that we’re replacing, but big personalities and that in itself means that other people have to step into those roles and figure out how to lead in their way. That class certainly left their footprint and yet at the same time, one of the things in high school is, you build around what you have. We’re going to be longer. We’re going to be quicker. We’re going to be able to do more things on defense. But we’ve also got to embrace the grit that that class left behind. That’s part of their legacy and we’re working on getting that into our game and combining it with a team that should be the most talented team that we’ve had in a while in terms of depth and overall basketball talent.”
Honhart said the core group of senior Bailey Shepherd, senior Ashley Early, junior Lexi Miller and sophomore Ali Mowen will be relied on heavily to provide leadership and play key roles if the Eagles are to challenge for a league title.
”They should all have significant contributing roles,” Honhart said.
Shepherd was the team’s leading scorer last season and two-time all-league performer.
“Bailey’s been first team two years in a row. Bailey’s been at the top of everyone’s scouting report two years in a row and has found ways within that to be among the league leaders in scoring and rebounding,” Honhart said. “It’s still going to be an adjustment for her without some of those players around her. She’s shown flashes in scrimmages of what she is capable of. She’s taken her ball handling and perimeter shooting to a whole new level.”
Early will do all the things that don’t necessarily show up in the box score.
“Ashley is a glue player. She does all of the cutting, screening, defending on the ball, off the ball. There’s so much that we notice and her teammates notice that she does that doesn’t necessarily show up in the stats,” Honhart said. “If we win championships, not only will Ashley’s play, but Ashley’s leadership will be a big reason why. That’s the goal is to win championships.”
Miller is still coming into her own.
“Lexi has really developed both as a shooter and begin able to take the ball to the basket and create there. She’s still working on growing her ball handling, her defense,” Honhart said. “All three of those players are captains this year for the first time. They’re stepping into those roles. You really don’t gain appreciation for a three-year captain like Becca Mowen or a two-year captain like Annika Gels until suddenly they’re not there and it’s you.”
Ali Mowen will be expected to run the offense from the point.
“Ali is our floor general,” Honhart said. “In scrimmages I’ve not taken her out too often. When I have taken her out it’s usually not because she’s not playing well, but because I need to get someone else with the experience if she is in foul trouble or having an off night. I feel very comfortable with her at the one, and the challenge there is she is a good off guard as well. She’s a good shooter. When she plays spring ball, she plays off the ball and looks to shoot more. We need her to bring that. We don’t necessarily need her to blow by people and score at the rim, but we need her to get to the paint and create. She needs to understand that while there may be three older captains it is her team on the floor and she is really embracing that.”
Junior Kylee Kidwell will be back for her second season at the varsity level.
”Kylee Kidwell is one of the best defenders on our team. She’s such an unselfish player. She may be our best cutter without the basketball,” Honhart said.
Sophomore Mara Posey came on late last season and will be expected to contribute right away.
“Mara Posey primarily played JV last year, not because she couldn’t have played varsity but we wanted her to learn how to be a go-to player. She really took some big steps in our playoff games,” Honhart said.
Senior Rilee Worley is the ultimate team player.
“Rilee Worley is the ultimate team player. She is one of the most enthusiastic kids. (I’m) not exactly sure where she is going to fit into the rotation, but she is making a case for the fact that she can contribute,” Honhart said. “She’s just incredibly unselfish and is willing to do the dirty work out there in terms of rebounding, deflections and is a great communicator.”
Freshmen Olivia Baumann and Lily Shepherd will also be relied on this season.
“Sometimes freshman are timid. She may be our most physical player already. She’s got great touch around the basket. She’s got a nice shot. I think she probably doesn’t even realize just yet how good she can be,” Honhart said of Baumann.
“Lily Shepherd is a very talented gym rat. Lily has been a go-to player her whole career. It’s a tough transition then when you are at high school and you’ve got to figure out how do you take that game and continue to do what you do well as a scorer then merge it with a team that has experience and some older stronger players. Lily will figure it out. She definitely has the potential to help us a lot,” Honhart added.
Rounding out the roster are sophomore Anna Kramer, freshman Kendall Miller and sophomore Juli Couch, who is currently out with an injury.
Honhart said he is excited to tip-off the season.
“I’m excited. We have the potential to be awfully good,” he said.
The league should be strong once again.
“On paper, it starts with Valley View. Oakwood got a lot better last year. John Rossi does a great job with Franklin. Monroe still has a couple of very talented players. Then there’s Bellbrook. Bellbrook is Bellbrook. They lost some good seniors who kind of waited their turn and now they’ve got more good seniors who have waited their turn. Brookville always plays hard. The league is going to be tough and our goal is to be right in that mix,” Honhart said.
According to Honhart, Eaton fans should expect to see a team that is going to attack the rim, attack the ball and play hard.
The Eagles will open the season at home on Tuesday, Nov. 26 against Middletown Madison. Tip-off is slate for approximately 7:15 p.m. Eaton will travel to Greenville on Saturday, Nov. 30 for a 7:30 p.m. tip.
Reach Eddie Mowen Jr. at 937-683-4056 or follow on Twitter @emowen_RH