Lady Wreckers prepare for season of transition
Members of the Weatherly girls basketball team this season include, front row from left, Gianna Lowman, Ashley James, Grace Miller, Emma Kane, Abigail Paisley, Danielle Gordon; back row, Angelina Fewins, DeAnna Strouse, Christal Kislan, Taylor Cichon, Corra Chincola, Isabella Maiello, Ally Bloom, head coach Brian Billig and manager Bethany Houser. BOB FORD/TIMES NEWS
Hired just two months ago, Weatherly girls basketball coach Brian Billig hasn’t had much time to prepare his team for this season.
“We missed having our open gym and much of our preseason conditioning,” he said. “We’re really a month behind most other schools, so catching up and building team chemistry is going to take some time.”
As a first-year coach, Billig faces the challenge of taking over a program that has won two consecutive district titles and has lost two outstanding players from those years. Gone from their 18-win team of a year ago is First Team All-State guard and the school’s scoring leader, Emily Zocsin.
The Wreckers will also be without All-Area selection Megan Peifer. Five other players from last year’s roster have also graduated.
Despite missing seven total players, Weatherly returns three girls from its district title team.
Taylor Tichon will captain the 2019-20 edition of the Wreckers.
“Taylor is our leader,” said Billig. “She’s the glue that will keep our team together. When it comes to her style of play, she’s a physical, in-your-face competitor.”
Junior Ashley James can play every position, according to Billig. He describes her as “very polished,” with the ability to drive to the basket and hit the mid-range jumper.
At 5-11, junior Grace Miller can play the true center slot, a position that is not customary to modern-day basketball teams.
“She’s an aggressive rebounder, and on offense she can post up,” Billig said. “Grace also has a nice shot from eight- to 10-feet out.”
With seven of the 13 players on the roster at the first-year level, the Wreckers will rotate a bevy of freshmen and one sophomore to find what works best. Billig likes the inside play of sophomore Gianna Lohmann. Competing to fill in the starting five are newcomers Emma Kane and Chrystal Kislan, both of whom have shown they can score with mid-range jump shots.
“Emma is a slasher. She can penetrate and get us some second chance points,” said Billig. “Depending upon our opponent, Chrystal will play the point or the ‘2’ guard. She plays with a lot of heart and determination.”
Billig hasn’t defined his team’s style of play yet, although he feels a motion offense best fits his young team. His fast break and half court offense are what he calls, “works in progress.”
On defense, he likes to play man, but their opponent’s strengths will determine if the Wreckers will man up or zone.
In a season of transition, long-range goals and the number of wins are sometimes difficult to set and to achieve. Billig is cautious about placing any extra pressure upon his young team.
He sees his glass as half full and is excited that he will watch his players grow into the competitive spirit of the game. Billig is also a realist, and is aware of the lack of experience that comes with this year’s roster.
In their its scrimmage, Weatherly struggled early, but showed improvement as the action went on. The performance might be a microcosm of what to expect in the season ahead.
“We’ll take a look at our schedule,” he explained, “to see which games are winnable and which games will show us how good we can be.
“I know for sure our girls will compete. We’ll look to improve each night and get better as the season goes along.”