Archive for Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Bulldog trio look forward to basketball future

January 31, 2007

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When the final buzzer sounded Jan. 20 at Lawrence High, the Southwest ninth-grade girls basketball team concluded an impressive 17-0 season by defeating South, 50-37. But the end of the game also signified that for Ashli Hill, Cassie Potter and Jasmyn Turner, their time together as teammates had run out. "We've played together since fifth grade," Hill said. "It's gonna be hard." Next season Hill will be posting up in the paint, towering over opponents at Free State High. Potter and Turner will be trading in their blue and gray Southwest jerseys for the red, white and black jerseys of Lawrence High. "It'll be a lot different," Hill said. "It'll still be fun. It'll just be different." The three friends, or "big three" - as they were known around the league this season - led Southwest to an undefeated season as freshmen, and they did the same thing as eighth-graders. Third-year Bulldogs' coach Michelle Karleskint has known the girls since they entered junior high school as seventh-graders. She has watched them grow as players and as people. And she wishes they didn't have to battle it out next year, each player wanting the same goal, but wanting it for a different team. "I wish they could play together and not each other," she said. While the rivalry between Free State and LHS should continue to be a fierce one, the intensity level may rise with each Hill rebound or blocked shot, or every time Potter and Turner slash through the defense or hit a long three. "It'll be interesting," Potter said. "We're used to always playing together on the court." Many times this season Potter and Hill ran the screen-and-roll to perfection for the Bulldogs. Potter could take the ball to the lane for a layup, feed Hill as she established her position down low, or kick the ball outside to Turner for a three. At the end of the season, Potter averaged 20 points a game. But she knows her own offensive success could not have been accomplished without Hill and Turner. "They've been great contributions to the team," Potter said. "And I wouldn't have been able to do it without them." Every season junior high kids move up to the next level, but the loss of the "big three" and the prospects of next season are already on Karleskint's mind. "You adjust," she said. "It'll be a very different team next year. We'll probably go with more of a half court offense." The slowed down style of play will be a vast difference from this season's Bulldog squad. Potter and Turner played havoc on opposing offenses by using tough defensive pressure in the backcourt to get steals that led to easy transition layups. And if offenses were capable of getting the ball across the timeline against Southwest's full-court press, Hill was ready for them at the goal. "I'm proud of the team, but especially those three," Karleskint said. "They were the leaders of the team as players and as people. They are great kids. They are very friendly." The three have built such a rapport over the past five years playing on the basketball court, so it wouldn't be a surprise if the girls hung out together after the games next year when the final buzzer has sounded. "It'll be different," Potter said. "But off the court we'll still be friends." But it's on the court where the "big three" of this season will try to emulate similar results for their new respective teams over the next four years. And what would Turner's reaction be if the Lions defeated the Firebirds next year? Turner thought for a moment, smiled and said as Potter and Hill walked off the court at Lawrence High, "It'll be okay."

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