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Basketball preview: NOHS Lady Mustangs

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By Mickey Patterson

LAST YEAR
14-10, lost 68-50 to Oldham County in the first round of the district.
KEY LOSSES
Senior point guard Oliva Raffli and forward Amanda Mattern.
TOP PLAYER
Nicole Bryant, a 5-foot-10 swingman who made all-region after averaging 15points a game last season.
KEY RETURNEES
Jessica Lowe 5-foot-10 senior center; Lucy Gibson 5-foot-9 junior forward.
TEAM SLEEPER
Junior point guard Meghan Welle.
OUTLOOK
The Lady Mustangs got a taste of winning last season and with a solid nucleus of talent back led by 5-foot-10 junior swingman Nicole Bryant, they are looking to get better again this year.
Bryant emerged as one of the region’s best last season averaging 15 points and six rebounds a game and adding an inside scoring game to her overall play.
“She has just improved all the way around,” NOHS coach Nancy Martin said. “She’s more aggressive going to the basket and there were times when we could have used that last year. She can still shoot the ball, but now she has some really strong moves inside.”
Bryant is joined by a pair of returning starters in 5-foot-10 senior center Jessica Lowe and 5-foot-9 forward Lucy Gibson.
Lowe has been battling an ankle injury lately, but continues to serve as a team leader.
“She is on the floor right now and could be the spark of our team,” Martin said. “It seemed like last year when she had a good game the rest of the team had a good game.”
Gibson is a top defender inside and another rough and tumble player inside and out.
“She is as tough as nails,” Martin said. “She gets the team going by diving on the floor after loose balls and you know every night she is going to put it all on the line.”
A big key for the Lady Mustangs will be junior point guard Meghan Welle, who must replace three-year starter Olivia Raffli, the second-leading scorer last year as well as the floor boss.
Welle gained valuable varsity experience last year and is a solid defender and a streaky shooter who can score points in a bunch when her shooting is on.
Martin and NOHS will also look to a talented group of freshmen to contribute right away.
Look for forward Emily Moorsman, 5-foot-10 center Brianna Salinas and point guard Morgan Spalding to work their way into the rotation early in the season.
“We have a group of freshmen who are ready to play,” Martin said. Typically you think give them a year to learn the system, but this group is ready to roll right now and we are going to use them.”
Martin said this year’s team is possibly the best conditioned team she has ever had and that will be an advantage.
“We’re going to get up and down the court and we are in great shape,” Martin said. “We have been telling them that we should outrun every team we play.”
With Bryant’s scoring, the conditioning and the freshmen class adding depth, Martin said the Lady Mustangs are looking to challenge in the district this year and earn a first trip to the regional tournament.
“We’re pretty excited about this team,” she said. “The big difference between this year and last year in we have some depth. Before the year is over we think we are going to be able to rotate in 10 or so girls and not get hurt.”