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Columbus East's Allyson Bunch, right, drives to the basket against Greenwood defender Kelsie Ratliff in a Jan. 12 game at the Orange Pit in Columbus. Bunch, who averaged 20.2 points a game last season, won't be able to play this season until January because of a torn ACL she suffered during summer basketball. PHOTO BY ANDREW LAKER
When Columbus East girls basketball coach Danny Brown goes into most seasons, he probably wonders how long it will take for his players to learn.
This season, he is wondering how long it will take for them to heal.
All three of his full-time returning starters from this past season’s 17-7 squad are injured.
Megan Galle, a 5-foot-8 small forward, will miss her sophomore season because of a torn ligament in her wrist suffered playing tennis.
AT A GLANCE
Columbus East Olympians
LAST YEAR’S RECORD: 17-7
COACH: Danny Brown
KEY LOSSES: F Kate Christman, G Courtney Ogle
RETURNING STARTERS: 5-10 Jr. Allyson Bunch (20.2 ppg), 5-7 Jr. Katie Ritenour (3.5 ppg), 5-6 Jr. Courtney Hunter (3.9 ppg)
OTHER KEY RETURNERS: 5-7 Jr. Molly Macy (1.3 ppg), Mikayla Lomax (11.0 ppg)
The other two, 5-10 junior forward Allyson Bunch and 5-7 junior guard Katie Ritenour, aren’t due back until January after both tore an ACL playing basketball in June.
Bunch averaged 20.2 points a game last season and was expected to be one of the top players in the state. In a first-round sectional win against Bloomington North, she set a school record by scoring 45 points. Bloomington North was giving up only 48 points a game at the time.
When Bunch and Ritenour do return, there is no guarantee they will be back at full speed right away.
“First, you feel so bad for the kids,” Brown said. “But it does create a unique opportunity for the other kids.”
A perennial power under Brown, East does have talented players on the roster who will get a chance to develop. Courtney Hunter, a 5-6 junior guard, assumed a starting role this past season and showed a lot of potential. “She is a real good defensive player,” Brown said. “And she has improved her outside shot.”
The other starting guard is Molly Macy, who didn’t make any starts this past season but did play in 14 games. “She is very fast, very quick and a great defender,” Brown said.
Mikala Lomax, a 5-9 forward and the only senior on the team, suffered a torn ACL in the fourth game of this past season and missed the rest of the year.
“She was a starter,” Brown said. “We have to depend on her to score. She is a pure shooter who is very quick inside.”
Brown, who is starting his 10th season as East’s head coach, never had a player with a torn ACL until this past year, and now he has three.
At the other forward will be 5-9 freshman Audrey Wetzel. Brown was asked if Wetzel was a raw talent.
“She wouldn’t be there if she wasn’t talented,” he said. “She is really good at getting to the basket, and she is one of our best defensive players.
At center will be 6-3 junior Sarah Loesch, who started just one game in 2011-12.
“She definitely has improved her post game. She can hit a 15-foot shot when needed. But we need her to control the boards for us.”
Other players vying for time will be 5-10 sophomore forward Kristen Bellinger and 5-5 freshman forward Lyric Jackson. Providing depth will be 5-5 sophomore guard Mackenzie Bean, 5-8 freshman forward Bryn Eudy, 5-6 sophomore guard Brooke Ballard and 5-9 sophomore forward Abigail Wilson.
“I just have to be patient with them,” Brown said of his players. “Coming into a season, we’ve always had high expectations. That’s probably not the case with this season. But our goal always has been to improve the players, and that still is my goal.
“The rewards are going to be seeing these kids improve. We will see if we can put it all together. We know it’s going to take time.”
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