CURWENSVILLE – With only two returning letterwinners from the most successful team in Curwensville Area High School girls basketball history, coach Vic Gearhart is taking a realistic outlook into the 2007-08 season.
\”It\’s going to be a process,\” the second-year Lady Tide coach said. \”We\’ve got a lot of kids without much varsity experience, and it\’s a big step up from junior varsity to varsity.
\”Our goal is to improve each game. We need to learn from the mistakes we make because of our inexperience. Until they actually get out and play at this level, we don\’t know what they\’re capable of, so we\’re going to have to make adjustments.\”
Senior forward Holly Fink and junior guard Hannah Walls are the only holdovers from a surprising 21-8 team that raised the school record for wins, won the Moshannon Valley League and Allegheny Mountain League South Division championships and made the school\’s first appearance in the PIAA Playoffs after bowing 42-33 to Karns City in the District 9 Class A title game.
Both were starters, Walls finishing third in scoring with 190 points and rebounding with 128 and Fink ending up fifth in points with 56 and rebounds with 82.
The only other Lady Tide player with much experience is senior Mindy Desmett, who appeared in 13 games.
Gearhart is counting on that trio and four players up from the jayvees, juniors Alesia Bressler and twins Jenae and Jenessa Stiles and sophomore playmaker Tess Bloom, to be on the court most of the time, at least for the first half of the season.
\”Tess, Hannah and Jenae will be outside, and Holly, Mindy, Alesia and Jenessa will be interchangeable up front,\” Gearhart said. \”We\’re optimistic we\’re going to have some younger kids develop and give us some quality time later through the season.\”
The Lady Tide cannot get into an up-tempo game and must control the pace, according to Gearhart.
\”We can\’t get into a running game, because we don\’t have the personnel that will lend itself to that pace,\” he explained. \”We\’re not a transition team. We\’re going to have to be a half-court team, offensively and defensively.
\”We\’ve got to take better care of the basketball than we did last year, cut down on turnovers and improve on our rebounding on both ends of the floor.
\”Every practice during the season will be important.\”
Gearhart sees Harmony and West Branch as the teams to beat in the MVL.
\”They improved quite a bit through he season and bring everybody back,\” he said.
Always-strong DuBois Central Catholic and veteran Brockway and Ridgway teams will make the AML-South schedule tough for the Lady Tide, which opens with games against West Branch, rival Clearfield and Elk County Catholic next week.
Gearhart, who was Curwensville boys coach from 1984-85 through 1989-90 and girls coach in 1995-96, will be assisted by Dawna Coons, Jerry Bloom and Bob Eshelman.
The Lady Tide was hit hard by 2007 graduation as all-time scoring leader Dani Struble, all-time rebound and assist leader Jackie White, Ronna Knepp and Shannon Hamm departed.
Struble and White were four-year letterwinners and two-time MVL and AML all-stars. They played on Lady Tide teams that also finished atop the MVL and AML-South in 2006 and the MVL in 2004.
After a brilliant senior season, in which she led District 9 in scoring with 547 points and an 18.9 average, Struble finished third in balloting for the D9Sports.com All-American Awards & Engraving Player of the Year and became the first Lady Tide player named to the first team since then-DuBois Courier Express/Tri-County Sunday sports editor Rich Rhoades initiated the District 9 All-Star Team in 2000. The D9Sports.com website has conducted All-District voting since 2001.
Struble scored 20 or more points 13 times, including a high of 31 twice and 30 once, grabbed 160 rebounds, had 57 assists and led the team in recoveries with 103. She\’s one of only seven District 9 girls to reach the 30-point plateau in three games since 2000.
The 5-6 guard ended her career with 893 points, third behind Kelly Penvose and Debbie Spackman on Curwensville\’s all-time list.
White finished right behind her in fourth place with 819 points while raising the Lady Tide career records for rebounds to 651 and assists to 237.
In her senior season, the 5-10 guard-forward scored 330 points, an 11.8 average, and set the school single-season marks with 239 rebounds and 93 assists.
Knepp, who anchored Curwensville\’s inside game on both ends of the floor, wound up with 96 points and 123 rebounds, while Hamm scored 40 points in 19 games as a reserve forward.
All Lady Tide regular season games will start at 7:30 p.m. Tipoff for junior varsity games will be at 6.
The Curwensville roster, with (*) denoting letterwinners:
Seniors – Mindy Desmett, 5-9; Holly Fink (*), 5-8.
Juniors – Alesia Bressler, 5-7; Sarah Robb, 5-8; Jenae Stiles, 5-2; Jenessa Stiles, 5-3; Hannah Walls (*), 5-4.
Sophomores – Tess Bloom, 5-5; Ashley Bracken, 5-6; Misti Bruner, 5-2; Shayla Buzard, 5-6.
Freshmen – Courtney Bachelier, 5-4; Taylor Bumbarger, 5-6; Brittany Carter, 5-3; Catelynn Fleming, 5-7; Shannon Green, 5-4; Paige McCracken, 5-8; Kate Norris, 5-8; Katie Wriglesworth, 5-8.
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The Curwensville schedule, with * denoting Moshannon Valley League game and # denoting Allegheny Mountain League South Division game:
4 – West Branch*
5 – at Clearfield
7 – Elk County Catholic#
11 – at Harmony*
17 – Clearfield
21 – Brockway#
28 – Penns Manor (7 p.m.) at Penns Manor Holiday Tournament
29 – Purchase Line or Bellwood-Antis (TBA) at Penns Manor Holiday Tournament
2 – at Glendale*
3 – Kane#
5 – at DuBois Central Catholic#
7 – Harmony*
9 – at Ridgway#
11 – Sheffield
14 – at West Branch*
16 – Moshannon Valley*
22 – Glendale*
24 – at Kane
25 – at Brockway#
29 – DuBois Central Catholic#
1 – at Johnsonburg#
4 – at Moshannon Valley*
5 – Ridgway#
8 – at Sheffield#