Maconaquah’s girls basketball team in the 2018-19 season posted an 11-13 record highlighted by a nice run in Class 3A Sectional 20. Maconaquah beat Frankfort for its first sectional win since 2002, then beat Western in the semifinal round before falling to eventual state champion Northwestern in the final.
For the Braves, the 11-win season marked a return to relevance considering they had averaged 2.1 wins per season over the previous 10 seasons.
With the bulk of the roster returning, the Braves are ready to build on the progress.
“There is definitely excitement building,” Mac coach P.J. Hatcher said. “I feel like we have picked up where we left off or really taken another step or two forward. This team has the best chemistry of any team I have had the incredible opportunity to coach.”
In sophomore Lilly Maple, the Braves have a go-to player. The 5-foot-7 guard sparked the Braves’ turnaround last season by scoring 17.2 points per game, which ranked No. 5 in the area. She also averaged 5.6 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 4.4 steals per game. She made the KT All-Area team as a second-team selection.
Maconaquah also returns 5-9 sophomore forward Alex Merritt (8.4 ppg, 7.1 rpg); 5-7 junior forward Monica Moore (3.6 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 2.7 spg); 5-6 sophomore guard Averi Miller (2.9 ppg); 5-5 junior forward McKenna Wilson (2.8 ppg); and 5-4 junior guard Madison Wilson.
Hatcher also has 5-4 sophomore forward Molly Nord, 5-7 sophomore guard Emma Klepinger, 5-10 sophomore forward Kianna Sharp, 5-10 senior forwad Anouk Gillies and 5-7 junior forward Brianna Hubenthal in the mix for possible roles.
The Braves are looking to compete for the Three Rivers Conference title. They cracked the upper division last season when they tied for fifth with a 4-5 record.
"I believe we can work ourselves into being a contender if not the top contender," Hatcher said, noting the conference has several tough opponents. "We take on a shareholder of the conference championship [Manchester] in game two of the season followed by another conference opponent game three [Rochester] so we will be as prepared as we can be and give it our all."
Maconaquah has a new sectional grouping. Class 3A Sectional 22 at Twin Lakes has preseason No. 1-ranked Benton Central, Peru, West Lafayette and Western in addition to Mac and Twin Lakes. Benton Central was the state runner-up last season.
Hatcher said it’s a challenging grouping.
“We lost preseason No. 2-ranked team in the entire state [Northwestern] from our sectional and gained preseason No. 1 in Class 3A while being at a new site with other rising competitive programs,” Hatcher noted.
Mac hosts Western on Saturday to open the season.
The following are looks at Peru and Carroll.
The Bengal Tigers are hoping to improve on last season’s 9-12 record (3-6 TRC). To accomplish that goal, they will need to stay healthy.
“We only have 14 girls playing so we’re going to need everyone ready to step up and play if unfortunate things happen that prevent a player from playing,” longtime coach David Weeks said. “Our focus is on the quality of the girls we have playing, not the quantity. We have quality young ladies and they’re working hard to get better each day.”
Peru has 5-6 senior guard/forward Courtlynn Crowe to build around. She averaged 13.8 points, 6.2 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game last season. She topped the Tigers in scoring and assists and was their second-leading rebounder.
Weeks also has 5-4 sophomore guard Cate Wolfe (8 ppg, 4.5 rpg) and 5-8 junior forward Carlee Marburger (2.7 ppg, 4.1 rpg) back from his regular rotation.
In the mix for possible roles are 5-9 senior forward Kelsie Kelley, 5-7 sophomore guard Mallori Grund, 5-6 sophomore guard Kloee Cassell, 5-5 sophomore forward Jenna Watkins and three freshmen — 5-6 guard Brianna Bennett, 5-5 guard Emma Eldridge and 5-5 guard Logan Mouser.
“Our potential strengths would be our quickness and guard play,” Weeks said. “We need to improve on our basketball IQ, and be able to read and react to what defenses give us on offense.”
Weeks said the TRC looks competitive with no clear favorite. As for Class 3A Sectional 22, he said preseason No. 1-ranked Benton Central is the heavy favorite.
Peru opens Tuesday at Caston.
Brady Wiles is the Cougars’ new coach. He replaces Marcus Granger, who led the Cougars for three seasons.
Wiles is a 2013 Carroll graduate. He played basketball for Jeff Hodson-coached teams through his junior year and for Matt Weaver in his senior year.
“Since graduating I have been a part of multiple athletic programs at Carroll,” he said. “I have been a part of the boys basketball program for the last few years. Blessed to have the opportunity to continue to give back to Carroll athletics.”
The Cougars went 4-19 last season, but they played with a young lineup. They return their top five scorers and four starters.
The returning starters are junior forward Morgan Viney (10.2 points, 7.4 rebounds per game); 5-9 junior guard Megan Wagner (9.7 ppg, 4.5 rpg); 6-0 senior forward Kelsey Hammond (8 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 2 blocks per game) and 5-5 senior guard Jade Jackson (2 ppg).
The Cougars also return 6-0 sophomore forward Maryn Worl (1.4 ppg) and 5-9 junior forward Josie Unger.
“Our strengths are our upperclassmen that have played significant minutes throughout their high school careers,” Wiles said. “Our height should give us an advantage in the post. Our defense has been a strength early on with our length at most positions.
“We will look to continue building depth and developing the underclassmen.”
Carroll will look to improve on last season’s 1-6 finish in the Hoosier Heartland Conference. Carroll, Rossville and Tri-Central tied for last.
“The conference will be strong this year,” Wiles said. “The top teams in our conference return most of their contributing players. We look forward to the challenge of climbing the conference standings.”
Carroll is in a new sectional grouping. Class 2A Sectional 37 has Cass, Delphi, Manchester, Rochester and Wabash in addition to Carroll. Cass is the host.
Carroll beat Frankfort 38-19 in its opener Thursday. Next up is Twin Lakes on Wednesday.