The Carroll girls basketball program’s pursuit of an eighth consecutive district championship will come about in a far different manner in 2015-2016.
A younger team in the backcourt complemented by experience in the post and at the wing gives head coach Teri Morrison the tools. Two weeks into the season, the Lady Dragons (4-1 before this past Friday’s play) are in the midst of trying to create chemistry and a little more consistency offensively. The Lady Dragons are also still trying to settle into a philosophy that works well for them on both ends of the floor.
With the Kennedy Leonard era now history, Morrison has turned the offense over to sophomore Brooke Lay (5-3). Lay served as Leonard’s understudy in 2014-2015, so it’s not like she’s walking into this cold. Preparation began in the offseason.
“There’s no way you can replace Kennedy because she was the most gifted floor-passing presence that I’ve ever been around,” Morrison said. “But with anything, it’s next person up. But the thing about Brooke is that she does everything fundamentally well and is a good defender. Each time she plays, she grows into the position.”
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Leonard’s absence is not the only thing that’s changed. Carroll had to replace seven seniors from the 2014-2015 team that went 26-7 and played in the regional quarterfinals.
Lay (9.4 PPG, 2.4 APG) is splitting time running the offense with freshman Kayla Colan (2.0 ppg, 1.2 apg). Morrison said the two are interchangeable. The more ball handlers, the better.
“This is a completely different team,” Morrison said. “We’re not the transition team like we have been in the past. But we like our high-low game.”
Speaking of high-low
The Leonard-to-Lay transition of last season was similar to what the Lady Dragons are now experiencing in the front court. Senior Anna Hurlburt (6-2) is using this season to push the program as far as she can but also prepare to play at the Division I level. Hurlburt has signed with Arkansas-Little Rock.
Hurlburt is sharing the post with freshman Gabby McBride (6-2). For now, Hurlburt is carrying it more on the offensive end while McBride continues to make the adjustment to the varsity level.
That’s a good thing, because Hurlburt in on pace to have her best season at Carroll. Thus far, Hurlburt is averaging 16.8 points, 7.8 rebounds and shooting 56 percent from the field. For McBride, she’s at 2.4 and 4.8. That’s not a concern for Morrison.
“Gabby is a great rebounder, runs the floor and is mature for picking it up at this stage,” Morrison said. “I’d like for more point production. But it’s a process. There’s a big landscape in 6A. The more she works, the more she will get better.”
Junior wing Priscilla Smeenge (6-0) is already fielding Division I offers. She holds at least nine including Colorado, Arkansas, Kansas State and Texas Tech.
Her season is off to an interesting start. Smeenge is averaging 13.2 points but shooting just 31 percent from the field. But shooters and scorers typically find a way to shoot their way out of funks.
“She’s scored a lot of points but struggling with consistency with her shooting percentage,” Morrison said. “But I like the way she’s running the floor and playing defense.”