The meat of the Summit Athletic Conference could be a fun one during the 2020-21 season. There are a handful of teams who play with toughness and will compete strongly against each other each night of SAC season. One of those teams you can always count on is Bishop Luers, who Outside the Huddle has picked as our #9 team in the area this preseason.
Bishop Luers has a tough task ahead of them. They have to find a way to fill in for the absence of an experienced senior class lost to graduation, including a program player in Lydia Reimbold, who had led the team during most of her career.
“I don’t think you really replace a Lydia Reimbold. But we are going to try and do it as a team effort and I have three solid starters back. That is a lot of playing time so that is an encouraging fact,” Bishop Luers coach Mark Pixley said.
Those three returners – Janaiya Bright, Delaney Bailey and Anna Parent – will all faced raised expectations after the loss of 60 percent of the Bishop Luers scoring and 52 percent of its rebounding to graduation. That boost will start in the hands of point guard Bright, who continues to see her role increase into her fourth varsity season.
“I talked to her and said ‘you know, you are running the show this year. You are our leader, you are our point guard and we are going to expect you to score a little bit more for us and be more vocal.’ And I think she is ready. She has played on some really good teams and this is her year to shine,” Pixley said of Bright.
Bailey is back for her second year as a Knight after averaging 8 points, 5.6 rebounds and 1.2 steals per contest. Bailey is a lights out shooter for Bishop Luers that hit a team best 35 three pointers at a 34 percent success rate in 2019-20. Pixley expects her to really fill in her mid range game and emphasized her under appreciated rebounding from a year ago. Bailey, stretching the floor out, is able to fill in a lot of what Reimbold did in previous seasons.
Parent returns too after averaging 6.1 points and 4.8 rebounds. Parent plays big in the moment and will be crucial with the Knights’ tough in and out of conference schedule as a player willing to try and make big plays. A fourth returner, Jayla Fikes was forced into some enhanced roles last season due to injuries, but it helped prepare her for a bigger role this season, especially on the defensive end.
“A lot of focus will be on the three returning starters in Anna, Jay and Delaney; scoring, defensive and leadership rolls they take over. Key will be getting the newcomers ready for varsity basketball as we will be tested early with games versus Central Noble, Norwell, Warren Central, South Side and Homestead, just to name, a few before Christmas,” Pixley said. “[Its a] team that will get better each practice and game we have and will be ready for sectionals.”
Pixley expects a few newcomers to contribute as well, including freshman center Addie Shank. Shank will be expected to immediately take up a heavy burden rebounding and has a solid motor to work for those opportunities. Pixley says that Shank has the ability to play outside and inside and he looks forward to her development.
Juniors Hanna Sweeney and Anna Zimmerman will also have the chance to contribute. Sweeney is a 6-foot tall star on the Bishop Luers volleyball team and has not played basketball the past two seasons. Pixley believes her athleticism from volleyball could transfer over nicely and she has a nice touch around the rim.
“We are going to get tested early but I think, since I have been coaching, we are tough nosed, focus on the little things that you can control and be really good at that,” Pixley said. “I think we are going to be one of those teams that kind of surprises people since we lost a lot [to graduation]. I didn’t know what I was going to have but I have been really impressed how hard they work. We can compete with anyone on any given night, that is for sure.”
Bishop Luers is always in the conversation, if for no other reason than the fact they never back down. The Knights, from their head coach down, are always a very confident bunch. It has been several years now since they knocked off Homestead in the Holiday Tournament, but that just serves as a constant, vivid reminder for their players for years that the Knights are not to be ignored. Bishop Luers is always a tough test, every night of the week.
WHY NOT HIGHER?
A strong senior class is gone and the Knights will need to prove they can make up for (but not replace) the lost play of Lydia Reimbold, who has done about everything for them the previous four seasons. There is a lot of scoring, rebounding and leadership that needs to be accounted for. Pixley always finds someone to step up, but they have to do it to prove it.
January 8 at Concordia
The Knights have just four games on their schedule in the month of January, with the vast majority of their play coming before Christmas. This game against Concordia is currently scheduled to be the first game of the new year, but with the SAC Tournament cancellation, more games could get added in this gap. If they are not, this Concordia game will be a vital measuring stick for what Luers may look like come the postseason.
With plenty of experience behind them in November and December, they should be at a peak. Also, without the tournament there is currently a gap from December 18 until this game without play. That is likely to change but expect the Knights to have around 10 day off before this. That means they have time to do any healing they may need too. This may be the truest Luers team we see all season to this point.
Anna Parent, Junior
Parent is a physical player for her size and one who will be looked at to pick up a significant role in the post when it comes to rebounding. Since being thrown to the wolves as freshman, she has showcased a never back down attitude. Immediately, she has to dial in as a leader and fill a vital role for a team that is looking to pass their sure willed identity down to a younger group.