Nolehi girls looking to take step forward
Members of the 2018-19 Northern Lehigh girls basketball team include, front row, from left, Sophie Lear, Kate Guelcher, Jada Saeger and Caelin Mack; back row, trainer Matt Schwartz, assistant coach Sarah Arndt, Emma Niebell, Madison Seier, Daliah Shupp, Raven Klimek, Lauren Hoffman and head coach Ken Shankweiler. BOB FORD/TIMES NEWS
A year ago, Jada Saeger and Jill Olewine formed a solid 1-2 punch for the Northern Lehigh girls’ basketball team. Saeger led the team with 18.45 points per game, while Olewine averaged 12.36 for the Bulldogs, who finished with a 7-15 overall record (7-11 in the Colonial League).
Now, with Olewine lost to graduation, head coach Ken Shankweiler knows Saeger will likely have to take on an even greater role as one of the team’s leaders this season.
“We’re going to go as Jada goes,” Shankweiler said.
Shankweiler has faith in his returnees, senior Kate Guelcher, junior Lauren Hoffman and sophomore Madison Seier. Freshmen Emma Niebell and Sophie Lear also are expected to contribute.
“I think we’re talented athletically and basketball-wise,” Shankweiler said. “We’re faster than we were last year. I think we should be a little more well-rounded offensive team, even though Jada is a big bulk of our offense.
“But I think Kate can step in and give us some points. Lauren and Maddie are going to get better at that. Emma and Sophie can step in and give us some points too. Last year, we were dependent on Jada and Jill. I think this year we can spread it out a little more.”
Saeger’s 18.45 points per contest was third best in the Times News coverage area a year ago, while Olewine’s 12.36 was ninth best in the area.
Olewine, along with Dani Hoffman and Kate Ziegler, have graduated.
While all eyes will be on Saeger once again with the ball in her hands, Shankweiler wants her to be a little more patient in looking for the best shot available.
“I know she will score for us,” Shankweiler said of Saeger, who sits 69 points shy of scoring her 1,000th career point. “She’s even got better here. She has found new ways to get open and get shots.
“But I told her we needed her to be more patient on offense. We’re going to get her the ball a little more often in an open court where she can do the things she does best.”
It will be critical for the Bulldogs’ trio of Guelcher, Hoffman and Seier to improve their offensive output each game.
Hoffman was the next best returnee with 3.05 (ppg.) a season ago, with Seier (1.77 ppg.) and Guelcher (0.71 ppg.) not far behind.
“In the second half in several of our games, especially in the fourth quarter, we would seem to really struggle offensively,” Shankweiler said. “So, what I’m trying to do is actually run a few things differently to get them a little more prepared. I’m coming up with a few more set plays that maybe we can get quick baskets off just in case we do get in a drought. So, we can get out of it.
“We had a few games that we just went ‘cold.’ And, those really hurt us in the fourth quarter. And, really hurt us in scoring a win in the end.”
As a result, Shankweiler and his Bulldogs are ready for the start of the 2018-19 season. And, as each game goes on, he wants to see that one goal attained every practice, every game.
“I have one goal every year, and that is for our kids to get better,” Shankweiler said. “It’s always been my goal.”