By KENNY HETZLER
---- — GREENTOWN — Eastern's girls basketball team enters the 2013-14 season with a completely different look after going 22-4 and reaching the state finals last season. The Comets finished as Class 2A state runners-up.
Justin Coomer takes over as the Comets' coach. He replaces Jeremy Dexter, who had a 75-35 record over five seasons. Dexter left Eastern to become the athletic director at Churubusco. Coomer previously was an assistant coach at Lapel.
Eastern also has to replace four players who graduated — Brittany Neeley, Bethany Neeley, Mercedes Rubow and Dani Comfort. Brittany Neeley was the MVP of the KT All-Area Team after averaging 19.1 points, 8.8 rebounds and 5 assists per game. She is Eastern's all-time leading scorer. Bethany Neeley earned first-team All-Area honors after averaging 15.2 points and 11.4 rebounds per game.
Eastern returns a pair of starters in senior guard Ally Oyler (8.4 ppg, 2.0 apg, 56 made 3-pointers) and junior forward Taylor Holliday (7.8 ppg, 7.3 rpg), but Holliday is sidelined as she rehabs from a knee injury.
Sophomore guard Jessie Sprinkles (1.4 ppg) also returns from last year. Moving into varsity roles are sophomore forward Emily Richards, senior post Abby Oyler, senior forward Kaytlynn Lawson, junior forward Jenny Keith and junior guard Abbi Elkins.
“I want us to improve each day with getting more comfortable with each other,” Coomer said. “The kids will be learning my system and getting better as the season progress towards sectionals.”
Coomer likes his mix of players.
“We have some pretty athletic guards and big strong girls,” he said. “We have some great kids that are very hard workers, and more strengths will be found as the the season progresses.
“We will try to avoid the injury bug with the lack of depth and the lack of varsity experience.”
As for the Mid-Indiana Conference, Coomer sees four-team defending champion Hamilton Heights and Western as the teams to beat. Last year, Eastern finished third in the league, behind those two teams.
In sectional play, Coomer knows Eastern will have plenty of challengers.
"Tipton will be a tough out,” Coomer said. “Elwood gave Eastern a very good game last year, and Taylor is on the rise.”
Eastern opens tonight with a home game against Sheridan.