Playing with just freshman and sophomores on the varsity a year ago really isn’t what Saginaw Chisholm Trail coach Lindy Lombard called a true varsity experience.
While it might not have been a year ago it has paid dividends Tuesday when the Rangers beat Saginaw 41-37 and put Chisholm Trail (14-10, 9-4) in position to qualify for the post season in just their second year.
Saginaw dropped to 17-7, 9-3 with the loss.
Beating Saginaw “was the biggest win for our program so far,” Lombard said. “Leadership is a big factor we didn’t have last year, but we are starting to see some emerge and become more vocal not only in practice but in games. Some of them have truly grown so much over the course and the season and understanding the game.”
The season didn’t start off with Lombard thinking playoffs rather just trying to survive and get better.
“We struggled early-on and had back-to-back tournaments where we didn’t have a good showing,” Lombard said. “It took a lot of patience and just working week after week. There wasn’t a game early on that was a turning point we were just thinking we would be lucky to be in the top five or six teams.”
Two weeks ago, the Rangers lost to first-place Saginaw Boswell, 34-32. A defeat, but also a positive sign.
“The first half when we played some of the top teams close really gave us some confidence and showed we could compete,” Lombard said. “There are still a lot of things we can improve on, but if we just take care of business we will be in good shape.”
Sophomore Krystal Eppright has been one of the team’s leaders on offense running the point, while the team’s leading scorer is freshman post Laci Hawthorne who puts up 17 points and nine rebounds per contest. Another sophomore Jada Martin has stepped up key in their past couple games including hitting a couple shots from behind the arc against Saginaw.
“Krystal is just one of those kids who doesn’t know how good she can be,” Lombard said. “She is very team oriented and wants to make those around here better, but she does a great job of taking care of the ball. Laci has been our big scoring threat, but Jordan Wiley has stepped up the past couple games. I’m proud of the kids and they have exceeded our expectations.”