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Banking on experience: Jennings County girls hoops team looking for leaders to step up

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THE Jennings County girls basketball team is eager to rebound this year after a 0-21 season.

Many Panthers have spent the offseason working on fundamentals by playing club basketball. The team faced Scottsburg in its season-opener Friday, and the coaching staff is looking forward to a successful 2012-13 season.

“We’ve had a good offseason,” third-year head coach Carrie Manowitz said before the first game. “Our practices have gone well.”

One of the team’s strengths will be its experience. Because of the team’s lack of depth in the past two seasons, several Panthers saw time at the varsity level before they were ready. That shouldn’t be the case this season. The five juniors and seniors all have varsity experience.

“This season, we’ll be playing players at levels that they should be playing,” Manowitz said. “There will be very few players splitting time between the junior varsity and the varsity this year.”

Roster stability and offseason workouts in the weight room a couple of times each week with the volleyball team has boosted the team’s morale.

“We’ve worked hard on all areas of our game,” Manowitz said. “We are anxious to win.”

The team was able to test itself recently when it played Columbus East in a controlled preseason scrimmage. During each quarter, teams had to employ certain defenses against their opponent. At the end of each quarter, the score was reset and the game began again. Although scrimmages differ from practices, they have a different tempo from regular-season contests.

“It’s especially different when you’re playing against a (Hoosier Hills) conference team,” Manowitz said.

“We played some defenses that we may or we may not use. It gave our coaching staff a chance to see our team play against someone else besides us.”

Manowitz and her staff were generally pleased with the results of the scrimmage. The Panthers used their strength to play more aggressively with the Olympians than they did in last year’s scrimmage. However, the zone defense still puzzles the Panthers, who averaged more than 20 turnovers per game last season.

“We had a slow-down when we had to play zone defense,” Manowitz said. “But we had a good start to the scrimmage and some moments throughout it that we were proud of. Many of our breakdowns were fixable areas.”

For the Panthers to win consistently this season, they must cut down on turnovers and continue to display the consistent effort they have in practices and rely on their veterans to improve and provide leadership. Manowitz expects junior Emma Campbell to continue to develop as a scoring threat, while she and junior swingman Emily Ertel focus on rebounding. The development of point guard Kiersten Biggs also will be a key to the team’s success.

“Our veteran players all need to step up and bring their strengths to the table,” Manowitz said.

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