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Talented Girls Open New Season with Two Potential Barnburners
If by some chance you’ve got the blues over the way Knightstown’s football season ended, or perhaps you’re disappointed in the Colts’ loss Sunday, the cure is right down the road.
Knightstown’s girls basketball team opens its season with back-to-back old-fashioned barnburners this week, and the Lady Panthers are a team you definitely don’t want to miss.
How exciting will girls basketball be at Knightstown this season? I think this team has great potential, even though it is very young and probably a year or two away from reaching its pinnacle. But they are going to be very good this season.
Starting Thursday night the KHS girls jump right into the frying pan when they open the season against Hagerstown, a top 10 team last season. Then Saturday night, Winchester, ranked number seven this year, invades the Lady Panther den.
Knightstown returns four starters and all four are capable of scoring in double digits. Diana Trautmann is the lone senior, and she’s joined by juniors Natasha Hiner, Jocelyn Sturgill and Sabrina Hatfield as the four returning starters. The fifth starter will be freshman Megan Hiner, who has almost unlimited potential.
Immediate help will come from the bench in the form of junior Cassie Hammer, sophomores Danielle Altman and Haley Cruse, and freshmen Brittany Brown and Hannah Smith.
The Lady Panthers are experienced, fast and deep.
Coach Dawn Basicker is in her seventh year heading up the Knightstown program, and has an overall record of 62-66. But she’s never had this much talent and depth, and will easily be able to surpass her season high in wins, which stands at 13 games.
Knightstown will be a fast-breaking, exciting team to watch. Basicker will have the girls emphasizing the transition game going both directions.
The only thing that will slow down this team is injuries, and Hatfield may miss the opener due to an ankle sprain. But make no mistake on this one, Knightstown will be fielding one of the best teams we’ve seen since the 1980s.
KHS has just one sectional title in the school’s history, and that came in 1980 when the Lady Panthers had both Teresa Phelps and Jennifer Wilfong running the floor. Those girls were probably the best two female basketball players in school history. Wilfong was inducted into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame last year.
That sectional title in 1980 was followed by a regional championship and a trip to the Sweet 16 in Indianapolis in the era before class basketball.
This year’s Knightstown girls have the potential to do as much damage and bring an end to that 27-year sectional drought.
If you venture out to the Knightstown gymnasium Thursday night for the opener against Hagerstown, you’ll see two of the top teams in Class 2A battling it out in the season opener. The Lady Tigers return a lot of talent from last year’s 17-4 team, and Knightstown will be the sleeper of Sectional 42. The Lady Panthers made a run last season, losing to Shenandoah in the sectional championship game.
This Lady Panther team isn’t likely to be bullied by anyone on their schedule this season. The addition of Megan Hiner to four returning starters will make Knightstown an immediate power. The younger Hiner, who will be playing with her older sister, Natosha, for the first time ever outside of traveling ball, has the potential to be the most complete girls basketball player ever at Knightstown. She’s just a freshman, but at this stage of her high school career, she’s already an all-conference caliber player. The Lady Panthers have speed and depth, as well as great shooters.
Thursday night, they will square off against one of six ranked teams on what is a brutal schedule this season. They’ll follow that up with a game against another ranked team on Saturday night.
Head on out to the high school and support this group of Lady Panthers this week. With back-to-back games at home against state powers, it’s safe to say there’s never been a bigger regular season week of basketball for the Knightstown girls program.
And the best part is they are good enough to steal a win on either night.
Coach John Howell sent his Panthers through two hours of vigorous workouts Monday night in the first practice for the boys basketball team. On the floor were 22 players competing for jobs on the varsity and JV teams this year, including nine from the varsity roster last season. Several freshmen who will be playing on the ninth grade team were not involved in the practice.
Howell put the boys through difficult workouts emphasizing footwork on defense, passing, and hustle. Known as a strict disciplinarian with a fundamentally sound game plan, Howell is a stretch from the previous long-range bombing attack deployed by former mentor Chad Ballenger.
Ballenger’s “fire-at-will” approach worked to the tune of three consecutive sectional titles. But when the talented long-range shooters graduated, the same game plan resulted in a school-record 21 losses last season.
It’s a little early to tell yet, but if the first practice is any indication of what is to come, Knightstown’s boys basketball team won’t be chucking many 30-footers this season.
That’s probably a pretty good thing.
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