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Kettle Run girls basketball season preview: Building on record performance

Will last winter's momentum carry over?

The Kettle Run girls basketball program won a school-record nine victories in the 2014-15 season. The Cougars field a different type of team this winter, but they are hoping to do even better.

The Cougars came within a whisker of the biggest win in school history during the semifinal round of the Conference 27 playoffs. Seconds away from a major upset at No. 1 seed James Monroe, Kettle Run led 52-51, but fell 55-54 to finish with a 9-14 record that was still hailed as an enormous success.

“We were 20 seconds away from making regionals last year,” second-year coach Steve Sviatko said. “That experience should help us over the hump

Gone is sharpshooting Jasmine Webster, an ace 3-point shooter, who graduated. She was the Cougars' leading scorer and first-team all-Conference 27 selection.

“It's a different team than last year, but I feel we are more athletic. Last year we had more height,” Sviatko said. “This year, I think we are a lot quicker.

“We definitely are going to go with what we did last year [and] expand on that,” he said. “Especially the seniors, they are ready to take the next step.”

Sviatko hopes the Cougars advance out of conference play to earn their first region bid in history.

“Our goal this season is to put a banner up on that wall,” Emily Yergin, one of the seniors tri-captains, said while nodding toward the gymnasium wall where the school's conference and district championships are honored.

“If we could go further, that would be nice,” she said.

Senior Ellie Heflin agreed.

“It's crazy because Emily and I were the first two freshmen on varsity,” Heflin said. “Now we're captains.

Along with Yergin and Heflin, Bella Delaguila is a captain.

“I know last year was the best record we have had, so I am hoping we can beat that again,” Delaguila said. “I think we are going to be able to keep improving our records. Just be better.”

Liz Keefer, Jovante White, Natalie Carmichael, Lily Case, Chardane Logan, Gracie Crater, Abbey Small, Grace Small, Amanda Dooley and Sara Hume complete the squad.

Sviatko said the Cougars’ defense this season will be especially important. Their added quickness and athleticism will also help.

“That's going to be our key this year, trying for easy baskets,” Sviatko said. “I want us to get after it … because we are not going to be the biggest team.

“We are going to be very aggressive on defense; get up in people's faces and try to put pressure on them,” he said, explaining that energy is needed whether in man-to-man defense or zone.

Yergin relishes spreading havoc through opposition passing lanes because that has been a career-long forte.

“I want to get steals and score,” she said with a wide smile. “We are working on speed. It's all about athleticism. That's how we are going to win games.”

While chaos is expected from the defense, patience is the focus when on offense, Sviatko said.

“Just be patient and try for easy baskets [using] a lot of movement,” he said. “A lot of motion. … [But] we can't be afraid to shoot.”

He also hopes for a more diversified attack.

“I think last year with Jasmine [Webster] on the team, we would watch to see what she was going to do,” he said.

Heflin hopes to shoulder more responsibility following Webster’s graduation.

“We did lose a talented player in Jasmine, but we have so many more advantages,” the senior said. “I want to become more confident with the ball. I want my teammates to be able to rely on me.

“It's my last year, so there is no reason not to give it everything,” Heflin said.

Sviatko said, “We just need to find a way to mesh everything together.”

“It's a last chance,” Delaguila said from a senior's perspective.

The Cougars will begin the season Dec.1 at Skyline and Dec. 4-5 in the Central (Woodstock) Tip Off tournament.

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Projected starting lineup

PG Ellie Heflin, Sr.*
G Jovante White, Jr.
F Emily Yergin, Sr.
F Liz Keefer, Jr.
C Bella Delaguila, Sr.*

*Returning starter

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