HOPE — A Hauser girls basketball team that struggled after point guard Leslie Sims was lost to an ankle injury midway through last season was back to its old self in Thursday night’s season-opener.
Sims caused havoc for Milan’s offense on the the Jets’ press and weaved her way through defenders before finding an open player on the offensive end. Fellow seniors Abbey Ashbrook and Paige Miller had big games as well in a 71-35 victory.
“I was definitely glad to be out there,” said Sims, who finished with 13 points, five assists and five steals. “It made me feel like I never left. I feel like we’re doing so much better right now, compared to where we ever were last year.”
The basketball game was the culmination of an eventful day for the 5-foot-5 senior. Sims, who returned from the injury to lead the Hauser softball team to the Class A state title in the spring, signed a national letter of intent to play softball at Indiana State on Thursday afternoon.
“My last first (basketball) game and signing for college — it was a big day,” Sims said.
Thursday also was a big day for Ashbrook and Miller. Ashbrook scored a game-high 19 points, while Miller added 14 points and eight rebounds.
“I think we’re looking strong,” Ashbrook said. “I like our chemistry between our starting five and our subs. We have a few things to work on, but overall I think it’s a big improvement from where we were at this time last season.”
Eleven of Miller’s 14 points came in the first quarter. The first five of those sparked a 17-0 run after the Jets had fallen behind 4-0.
“It got our confidence up from being down,” Miller said. “Then, we all just worked together as a team. We still have some work to do, but for being our first game, we did good.”
The Indians (0-3) committed 15 turnovers in the first quarter, with Hauser jumping out to a 23-8 lead after the first eight minutes.
“With a veteran ballclub, that’s what we have to do,” Hauser coach Brad Hamilton said. “We have to use that experience to come out from the get-go and establish the tempo and establish the press.”
The Jets ended up forcing 38 turnovers for the game and outrebounding Milan 45-38. Tessa Sims scored eight points and matched Miller with eight rebounds.
“One thing I’m really proud about is the hustle,” Hamilton said. “I think we really showed that we’re ready to work hard this year and not let up. I want to keep that intensity up, even if I rotate people in.”
Nine of the 10 Hauser players who saw action scored at least two points, and all 10 had at least one rebound.
“Tonight was a game where we experimented a lot,” Hamilton said. “We changed defenses. When you get a big lead like that, you’re not as focused on pounding constantly. We have to work on some things.”
The Jets, who battled injuries to several players last season, didn’t come away from the opener completely unscathed. Sophomore Grace Hasler, who stepped in at the point after Leslie Sims was injured last season, sprained an ankle in the first quarter of the JV game.