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 Lady Panthers Fully Loaded for New Season

Nov. 7, 2007 - Fans of Knightstown Lady Panther basketball have a plethora of reasons to be very excited about the upcoming season.

Coach Dawn Basicker’s girls return four starters from last year’s sectional runner-up team. They will be joined by an outstanding cast of younger players who will have an immediate impact on the team. Add to that a sectional realignment that moves Knightstown to Cambridge City for post-season play, and girls basketball at KHS could be primed for a return to the glory days of the past.

The Lady Panthers have won just one sectional in school history and that came back in 1980 before class basketball. Over the years Knightstown has been in sectionals that included traditional state powers Mt. Vernon, Greenfield-Central, and more recently, two-time state champion Shenandoah.

This year, opposing teams will be looking at Knightstown as the team to beat on their schedule. Returning to starting roles this season will be senior Diana Trautmann, a number two guard who sees the floor well and is a slicing playmaker.

She’s joined by sharp-shooting junior guard-forward Natosha Hiner, the team’s leading scorer last season.

Juniors Sabrina Hatfield and Jocelyn Sturgill (5’11”) will be the primary forces inside. Hiner, Hatfield and Sturgill all started as sophomores.

The fifth starting position will be taken by freshman Megan Hiner, whose varsity debut is a much anticipated one by knowledgeable Lady Panther fans. In an exhibition game last June at Conseco Fieldhouse, the younger Hiner scored 10 points in a three-minute stretch that enabled Knightstown to cut a 19-point deficit to just five against state power University. Knightstown trailed in the contest 20-3 early, and eventually 39-20. They rallied behind Megan Hiner to eventually pull to within 53-51. The Lady Panthers lost the game 63-57, but the contest was an indicator of what is to come from the fiery freshman. Another freshman, Brittany Brown, also played well in the game as is expected to have an immediate impact herself this season.

With those four returning starters and the immediate help from very talented younger players, Basicker is anxious to see her team on the floor this season.

“Practices have been fun and the kids have been working really hard,” Basicker said. Monday night. “It hasn’t always been that way here, but this group is a solid bunch of girls who enjoy playing together. They work hard and they are always trying to get better. We’re a little ahead of pace right now and it should be a fun year.”

With just one senior on the roster, Basicker said the Lady Panthers could struggle a little bit early in the season. But the coach is expecting big things from Trautmann, that lone senior.

“Diana’s main role is she is a defensive stopper,” Basicker said. “But she’s also our vocal leader. She is a quick slasher to the bucket, and she should get out on fast breaks and get some easy baskets for us. We are going to run a lot more because we are a pretty quick team this year.

“We need Diana’s leadership and we need her to be vocal. You know, to have four cheerleaders on this team, we aren’t a very vocal group,” Basicker laughed.

Cassie Hammer, Haley Morgan, Natasha and Megan Hiner are all members of the KHS cheerleading squad that finished fifth in the state competition over the weekend.

Knightstown will also get much help from a very deep bench. Sophomores Danielle Altman and Haley Cruse will see much playing time, as will junior Hammer and freshman Hannah Smith. The depth stretched out to include juniors Miranda White and Brittany Jolley, and freshmen Morgan, Taylor Webber, Ashkia Howard and Meghan Chew. With 16 players available, half of those talented younger players will mostly see junior varsity time.

Four members of last year’s team graduated, but only one was a starter. Knightstown lost Kendra Kopp, Quila Beckinbaugh, Gabby Forshey and D’Andrea Gross to graduation. Beckinbaugh starter, while Kopp and Forshey were usually seeing playing time before the first quarter ended.

Hatfield suffered an ankle sprain over the weekend when she stumbled on the stairs at home. She practiced briefly Monday night, but here status for Thursday’s season opener is doubtful.

She’ll likely be replaced in the starting lineup by Altman, who scored four points and played well in the exhibition against Heritage Christian. She’ll be in the primary top seven rotation along with Brown, who also looked good in the game last June.

The Lady Panthers will be vertically challenged this season, but will make up for that with overall team speed and quickness afoot.

“We’re going to play a more up-tempo game this season,” Basicker said. “We plan to get more easy baskets in the transition game because we are going to be quicker all-around.”

The biggest change to occur in many years will happen when the state tournament rolls around. Knightstown and Shenandoah are no longer in the sectional at Alexandria with Muncie Burris and Frankton.

The Lady Panthers and Lady Raiders have been moved to Cambridge City, where they will be in the mix with traditional powerhouses Cambridge City (19-4 last year) and Hagerstown (17-4 last season). That realignment was caused primarily by Lapel moving up from Class A to Class 2A, placing the Bulldogs in the Alexandria and causing the IHSAA to shuffle some teams around.

Playing at Cambridge City, less than 20 minutes down U.S. 40, makes a lot more sense for Panther fans than the 45-minute trek to Alexandria. The new sectional arrangement also puts some more traditional rivals together in a sectional bracket. The eight Sectional 41 teams are all from East-Central Indiana and regularly play one another on the season schedule. Knightstown plays all seven of its sectional opponents in the regular season.

And the regular season starts off with fireworks for Knightstown. The season opener is Thursday against potential sectional opponent Hagerstown, who went 17-4 last season and were ranked in the top 10 of Class 2A last season.

Up next is Winchester Saturday night. The Falcons were 19-4 last season and 17-6 the year before. They are ranked number seven in the Class 2A preseason polls. Coach Gary Horner’s team is 226-100 in his 14 seasons, and has built a state powerhouse by going 19-4, 17-6, 13-8, 20-2, 17-6, 18-5 and 22-2 over the past seven years. That’s a cumulative 126-33 over the last six years, compared to Knightstown’s 62-66 over the same time. Ironically, Winchester has won just one sectional title over that span, last season, and they lost to Shenandoah in the regional that year.

It will be an interesting measuring stick for Knightstown, opening against two teams that went a combined 36-8 last season. Last year, Hagerstown beat the Lady Panthers 49-31, and Winchester whipped KHS 87-51. But that was a different Knightstown team.

“Both of those games will be true tests,” Basicker said. “We aren’t big and they have some pretty big players. But we have great team speed and we hope to counter that. Our biggest problem right now is passing, because we tend to get a little lazy with that. But both opponents will be good games for our girls to see where they are.”

The Lady Panthers open the season at home Thursday night against Hagerstown. Saturday, Winchester visits. On both nights, the junior varsity will begin play at 6 p.m., and the varsity will follow with scheduled 7:30 tip-offs.



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