It was a tale of two seasons for Coach Dave Miller and Concordia Lutheran a year ago.
On one hand, the Cadets reached double-digit victories for the 17th consecutive season, all under Miller.
But on the other, a program that prides itself as being a a contender in the SAC and in the postseason finished with just five league victories and without a sectional title for the second straight year while struggling to be competitive against the likes of Homestead, Carroll and Bishop Luers.
But a new year means renewed expectations, especially for a team that returns four of its top six scorers, including senior Chanteese Craig (10.6 ppg, 7.2 rpg), but also some talented youngsters with experience such as sophomore Annaka Nelson (5.7 ppg).
“Every year is new, but it is nice that we can kind of start up where we left off with this group,” Miller said. “But these kids know the system and it helps tremendously.”
Junior LonDynn Betts did not score in bunches a year ago at just under five points per game, but she is one of the better one-on-one defenders in the league and may be the best Cadets shooter under pressure, as well as its leading assists player last year at 2.1 per contest.
Chanteese Craig’s sister Chastity Craig is not as prolific a scorer as her sibling, but she can defend positions two through five and is extremely difficult to deal with around the bucket.
Senior Rhaya Kaschinske (2.6 ppg) brings high energy to the floor in the backcourt and is another solid defender, an aspect of the game that Miller always preaches with his teams.
Junior Cerenity Adams saw some spot duty as a freshman on the varsity squad last year. Miller feels confident in allowing her to handle the ball at times in the backcourt.
While Miller knows plenty about his group that is returning, uncertainty reigns when it comes to Covid and the schedule. Like many coaches, Miller is already thinking about potential changes to the schedule, with one already happening with the cancellation of the SAC Holiday Tournament.
“We are already looking into some games to replace the tournament and I have already started making notes in case we have to pick up others,” Miller said. “It’s a touch and go thing, we will make the best of it.”
With a wealth of experience back and a lot of talent to work with, Coach Dave Miller’s Cadets should improve upon their 14 wins from a year ago. The duo of Chanteese and Chastity Craig give this team a one-two inside punch that not many area teams can match.
This team is perennially one of the top defensive squads around, something that keeps them in a majority of games even if the offense struggles. That should be the case again in 2020-21.
WHY NOT HIGHER?
Elsewhere offensively, Concordia must improve. It shot just 31 percent from three and 58 percent from the free-throw line a year ago. Neither of those averages are going to get the Cadets very far.
The depth is also a question. Concordia Lutheran will have just eight regular varsity players, although will likely dress some from its JV squad, something the program didn’t have last year. When facing foul trouble or, unfortunately, quarantine issues, the Cadets may not be able to replace a few missing players, giving Coach Miller little margin for error.
Dec. 11 vs. Carroll
A year ago, an 18-point loss at Carroll started a run of seven defeats in 10 games for the Cadets, including three by three points or less.
It is tough to put Concordia in the SAC title conservation, but a win against Carroll in this one would set the tone for a stretch that was costly last year.
Chastity Craig, senior
Chanteese Craig has developed into a double-double threat, but sister Chastity was not as effective as a junior, averaging just 2.2 points and 3.0 rebounds per game.
The forward was only able to reach double digits once all last year, a 10-point effort against Valparaiso.
If Chastity can elevate her game and become a complement in the post to her sister, Concordia will have a pair of legit scoring threats around the bucket that will take some of the load off the backcourt.