West Holmes girls have what it takes for another Final Four run

By KEVIN LYNCH Staff Writer Published:

The Knights have 10 players back from last year's team that finished 24-4, falling to Hathaway Brown in the state championship game.

The team returns a year older, wiser, stronger and hungrier.

"Our team was tried and tested last year," said seventh-year head coach of the Knights Lisa Patterson. "We hope those experiences can create an atmosphere of desire and challenge. We snuck up on a lot of teams last year. We weren't state ranked. We really didn't have anything to lose. We were just out there to play.

"These kids compete every day… every day," the coach continued. "I never have to remind them what it's all about.

West Holmes will have six seniors this year, three of whom have been playing varsity minutes for the past three years.

Senior Rachelle Morrison shares the point guard duties with junior Emily Molnar. Morrison came on strong at the end of last season, nailing one big shot after another to help the Knights advance as far as they did. She averaged nearly nine points per game and led the team with 69 assists, two more than Molnar, who chipped in five points and three rebounds per game.

Senior Justice Wright is another marksman who provides plenty of offensive pop off the bench to go with some tough, in-your-face defense. Wright was sixth on the team in scoring with 121 points last season, and was tied for second on the team with 55 steals.

Another senior, post Mallori Vess started on the post and knows how to clean up and finish around the basket. She averaged almost five points and four rebounds per game last year.

Vess was a nice inside counter attack to first team All-Ohioan Laina Snyder. The versatile 6-foot junior comes off a campaign in which she scored 14.9 points and grabbed 10.6 rebounds per game.

"Our strength is our inside and outside presence," Patterson said. "When you have an inside and an outside presence, you're not one dimensional."

With Vess and Snyder doing the work inside, a bevy of guards provide plenty of options outside, including record-setting 3-point marksman Paiten Strother. The junior sharpshooter eclipsed Christa Wells' 3-point record by drilling 57 triples on the year.

Maria Straits and Natalie Abraham have been valuable extras who have made their mark at the end of games, cleaning up lopsided wins. Straits is an excellent shooter and Abraham is a powerful force inside.

"Those kids help you get better every day in practice," Patterson said. "When they get minutes in the game, that's an added bonus. They've put in a lot of time, and a lot of hard work. Kids like them who stick around in your program even as role players are the type that make your team better."

A pair of solid sophomores who will also be vying for playing time are Alex Brown and Alex Starr, plus an influx of another strong freshman class have West Holmes loaded and eager for action. Freshmen Brittleigh Macaulay and Hannah Clark will also be looking for time on the court.

Patterson says the team has the right mental attitude about who is playing. The girls know what they need to do when they are on the floor.

"I think their unselfishness will allow for the flow of the game," she said. "There's not one kid out here that won't give the ball up when they should."

The biggest thing the Knights need to work on this season is taking care of the basketball.

"Last year we turned the ball over way too much," Patterson said. "Hopefully that problem is remedied this year with the experience we gained."

West Holmes coughed the ball up 450 times but also forced their opponents into 526 turnovers.

Goals the team has set forth for this year are to win the Ohio Cardinal Conference and to win their last game.

The Knights went 13-1 in the conference last season, falling only to Wooster.

"Orrville is probably the top opponent in the OCC. Wooster will be competitive. They lost a lot of seniors," Patterson said.

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