MC girls suffer heavy graduation losses, but still hope to compete

By on December 5, 2012

Lititz Record Express file photoManheim Central's Caroline Novak (right), shown here driving to the basket against Lancaster Mennonite in the 2011-12 season, is returning from an injury shortened season to help provide senior leadership for the Lady Barons this winter.

The Manheim Central girls basketball team will begin a new era this winter under first-year skipper Dan Cotchen, who formerly served as the Ephrata girls head coach before moving on to work in the York Catholic and Solanco girls programs in more recent years.

Cotchen inherits a basketball team that graduated six seniors from the squad that won the Section Three title and finished with a 15-9 record, including First-Team All-Stars Morgan Mummau (6.2 ppg, 31 treys) and Renee Wiegand (11.1 ppg), along with Breanna Barber (6.2 ppg), Lindsay Fink (4.5 ppg, 20 treys), Maddy Novak and Taylor Stoltz.

The Lady Barons open their 2012-13 season this Friday playing Cotchen’s former team, Ephrata, in the opening round of the Fleetwood Tip-Off Tournament. On Saturday, they will face either Northern Lehigh or host Fleetwood.

Lititz Record sports editor Bruce Morgan recently caught up with Cotchen to get his thoughts about the 2012-13 team and the upcoming season. The following is a transcript of their conversation.

Bruce Morgan: How are things going so far with your team?

Dan Cotchen: I think things are progressing nicely. We’ve had two scrimmages and looked pretty good in some areas in both. We scrimmaged Bishop McDevitt early on up at their gym and then got an opportunity to host Lebanon. And again, we looked at some areas of the game where we look like we’re pretty strong on, or I guess better than other areas. Offensively, we’re starting to adapt to the offense we’re trying to run. Defensively, we’re trying to be aggressive and really just be consistent on both ends of the court.

BM: What kind of offense are you running this season?

DC: We are running an offense that focuses on passing the ball efficiently and moving without the basketball and cutting hard. That’s our offensive philosophy.

BM: Do you feel like you have the pieces to run that offense successfully?

DC: I think we do. Really, with all the girls being together in the gym for only two or two and a half weeks now, it certainly isn’t going to be something that we’re going to run efficiently all the time. Assistant coach Jackson and I understand that and we understand that every day in the gym, we try to put a little different piece of the puzzle together to the point where hopefully later on in the season, things are running smoothly and efficiently on offense, the girls are seeing reads on the offense without us pointing them out and that kind of thing. I think offense is just one puzzle piece at a time, just one step at a time, and every night in the gym, you kinda just build on that concept.

BM: I know you lost a lot of seniors last year with Breanna Barber, Lindsay Fink, Morgan Mummau, Maddy Novak, Renee Wiegand and Taylor Stoltz to graduation. I know you weren’t around with that team last year, but do you feel like you’re rebuilding a little bit this year or are you reloading?

DC: Well, I kinda think to be fair to the players, they know that there is a sense of success that happens at Manheim Central and they know the past Section titles and playoff appearances that they’ve been to, and they don’t have to be told that that’s something that they’re striving for — get back to those goals. But to be fair, it’s my first year here, they’re a young basketball team. I think from a goal-setting standpoint, let’s focus on the game at hand. Let’s take care of the game at hand. Do what we’ve got to do to compete and try to win that game, and once we win that game, then we take a look at the next and we build that way. I think it might be maybe a little unfair just to kinda put those Section championship aspirations (on them) right from the get-go because they’re still trying to learn the offense, they’re trying to learn the defense. But in the back of their minds, that certainly is a goal that they hope they achieve.

BM: You said you have a young group. Do you not have many seniors on this year’s team?

DC: We’ve got three seniors. Point guard Kristin Robeson probably is the senior that has seen the most playing time. Caroline Novak lost some time last year due to injury, and our third senior is Logan Newcomer.

BM: Are all three of those girls going to start?

DC: Through the course of the season, I’m sure they’ll all get an opportunity to start. Again, what we do is we try to put (together) different looks every day and different pieces of the puzzle, but certainly all three of those through the course of the year will get a chance to start.

BM: Tell me about the rest of the team and what you have.

