HYDE — Success for the 2016-17 Clearfield Area High School girls basketball team will hinge on two all-important factors, one the Lady Bison can’t control and one they must.
Injuries to any of the five returning letterwinners and/or too many personal fouls will be very difficult to overcome, because there is not one second of varsity experience on the bench.
Those are the concerns for coach Joey Castagnolo (186-220) going into his 18th season at his alma mater.
“We just can’t afford to have any injuries, and we can’t get into foul trouble, especially early in the season,” he said.
The returnees must play well and play smart for the Lady Bison to attain Castagnolo’s goals of a winning record, a good showing in the tough Mountain League and a trip to Clarion for the District 9 Class AAAA championship.
They are seniors Ally Lindstrom and Niki Chew, juniors Brooke Cline and Nikki Brossard and sophomore Alayna Ryan.
Lindstrom and Cline, who own two letters apiece, are returning starters and were fourth and fifth, respectively, in point production for the 2015-16 team that finished 7-7 in the league and 10-13 overall, including a 55-38 loss to Punxsutawney in the District 9 Class AAA title game.
Lindstrom totaled 103 points for a 4.3 average and Cline tallied 97 for a 4.9 average.
They’ll be on the wings, though Lindstrom will be filling in elsewhere out of necessity.
“Ally is going to very versatile,” Castagnolo said. “She needs to know all five positions on the court, because that’s how valuable she is.”
Ryan will be the point guard, with Brossard and Chew working on the inside. All appeared in at least 20 games last season.
Rebounding could be a problem against taller teams as Brossard, at 5-9, is the lone Lady Bison starter topping 5-7.
“We just don’t have height or size, but Brossard can jump and Chew is sneaky inside,” Castagnolo said. “Chew gets a lot of rebounds by positioning, and she knows how to box out.”
While Ryan will be the main ballhandler, Castagnolo won’t hesitate to call on Cline or Lindstrom against some defenses.
The first players off he bench will be junior Karlie Gisewhite on the wings and 5-8 freshman Tesa Miller in the post.
Gisewhite was on the junior varsity last season, while Miller and classmates McLain Alt, Alexis Clark and Alyssa Serena were playing for the eighth grade team.
“One thing about this team is they really play together well,” Castagnolo said. “They’re a lot quicker than last year’s team overall, and I think we can get some points in transition and off steals.
“That’s what I saw in the two scrimmages we had, lots of steals for breakaway layups.”
The Lady Bison will need those easy points, because three-point shooting will be almost non-existent.
“We have nobody who will take a three except Alayna, occasionally, and maybe Gisewhite,” Castagnolo said. “We’ll have to rely on our speed and quickness. We’ll run a spread offense so we can attack the basket.”
Defensively, the Lady Bison will attempt to neutralize opponents with their familiar matchup zone.
“I’d like to go man-to-man with these quick girls, but I can’t until we establish a bench,” Castagnolo said. “The problem I’m having right now is getting these five young girls on the same page, somewhat, with the five starters.”
Castagnolo expects the same three teams that finished above the Lady Bison to be tough again. Tyrone and Penns Valley tied for first place at 13-1 and Central was third at 10-4.
In District 9, Clearfield still will be competing with Punxsutawney, St. Marys and Bradford in Class AAAA under the PIAA’s new six-class format.
Other District 9 teams on the schedule are non-league opponents DuBois, Brookville and Curwensville as well as Clarion-Limestone and either North Clarion or Brookville in this weekend’s Brookville Tip-Off Tournament.
“Every one of those games is important because they all count for seeding this year,” Castagnolo noted.
The four Lady Bison seniors on last season’s team accounted for 77.5 percent of the 1070 points as Mountain League second-teamer Rachel Glenny led the way with 327 (14.2 ppg) and also hauled down 224 rebounds, three-time Mountain League honorable mention pick Emily Ryan scored 244 (10.6 ppg) to go with 142 rebounds and 142 assists in her role as point guard, Margo Castagnolo contributed 185 (8.0) with 48 three-pointers and Sam Rockmore added 47 (5.2) before a knee injury in the ninth game ended her career.
Ryan was a four-year letterwinner with 612 points in 85 games, and Glenny was a three-year letterwinner with 585 points in 64 games. Castagnolo also lettered three times, playing in 65 games.
After breaking into coaching on the junior high level, former Lady Bison Annie Janocko moves up to guide the junior varsity team, while Stan Solarzcyk (12th year) and former Curwensville Area High School player Savannah Strickland will be working with the entire squad as volunteer coaches.
The varsity and junior varsity rosters, with (*) denoting letterwinner:
Seniors – Niki Chew, 5-7; Ally Lindstrom (*), 5-7; Femke Busch, 5-10.
Juniors – Nikki Brossard (*), 5-9; Brooke Cline (*), 5-6; Karlie Gisewhite, 5-5.
Sophomores – Phoebe Kearney, 5-4; Alayna Ryan (*), 5-5; Sabrina Shomo, 5-4.
Freshmen – McLain Alt, 5-5; Alexis Clark, 5-5; Athea Condon, 5-3; Tesa Miller, 5-8; Adrian Rowles, 5-8; Alyssa Serena, 5-6; Alyssa Twigg, 5-6.
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The schedule, with (ML) designating Mountain League games and tip-offs at 7:30 p.m. unless noted:
9 – Clarion-Limestone (3 p.m.) at Brookville Tip-Off Tournament; 5 – North Clarion or Brookville (TBA) at Brookville Tip-Off Tournament; 14 – at Central (ML); 16 – HUNTINGDON (ML); 19 – BELLEFONTE (ML); 21 – at Tyrone (ML); 23 – DUBOIS; 28 – CURWENSVILLE.
3 -at Punxsutawney; 6 – BALD EAGLE AREA (ML); 9 – BROOKVILLE; 10 – at Penns Valley (ML), 7 p.m.; 13 – PHILIPSBURG-OSCEOLA (ML); 16 – ST. MARYS; 18 – CENTRAL (ML); 20 – at Huntingdon (ML); 23 – at Bellefonte (ML); 27 – TYRONE (ML).
1 – at Bald Eagle Area (ML); 3 – PENNS VALLEY (ML); 7 – at Philipsburg-Osceola (ML); 8 – at Curwensville.