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It’s time to break out the basketballs.
While most fall sports are winding down, high school girls basketball practice begins today throughout the state, and hopes are high for big seasons at Bartholomew County schools. Columbus North, Columbus East and Hauser all return four girls who started most of last season.
North will enter the 2013-14 campaign on a 37-game regular-season winning streak. The Bull Dogs went 25-1 last year, won Conference Indiana and sectional titles and were ranked No. 1 in the state for most of the season. They lost to eventual Class 4A state champion Bedford North Lawrence in the regional semifinals.
Three Division I recruits return to lead North in senior guards Tayler Goodall (Florida Gulf Coast) and Kelsey Cunningham (Wisconsin-Milwaukee) and junior guard Ali Patberg (Notre Dame). Junior forward Hannah Poindexter also was a starter, and the Bull Dogs have added talented freshman guard Maliah Howard.
“I think our players are excited,” North coach Pat McKee said. “We’ve had an efficient preseason. Kids have worked hard, and I think they’re in good condition. Unfortunately, we have a few nagging injuries, but we’re hoping to get them healthy.”
The biggest of those has been to Patberg, who sat out almost two months after injuring her foot in a travel team game this summer. Patberg recently began conditioning and participated in an open gym for first time Tuesday.
“She’s getting better by the day and by the week,” McKee said. “She’s pretty much cleared to do everything now, and it’s just a matter of getting her in game condition. Unless there’s some setback that we can’t anticipate, by the first game, she should be able to play.”
East had a much better offseason than the previous one, when a couple key players were injured. Senior Allyson Bunch, an IPFW recruit, is back to full health after missing the first half of last season with an ACL injury, and junior Megan Galle is back after missing all but two games of last season following wrist surgery.
“We had a good summer and found out a lot about some players,” East coach Danny Brown said. “The main thing is, everybody is healthy at this point. Our expectations at East are always high.”
Bunch and sophomore Audrey Wetzel started at forward last season, and seniors Courtney Hunter and Molly Macy were starting guards for a team that went 10-11. The Olympians have added junior guard Brooke Ballard, who was limited to junior varsity competition last year after transferring from North.
“I look forward to every year,” Brown said. “The excitement of starting a new season has always been the thing.”
Hauser has a new coach in Brad Hamilton. Nine of the Jets’ 13 returning players and two freshmen are members of the Hauser volleyball team, which played in the sectional Saturday.
“It’s probably going to be a little slow for us getting going,” Hamilton said. “We haven’t done any conditioning, and I know East and North have been heavy into conditioning.”
Sophomores Leslie Sims and Paige Miller, junior Ellie Trotter and Erynn Shaw, the team’s lone senior, are the returning starters from a 6-14 squad. Sophomore Abbey Ashbrook missed most of last year with leg and ankle injuries, but started at the end of the season.
“I still have high hopes,” Hamilton said. “We will work hard, and I’m eager to see what we can accomplish. I’m certainly not going to use a late start as an excuse for anything. I think we have a great opportunity, and it we can get a couple games early and get some momentum, it will chart a new course.”
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