Head coach Jason Longmeier lists pace and effort as keys to how successful his Seymour girls basketball team will be this winter.
“I don’t think the last couple years we’ve played with the type of effort and desire that we need to play with to compete with a lot of the people on our schedule,” he said. “We’ve just got to be tougher. We’ve got to be more physical. We’ve got to be the aggressor more than not.
“I don’t think the last couple years that has been the case. We’ve really got to take it to people both offensively and defensively. I just think it’s a toughness thing right now for us to take that next step. I want to see us be a lot tougher than we were the last couple years.”
He is working with one of the most experienced teams he has had at Seymour with starters Kendall Sterling, Brooke Trinkle, Journee Brown and Greer Henry returning. Trinkle is a senior, Brown and Sterling are juniors and Henry is a sophomore.
Sterling topped the Owls in scoring last winter at 12.1 points per game, Trinkle averaged 11.7, Brown averaged 6.2 and Henry averaged 3.6.
Longmeier said, “We’ve got a lot of these kids back and a lot of varsity experience. We also have some youth that can go along with them. Even though we do have a lot back, we’ve only got two seniors.”
They are Trinkle and Lainey Jackson.
Longmeier said, “We’ve got two seniors that are going to see playing time, so I would say next year, we’ll be the most experienced team I’ve had probably since the Lubker-Ritz group and those girls that played four years.
“(Trinkle and Jackson) both have good shots. They’ve still got some work to do, but both of them have a chance to help us on the perimeter.”
Brown and Claire Marshall are 6-foot juniors that Longmeier is counting on for inside scoring, defense and rebounding.
“They will give us some pretty good size,” he said. “(Elizabeth) Kirby and Jaidyn Nichols are also fighting for starting spots.”
Nichols is a junior, and Kirby is a sophomore.
Longmeier said of the offense, “We’re looking at a couple things. We’re going to run some four-round-one, and we’re going to run some three-round-two with some of our bigger players.
“We’re looking to create more opportunities in transition. I think that’s going to be better for us than in the half-court, so I think we’ve got a team that can get out and run a little bit more, so we’re looking at that.”
He said when the Owls set up in their half-court offense, “We’ll probably run more sets than we have run the last couple years with a little bit more structure. Another key for us is our ability to take care of the basketball. Turnovers have kind of been a downfall for us the last couple years.
“We feel very confident at the varsity level. We’ve got eight or nine players and we’ve got a couple freshmen, if they keep working hard, could eventually factor into what we’re doing. I don’t know that we lose a whole lot when we pull out starters. I think defensively, this is one of the better teams we’ve had in the last couple years.”
Longmeier wants to reduce Seymour’s defensive average.
“Early on, that is what we’re going to have to wrap our head around, for sure, and we’re going to have to hang our hat on because four of the five kids we’ve got starting come to us from a fall sport, so it’s going to take them a little bit of time to get back into the groove of doing things,” he said.
“Defensively, we’ve got to be really good early on. We’ll play a lot of man-to-man. We’ll probably play about 20% zone. We’ll be a 2-3 aggressive zone. I think we’ve got a group of kids that can really create ball pressure.
“We’re going to try to limit teams to using one side of the court a little bit more than what we have the last couple years. The last couple years, we were in a little bit more of a pack-line defense. This year, we’re going to focus more on an aggressive pin-you-to-the-sideline defense.”
He said he wants his team to take away baseline drives and not let the opponent beat them in the middle of the floor.
When asked about strengths of this team, Longmeier said, “One, I think it’s going to be our depth. Another strength is a kid like Kendall Sterling, who has the ability to play at the next level, getting her a lot of shots.
“She has the opportunity to be a really good scorer for us. I think another strength will be our inside play. I think Journee and Claire have come a long way in just the last two weeks of practice, and I think they’re just going to keep getting better with a lot of the individual work that we’re going to be doing with them.”
Longmeier, who is beginning his 11th season coaching the Owls, guided them to a record of 11-11 last winter.
Other members of the coaching staff are Amanda Gerth, Kerry Reinhart and Jason Skidmore.
The Owls will open their schedule Thursday night with a home game against Southport, and they will be home to Salem on Saturday night.