Outside the Huddle and Bounce are counting down who it feels are the top 50 individual girls basketball players in northeast Indiana heading into the 2020-21 season.
Today, we unveil five of the best in the area at positions No. 40-36.
No. 40 – Lilly Mast, West Noble
New West Noble coach Jeff Burns is taking over a program that has long had a sole voice (longtime coach Dale Marano), so sliding in seamlessly will depend on his veteran leadership. Mast will be leaned on to provide that both physically and vocally. This is more critical as Burns will be figuring things out as they go after he took a season away from the team last year and didn’t get a true summer with Mast due to COVID-19.
The onus will be on Mast to make sure that she gels with the coach so that he can gel with the program immediately in a tough NECC. That is where I would look for her to take a tremendous leap as she spent last year learning how to be that leader.
It is hard to say a player like Mast took a step backward in 2019-20. Her ranking in OTH’s Top 50 is lower, but the bridge she had to build as a junior was significant. She was still the program’s top contributor, averaging 13.8 points, 2.4 assists and a staggering 4.7 steals per contest. As a sophomore, she was an ever-expanding offensive threat and her junior season was really a year she broke out as a tenacious on-ball defender.
If Mast can merge those two versions of herself as a senior in 2020-21, then the Chargers are going to be a team you can’t look past any night in conference.
COACH’S QUOTE ON LILLY MAST
“I expect big years from both of them [Mast and Jazmyn Smith]. As a coaching staff we are looking at mixing things up a little from what the kids knew in the past and we will be trying to put both of them in the best possible situation to shine as individual players and as a team collectively. I expect both players to take a Giant step forward in all aspects of their games this season.” – West Noble coach Jeff Burns
No. 39 – Lydia Andrews, Central Noble
Andrews will step into the culmination of a four-year varsity career as one of the most steady hands in the NECC. “Steady” is a perfect adjective for a young lady that has had to see herself constantly evolve from the day she stepped foot into a state championship program as a freshman.
In 2019-20, the focus became more on scoring as she nearly doubled her previous season with 8.3 points per game while being steady inside and out with 4.1 rebounds and 2.1 assists.
Heading into her senior season, Andrews provides as much of a dual threat as she ever has. She has certainly picked up her aggression, because she has had to. Along the way, she has learned that for the Cougars to continue to be successful, she has to play a little mean. That has helped her on the interior as Central Noble tried to develop new post options last year and will continue to do so this season.
Andrews can attack at the rim and fight for rebounds with much taller players, making her a strong stretch guard/forward combo. The rise in her ability to mix it up while still shooting the ball well allows Andrews to find new ways to be what she always has been for Central Noble: a model of consistency.
COACH’S QUOTE ON LYDIA ANDREWS
“When she is aggressive offensively she is difficult to guard because of her ability to score inside and step out and shoot the 3 at her position.” – Central Noble coach Josh Treesh
No. 38 – Sullivan Kessler, Eastside
For Eastside to make the waves in the NECC that it did last year, it needed to expand the perimeter game to more players that could control the ball in pressure situations. Kessler emerged almost immediately is that person that Coach Mike Lortie could count on. She had help, don’t get me wrong, but she really took pride on being someone who could handle the ball, the pressure that came with it and still make the right decision far more often than not.
Kessler actually led the team in scoring (11.9 points per game) and assists (2.7/game) and when you can find a young lady that can do both of those things and be a true dual threat, you are certainly in business. Kessler can also rebound the ball, where she was second on the team, and defend. Yet, her biggest strength will remain her ability to read the floor. With the ball in her hands even more in her senior season, that is an asset that Eastside can not easily replicate.
COACH’S QUOTE ON SULLIVAN KESSLER
“Sulli is one of the hardest workers on the team. She is always in the gym improving here game. Her work ethic and leadership is going to be a big factor in the continuing success for what we all started last year.” – Eastside coach Mike Lortie
No. 37 – Alison Stephens, Homestead
Though her minutes fluctuated through the season, to find a spot in coach Rod Parker’s lineup as a freshman said a lot about Stephens in 2019-20. She comes in to this season as an excellent shooter that had solid numbers as a freshman, posting 51.7 percent from the field, 37.8 percent from three-point range and 66.7 percent from the free throw line. She boasts a solid consistency and something that will only grow as she gets more touches as a likely starter this season.
I have said it before and I will reiterate, Stephens reminds Bounce of a young Sydney Graber (Homestead Class of 2020) in how smooth she is around the rim. That soft touch will do her wonders in spreading out her game so she can be efficient from the mid-range and deep. Stephens has really showcased an ability to score at all three levels that is rare today for a high school girls basketball player and it makes her difficult to ever sag off of her defensively for any reason.
COACH’S QUOTE ON ALISON STEPHENS
“Alison will be one of the best shooters in the area and one of our primary scorers. She is improving daily with her ability to attack the basket and defend a variety of positions.” – Homestead coach Rod Parker
No. 36 – Carly Turner, East Noble
The Knights were not a high-scoring bunch in the 2019-20 season, but when they needed a big punch thrown (metaphorically), Turner was the clear choice to get the ball too. Her ability to work outside-in creates mismatch problems for a lot of teams. Some posts are liabilities defending the perimeter, but Turner is able to take guard defenders down low. She shot 42 percent inside the three-point arc and 32 percent outside of it last season.
The trick with Turner as a senior will be her consistency. She is capable of very strong scoring games, even above her 8.7 point per game average a year ago. But mixed in were five games of three or less points, all losses.
East Noble flourishes when Turner is on her game and able to score at a high level. In her 12 games surpassing her scoring average last season, Turner shot less than 40 percent from the field just twice, but both came in victories over Snider and DeKalb. She does have the ability to step up in big games, as seen with her two games of three makes from downtown against Columbia City and Norwell or her 18 point/8 rebound effort against Angola.
COACH’S QUOTE ON CARLY TURNER
“Carly is someone who has rededicated herself to the game starting last summer. She came into every one of our open gyms on a mission. She knew that she had to prove to her teammates and she has worked extremely hard to prove that she’s all in. She has been dedicated. She came in during golf season to open gyms, working on her dribbling skills, working on her shooting skills.” – East Noble coach Shawn Kimmel
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