Returnees spark optimism for JT girls
BOB FORD/TIMES NEWS Jim Thorpe girls basketball team members include, front row, from left, Caitlin Henninger, Nina Batts, Chelsea Robinson, Jeanna McEmoyle, Kristin Lawrence and Elaine Alvarez. Middle row, Avery Day, Kayla Susko, Amelia Herman, Chastity Mosteller, Erin Bucci and manager Kyle Lawrence. Back row, manager Kayley Kovac, Chelsea Smelas, Alexandria Ventrella, Hilary Reis, Brittany Holland, Celeste Robinson and manager Payton Kovac.
Two years ago was ground zero for the Jim Thorpe girls basketball program.
But from the ashes of that disastrous 2-22 season that included suspensions and forfeits, the Lady Olympians have been rebuilt.
Just two players senior Hilary Reis and junior Brittany Holland still remain from that squad. The majority of this year's team is part of a talented sophomore class that comprises nine of the 12 roster spots.
A year ago, Reis, Holland and a number of freshmen phenoms helped put the 2007-08 season in the rearview mirror. With a year of experience under their belt this season, that same group of Olympians has a chance to accelerate away and leave the bad memories in their dust.
"Last year, we took several strides toward respectability," said Jim Thorpe coach Rob Kovac about his team's 8-14 season. "This year, we want to take the next step."
For Kovac, taking that next step means playing in the postseason.
"We haven't set a goal to get a certain number of wins," said Kovac. "But we think we're a postseason team.
"We want to be playing basketball games in March. It's been quite some time since a Jim Thorpe girls basketball team has done that. But everybody associated with our program believes we can do it."
One of the chief reasons for the optimism surrounding the Jim Thorpe program is a wealth of returning starters.
Leading the way are veterans Reis and Holland, who have both started since their freshmen seasons.
"Hilary is our team leader and does a little bit of everything for us," said Kovac. "Brittany is a player who epitomizes hard and dedication. She has made huge improvements since last year. I expect her to have a monster season."
Sophomores Celeste Robinson (last year's leading scorer at 11.5 ppg.), Kim Lawrence (last year's leading three-pointer shooter with 23) and Chelsea Smelas round out the starting line-up.
The first subs off the bench should be sophomores Jeanna McElmoyle, Chasity Mosteller and Christina Batts. Rounding out the varsity roster are junior Amelia Herman and sophomores Erin Bucci, Kayla Susko and Alex Ventrella.
It's been eight years since a Lady Olympian team has reached the postseason. The last playoff appearances came during a 16-10 season in 2001-02.
With six of the top eight players being sophomores, it would be easy to say that Jim Thorpe is still a year or two away from achieving that goal.
But Kovac isn't looking at it that way.
"I really believe at some point this season we're going to be a pretty good basketball team," he said. "I don't know if we are right now, but I'm confident we will be."