Coming out of a 10-16 season, with a new head coach running the show for the first time since 2012, the Knights of East Noble are a team that could go a couple of ways into this season with a fully returning lineup. Looking at them as one of the teams with the best chance of improvement in the area, Outside the Huddle has chosen to rank the Knights as the #10 team this preseason.
The East Noble schedule will push them through the year with a plethora of SAC schools in the lineup, including those who they may see again come Sectional time. That is a big goal for this group of seniors, new head coach Shawn Kimmel says: to play for a Sectional title.
Along the way, they will play in a tough Northridge Tournament on December 29 and 30.
“It is going to give us a chance to play the state’s top 50 teams,” Kimmel said of the four game, two day format. “Hopefully we come into that ready to play some top notch basketball. Hopefully when we come out of it, we are ready to make that last stretch. Up until Christmas, it is ‘get ready.’ After Christmas it is the championship season.”
While East Noble’s head coach is new to his seat on this bench, Kimmel is not new to the area. With time spent at East Noble and Central Noble, Kimmel has also previously been a head coach at Pioneer. He takes over an East Noble program that will return 10 players with varsity experience including a very experienced senior class, led by the trio of Karly Kirkpatrick, Carly Turner and Avan Beiswanger.
Kirkpatrick was a leader in the program’s shot challenge over the summer. Like many other area programs, the Knights challenged each of their players from the top of the program down to make 10,000 shots in a three month span (May-July). Kirkpatrick hit over 13,000 during that time and program wide, Kimmel says the Knights made 161,000.
“She’s as dedicated as they come. She loves the game. I think she is probably going to have an absolutely fantastic season,” Kimmel said. “Not to mention, defensively she just doesn’t quit.”
Kirkpatrick is the program’s leading returner in steals (2.3) and assists (3.1) per game.
Tuner will return as the team’s leading scorer (8.7 ppg) and rebounder (4.3 rpg.) Like many others that Kimmel talked about, Turner has used her offseason to improve her overall game, but also her strength.
“The thing with Carly is you bring someone with a great outside shot, yet can still score around the paint. She is going to be a little bit of a mismatch for some teams,” Kimmel said. “How are they going to defend her?”
Beiswanger will be an important piece on both ends of the court with Kimmel expecting her scoring to continue to pick up as it did during the course of the 2019-20 season. Kimmel says she had a fantastic summer and could be another nightmare matchup for people.
The loaded senior class will include Kylie Garton, Grace Patton, Ella Lewin, Anna Becker and Kayla Desper, who all played in 16 or more of the 26 game schedule in 2019-20.
“There are going to be very few teams that have the experience. Norwell is going to be able to boast a lot of experience. The one thing this [East Noble] team is going to have is a lot of seniors and they should be very battle tested,” Kimmel said. “What we are going to have to do is hope that we get on a roll and we learn to finish games as the season goes on.”
Outside of the senior class, Kimmel expects an improved year from junior Kyndal Mynhier. He says that she has developed over the last year, grown in height, stature and muscle. He says that Mynhier and Garton’s athleticism will help the Knights not miss a beat defensively while trying to wear teams down.
Sophomore Bree Walmsley also saw time in all 26 games last season.
As a team, East Noble averaged 8.6 steals per game last season, but Kimmel’s emphasis on defense should increase that.
“This team is going to be competitive just because of the effort they give. Defensively, we are going to come and get in people’s face. We are going to pressure the ball. We are going to try and wear people down,” Kimmel said.
A lot of teams could have fought for this last spot in the initial power poll of the season and did. The Knights get the edge by what they bring back with a senior class that is just loaded and motivated. The top half of the Northeast 8 will be a tight race and the Knights will have to work hard immediately to separate themselves. That said, they had many impressive games a year ago playing with some of the area’s better teams, beating Northrop in overtime and Bellmont.
Some of those teams may be weaker, but East Noble certainly is not.
WHY NOT HIGHER?
The Knights are in that “prove what you can do” position. The first five games of their schedule are tough and it never really lightens up much as they have six games against the SAC and a very tough Northridge Tournament in December. Until they can get a big quality tested win or two, they stay as a team built on motivation and hype.
NOV. 12 AT CENTRAL NOBLE
Any way you cut it, a trip to Albion is big. Last season, East Noble hosted the Cougars and beat them 38-34; the first time they had played their county rival in six seasons. The two Noble County schools are close in distance and skill, so it should be a very good game on top of the rivalry.
Then there is Kimmel, who will downplay – as he should – his involvement in the rivalry. But before he made the coaching move over to East Noble on the boys side, he was an assistant for Central Noble under current coach Josh Treesh and on the bench when the Cougars won their Class 2A state title in 2018.
“I was a part of a lot of success there. I think, as I will address with the girls, this is a contest of the East Noble girls basketball team versus the Central Noble girls basketball team. This game is going to be decided by them,” Kimmel said. “Do we play with the type of effort that it takes to beat a top notch Central Noble program?”
AVAN BEISWANGER, SENIOR
Coming off an injury, Beiswanger really slid back into a solid role as a junior. She averaged 7.8 points and was a double digit scorer in four of the team’s last six games. She brings an underrated versatility and strength for the Knights lineup, also adding to a solid senior leadership.
“Avan has a motor that just does not stop. She is as quick as you can be, she is a workout machine in the weight room. Her goal is to be squatting 200 [pounds] before Christmas,” Kimmel said. “She has worked her butt off. Avan is one of those kids who just cares about the end result, she doesn’t care if she scores or who scores; as long as we win, she is happy.”