Ambushing the state

Don’t sleep on the Crothersville girls basketball team this season.

Last week at the Henryville Tipoff Tournament, the Tigers looked like a team poised to make some waves early into the 2015-16 campaign.

Finishing 3-1, playing four games in six days, the Tigers earned a third-place plaque at the annual “preseason” tourney.

Due to a three-way tie to play in the championship game, the Tigers didn’t get a shot at Henryville for the title.

However, that didn’t deter the Tigers, as they dominated Class 2A Clarksville 63-45 in their final game.

Earlier in the week, the Tigers also picked up a 79-22 win against 2A’s Irvington Prep and a 48-38 win against Shawe Memorial.

In the first game of the season Monday the Tigers lost to Orleans in overtime 52-46.

That loss could be contributed, in part, to a controversial call at the end of regulation, which denied Crothersville a final shot before the buzzer.

Regardless, the Tigers almost beat the 2015 Class A Sectional 61 runner-up.

With all but one returning starter, the Tigers have a set of familiar players on the hardwood this season.

Through four games, junior Katrina Christian has averaged 13 points for Crothersville — despite missing the second half against Clarksville due to injury.

Last season, Christian proved as a scoring threat for the Tigers every contest, as she averaged 15 per game.

Christian could explode any night for 20-plus points in 2014-15, and this year should bode the same if she stays healthy.

Tigers coach Kevin Hensley said that Christian guards the opposition’s best ball handler, and her disruption has resulted in a number of forced turnovers.

Expect much of the same from Christian this season, as her game becomes more refined.

Tigers senior Alexis Adair will provide a crucial role, in a leadership position, to the team’s success.

Adair can flat-out shoot from the free-throw and 3-point lines, and has strong fundamentals on both sides of the ball.

In her final season, the two-guard should put up at least 10 points per game and distribute a number of assists while directing the offense.

At the end of close games, I see Adair and Christian with the ball in their hands as the seconds tick down.

Perhaps the biggest jump by any player I saw in Henryville was the development of sophomore Lacey Hall.

While she averaged just five points last season, Hall put up 10 per game in the Henryville Tourney.

She exploded for 17 points against Clarksville, a game where she aggressively pursued the basket and was rarely denied.

More notably, Hall has 27 rebounds for the Tigers over the stretch — an area where Crothersville struggled last year, as they gave up a number of second-chance points.

Senior Abby Jewell, who missed all but seven games last season due to injury, will also prove crucial to the rebounding total.

Hensley said that Jewell’s presence was missed last season, and adds a toughness to the forward position.

Jewell is a gritty rebounder who isn’t afraid to go up for the ball and make contact — she will do whatever it takes to regain possession.

Freshman Piper Hensley has been a nice addition to the starting lineup, replacing Rebecca Hensley, whom graduated.

Piper has drained six pointers, but more importantly turned the ball over just a couple times at point guard.

On the bench, the Tigers have stability with Kashmir Kelshaw, Cassidy Mantz, Maddie Riley, Nikki Hickman and Julia McIntosh picking up a bulk of the minutes.

Much of the Tigers’ success this season will be on the defensive side of the ball — there’s no doubt that they have the talent to put up points.

The Tigers relied on a frenetic press defense in their first four games, and will continue to put the pressure on their opponents.

The biggest obstacle the Tigers will have to face defensively is fouling — they can’t get in early foul trouble against strong opponents.

If the Tigers have to sit their starters because of foul trouble early in games, like any team, it will be much tougher to get the key wins.

The Tigers started 11-5 last season before finishing 14-11: starting fast and finishing slow.

I don’t expect that record at the end of the season, this is a much more disciplined team that will battle less mental challenges.

In the postseason, the Tigers will play in a restructured Sectional 61.

Springs Valley, the reigning champs, are out and Borden — who will now host the sectional — is in.

Right now, Borden and Orleans are the favorites with Trinity Lutheran, West Washington, Medora and the Tigers in the mix.

If the Tigers continue this pace, expect them to contend.

Jordan Morey is the sports editor for The Tribune. Send comments to [email protected].