DC: From the juniors standpoint, we’ve got Lauree Wiegand (5-foot-8) who is a nice sized forward, good ball handler, ferocious rebounder. Sarah Painter (5-foot-8) is another forward that can score for us, give us leadership and that kind of thing. Probably our biggest player, Kelli Barber (5-foot-10), is a good post player. She’s very good at the fundamentals of a post player — screening, rebounding, that kind of thing. Sophomores, we’ve got Olivia Novak, who’s a very good aggressive defensive guard for us. So we’ve got some pieces there we feel we can build on.

BM: How do you like the size of this year’s team?

DC: As I told the girls, I don’t really perceive us as being a rather tall team or a big team in that regard. We do have some tall players, but I wouldn’t consider us a really big basketball team. Again, I wouldn’t consider us necessarily overall a really quick team. I think we’ve got some quick players and we’ve got some height. I think we’ve got some positions where maybe we’ve got one or two guards that are on the big side and that kind of thing. But again, I wouldn’t necessarily just classify us as a big team.

BM: Without a lot of size, how do you see yourselves guarding some of the bigger players that you’ll face in the league?

DC: Certainly, we’re going to have our scouts out taking some film, sitting down with coach Jackson and I and our other assistant coaches and looking at our matchups and how we can go about playing them. We’re going to have to be a team that’s comfortable playing a zone if we have to, we’re going to have to be a team that’s comfortable playing man when we have to, and we’re going to have to be comfortable playing both of those in full court and half court settings. So we’re going to have to be ready to play different types of defense using the entire court.

BM: You lost a lot of point scorers from last year’s team. Are you confident that you can make up for the points that you lost from 2011-12?

DC: If we hope to compete, we’re going to have to be confident in that regard. I don’t see any one player necessarily being what would be the 15, 16-point scorer. I see quite a few players that are capable of being in that four to eight-point range. We did challenge the team earlier this week that we need a couple of people to step up and be consistent scorers. We’re still looking for those consistent scorers. But the call is out to the team for some players to step up in that regard. We feel we’ve got some people to do that. We also feel we’ve got some people that can just add to our consistent scoring as well.

BM: You’ve probably got some inexperience on the team with the big group of seniors graduating from last year. How big of a concern is that for you that you’ve got some underclassmen stepping into some different roles this year?

DC: We don’t think one that we lack is leadership. We feel good about the leadership that we have from the senior class. Kristin Robeson played last year, Caroline Novak was playing up until her knee injury, so they’re our team captains. We’ve got some juniors that are also helping the younger players out and taking that leadership role as well, knowing it’s not just three seniors that are leaders, but any upperclassmen is offering that. So we think we’ve got some leadership on the team. I like the attitude of the kids. They work hard, they’re focused, they’re trying to do the best they can at learning their offense and defense. When they’ve got a question and a concern, like, ‘How do I go about making this read?,’ they speak up and ask questions and that kind of thing. We’ve got a good focused group with a good basketball attitude.

BM: We talked a little about the fact that it would be unfair to put Section championship aspirations on this group, but do you feel like you can compete with the top teams in Section Three?

DC: I spent most of my time in Section Two (the last two seasons) and the crossover games were in Section One. I’ve got a vague idea of some of the star players, so to speak, of the Northern Lebanons and Lampeter-Strasburgs. But until we get our scouts out taking a look a look and seeing what the supporting roles are and things like that, we’ll get a better handle on that. We think we’ve got the people and the desire to play with the Lampeter-Strasburgs and the Northern Lebanons and that’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to play hard, we’re going to work hard and we’re going to line up and compete.

BM: Do you feel like this can be a playoff team?

DC: I think that if that’s not one of your goals, it certainly should be. Again, we think that we’re going to be a good basketball team. We’re a young team, we may skin our knee along the way and have to pick ourselves up. But I really think once we get after Christmas and we’ve got some games under our belt — we’ve got eight of our first 12 games on the road and (we need to) survive that stretch and I think it’s seven out of 11 at home then to end the season. We think that we ought to be right up there knocking on the doorstep at one of those two playoff spots.

BM: What do you hope to learn from the early stretch of the season? How important is it to get off to a good start?

DC: Any season, you want to open up strong, you want to get some wins under your belt, you want to play well. That will certainly lead to confidence and it’s going to make you strong. And once we get into those crossover and we get into our league games, if you’re playing good and you’re playing confident, then you’re all set for those important league games. More LADY BARONS, page B-4

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