Here come the Patriots and everyone should be on notice. Read that again. Everyone.
Jay County, at this point, is again outgrowing much of the ACAC in terms of talent. No knock on those other 6 ACAC teams, just praising what the Patriots can do. Jay County has lost two conference games in the past seven seasons and have six conference titles to show for it. If that isn’t ownership over a league, what is?
The Patriots return their top three scorers and rebounders from last season. While overall success outside of the ACAC and into the postseason will rely on quality minutes from reserve players and finding true depth, the top end is a heavy place for Jay County.
Renna Schwieterman returns for her junior season and she has filled the stat sheets every stretch of the way in the past two seasons. An OTH All-Area player last season, Schwieterman averaged 18.2 points and six rebounds per game. She can do a little bi too everything but she is a high end scorer who is going to challenge being the top overall scorer in the area this season.
Back too are seniors Madison Dirksen and Izzy Rodgers. Both of them are expected lay out some intangible moments for the Patriots. They can each provide in many assets of the game. Dirksen averaged 12.9 points and 7.3 rebounds per game while hitting 47 percent inside the ark. Rodgers averaged 8.1 points and shot a whopping 84 percent from the free throw line.
Each of those three players are leaders in the team’s philosophy of getting to the rim any way they can. They fight for every inch into the paint and their free throw numbers show that when someone tries to slow them, they can still convert and effect the game because of their hard charging effort and first steps. The duo of Dirksen and Rodgers also are big leaders on the defensive end.
Another junior returns in Gabi Gilbrey. She adds toughness to the interior and averaged 4.3 rebounds while shooting 59 percent inside the arc. She will be critical on interior depth and accenting Dirksen in high/low actions. Sophomore Sophie Saxman returns as another forward in the rotations.
Where coach Kirk Comer turns from there will be something that is ever flowing early in the season. Junior guard Maebry McIntire will get some time in the backcourt. Then there are a pair of sophomores with familiar Jay County surnames will also compete for time; they are Breanna Dirksen and Molly Muhlenkamp.
This clearly starts with Renna Schwieterman, who has broken way out as one of the best players the ACAC has seen in the last decade. But there is so much experience and skill behind her and knowledge on the sideline with coach Kirk Comer that you have to take Jay County seriously.
This is a team that won 19 games last year and brings back most of the players of consequence from that team. Comer has been around a lot. He has won 178 games at Jay County and has coached in 565 over the last 26 seasons, 11 of which have been with the Patriots. You can’t replicate that type of experience. Comer has had winning seasons in each of his past 18, winning titles at Jay County, Winchester, Monroe Central and Union City.
WHY NOT HIGHER
Can an ACAC team show that they can really be as good as the top SAC and NE8 teams? Last year, the Patriots split that, falling short against the SAC grind, but beating two of the best in the NE8 with wins over Norwell and Bellmont. Jay County has a lot of talent and an ambitious schedule once again.
Quality wins early in the season will go a long way in proving that Jay County is in the thick of the race for the area’s best team but we want to see it to believe it. By the time we get to December, we could have a good pulse on who the Patriots are. Until then, we are holding here.
November 13 at North Central
Talk about a measuring stick. Fresh off a season opening game against South Side that will be no joke either, Jay County is going to take on a tough test in Indianapolis. The reality is this: we are going to find out very quickly if Jay County is all around really good or ACAC really good.
The Patriots fell to North Central last year but this is a stronger, more developed team. It just really tells us a lot about the Patriots.
Madison Dirksen, senior
Her interior presence is the most crucial part of the game. As Jay County has the ability to play off her in the post, be it high post or low off the block, Dirksen opens up the floor for the Patriots. She can get shooters open or attack on her own from 15 feet in.