Olympians add solid depth to star lineup
Members of the 2019-20 Jim Thorpe girls basketball team include, front from left, Darcy Leight, Haley Smelas, Rhiannon Berger, Skyler Searfoss, Kristen Scott and Megan Rosahac; back, Mackenzie Yuhas, Taylor Craigie, Leah Snisky, Olivia Smelas, Riley Solt and Leila Hurley. BOB FORD/TIMES NEWS
Go undefeated in the regular season.
Win the Schuylkill League title.
Finish second in the district tournament.
Do all that with a starting lineup consisting of one senior, one junior and three freshmen.
So what can this year’s Jim Thorpe girls basketball do for an encore?
Last year, the Lady Olympians had what Coach Rob Kovac called “a wonderful ride through a magical season.
“We stayed healthy, and the ball seemed to bounce our way in every one of the close games that we won,” Kovac said.
To avoid complacency this season, Kovac cautioned his young stars to both remain humble, and hungry.
“This team, with some new and more accomplished additions, has a new identity.“ he said, “and we’re well aware that now we are no longer the hunter, we are the hunted.”
The varsity is loaded with size and athleticism.
At the top of the roster is sophomore, Skyler Searfoss, the Times News Player of the Year, who spearheaded many JT wins a year ago and made big shots in big moments of big games. She will replace the departed Natalia Richards as the point guard of the offense.
“The point is Skyler’s natural position,” said Kovac. “Her scoring may drop a little because she will be passing more, but she’ll make her teammates better by giving them more scoring opportunities.”
Kovac lauded the leadership qualities of his super sophomore, a Third-Team All-State selection and D1 college recruit. Last season, Searfoss scored with drives to the basket and with a myriad of midrange jumpers. She has improved her three-point range, which should make her a scoring threat from every point on the hardwood.
What’s more, sophomore Olivia Smelas, who played like a seasoned veteran a year ago, could be the best big kid in the Schuylkill League, according to Kovac.
Sophomore Leila Hurley adds her proven scoring to a lineup that can light up the board. She’s a solid three-point shot with her left hand, and can get to the basket with layups off the glass.
Senior Kristen Scott will bring her toughness and defensive prowess, while freshman Mackenzie Yuhas adds athleticism and quickness.
Depth was the concern in last year’s run through the post season, but Kovac can now bring talented players off the bench and not skip a beat offensively or defensively.
Leah Snisky will be step up to the starting five after a stellar season of spelling starters with her rebounding and solid defense. At 5-11, she causes problems with her long reach for opponents’ perimeter shooting in JT’s 1-3-1 zone defense.
“Leah played AAU, and is much improved. She can score too, and with her long reach, she will make shooters reload or change their shots.”
Senior Taylor Craigie will provide experienced depth and help in the rebounding game. Rhiannon Berger is a program kid from her Little Olympian days and figures to see playing time.
Kovac said more help from the bench could come from freshmen Darcy Leight and Haley Smelas, whom he said has a “tremendous basketball IQ.”
Add sophomore Hailey Fioritto to the mix and Thorpe can go nine players deep to rotate with their star-studded starting lineup.