When you have to replace your leading scorer, rebounder and assist person, most teams would be concerned entering the season.
But at Norwell, longtime coach Eric Thornton feels he has the girls to replace the graduated Logan Rowles.
Rowles leaves a void on the stat sheet after leading the Knights to a 17-win season last year, the 12th straight season of at least 15 victories for the program. But new talent is ready to step up.
A trio of seniors will look to step up in Aubrey Dunnuck, Ashley Vandenboom and Kylie Topp. Dunnuck saw significant action as a starter last year, while Vandenboom and Topp spent most of their time at the JV level.
“Playing junior varsity as a junior is not a popular thing,” Thornton said. “But I want (Vandenboom and Topp) to benefit from this opportunity they have now as seniors.”
The Knights will need the duo of Vandenboom and Topp to step up, especially in the absence of 5-foot-11 junior Breann Barger. The lefty decided not to come out for basketball this year. Both will see time in the post in the absence of Barger.
There are no juniors on the varsity roster, with sophomores Lauren Bales, Maiah Shelton and Kaylee Fuelling expected to play a bigger role on both ends of the court. Fuelling started as a freshman, while the other two came off the bench. Bales will be at the point guard spot replacing the graduated Brielle Wilson, with Fuelling sliding over to that spot when Bales is out of the game.
Overall, this will be a Norwell team that looks similar to recent years. With no true back-to-the-basket post, expect a lot of penetrate and dish plays to open things up in the paint and on the perimeter. The Knights played a challenging summer schedule to prepare the wealth of youngsters and seniors with not much varsity playing time for the rigors of a full varsity campaign.
Coach Eric Thornton has built a perennial contender in his two-plus decades at Norwell. While the personnel changes, the approach and success on the court remains.
This Knights team at first glance is not as loaded with offensive firepower as in recent years, but it will develop as the season goes on.
Why not higher?
There is not much in the way of varsity experience with the majority of the roster, and those that did see time weren’t relied upon to be significant contributors. It could be a rough early part of the season as players find their roles, but Thornton said he saw what he wanted to see in the scrimmage against Bluffton.
Dec. 7 vs. Columbia City
Thornton has sung the praises of the Eagles in the preseason, saying Columbia City has the most talented roster in the NE8.
Norwell gets Columbia City at home relatively early in the season. It may go down as the game that eventually decides the conference.