Port Allegany Reporter Argus
Thursday, Jan. 8, 2009
At first glance, with only two seniors on the roster, one could easily mistake this year’s Lady Gators basketball team for a young and inexperienced squad. But there are six returning letterwinners – including four starters – on that list, leading head coach Kristina Francis to believe otherwise.
“I think it helps that they’ve played a lot,” she said. “These girls have played some summer ball together, and they’ve played a lot of varsity games. Most of them have played since their freshman year, even the juniors, so really, they have essentially almost three years of varsity together. We also have some sophomores who have seen some time with the older girls, and they’re doing a nice job as well. So we’ve got a good group of about 10 girls.”
The two seniors, co-captains Kari Drabert and Jenn Anderson, are part of a balanced scoring attack. Through the first seven games on the schedule, five different players were averaging at least six points per game.
“We don’t always have the same scorers,” Francis explained. “We have six girls that can put up double figures. The juniors and seniors can all put up 10 points on any night if they want to, which is nice because it doesn’t allow other teams to key on Jenn Anderson or Shanel Halle. They have to focus on the team rather than on just stopping one girl. Plus, we have the sophomores – Renee Edgell has already scored in double figures this year, Kyley Mickle, they’re all capable of scoring in double figures. So that’s nice, as far as the offense goes.”
Francis expects forwards Anderson and Edgell to handle the bulk of the work in the paint, with junior guards Halle and Kaitlyn Kio also able to move into the post. “Shanel’s a key player for us,” she said. “She can easily put up 15 points for us if we get her on track. Kaitlyn has a nice baseline drive, and she can score from the inside, and she has some range with the 3-point shot.”
Amarae Reinard, Kari Drabert, and Brittany Drabert share the point guard position. “Amarae is more of a defensive specialist,” Francis said. “We really focus on having her guard the toughest guard every game. She’s been our key at stopping the other team’s guard that shoots and scores. Brittany and Kari are our sparkplugs. They can start, or even come off the bench and give us a nice little boost at any time, offensively or defensively.”
The Lady Gators finished the 2008 portion of the schedule with a 3-4 record and a split in the school’s Christmas tournament, falling to a tough Austin team 51-41 in the championship game after easily handling archrival Smethport 59-31 in the opening round. Now, it’s on to the North Tier League, where Francis and longtime assistant coach Tracy Kio expect to improve on last season’s 11-14 record (5-9 in league).
“With the depth of the returning players, I would like to see us at the top of the North Tier at the end of the year,” Francis said. “Last year, we made it to the first round of districts, but we played Coudersport, which went on to win the district championship. But I wasn’t disappointed with the way we finished. Coudersport had a very strong team last year, but we held our own.”
Francis, now in her fifth season as head coach and seventh with the program, is also planning for the future. “We’re leaving the sophomores and freshmen on the JV team to get the experience, because you can never guarantee them any playing time in the varsity game,” she said. “But all five of them are doing a nice job stepping into the roles that they’re asked to on the varsity. You can’t complain when you have depth like that. So hopefully I’m going to use them wisely this season, and produce some wins.”