Lady Panthers looking to finish
■ Siloam Springs’ girls lost 15 games by 10 points or less last season.
The Siloam Springs girls basketball team has spent the entire offseason — spring, summer and fall — working on one specific aspect that it failed miserably last year: Finishing basketball games.
The Lady Panthers suffered through a 5-24 season overall and 0-12 mark in 5A/6A District 1, but the record is somewhat deceiving.
Fifteen of the Lady Panthers’ losses were by 10 points or less, including a six-point loss on the road at eventual 6A state champion Sheridan in the opening round of the 6A-West Conference Tournament.
Siloam Springs was competitive in nearly every game, but the Lady Panthers simply couldn’t finish off games, and fifth-year coach Tim Rippy is hoping that changes in 2017-2018
The Lady Panthers open their season at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Rogers Heritage.
“We did a lot of self-evaluation after last season,” Rippy said. “We looked specifically at the group returning and the kids moving up the next two to three years. We’ve made some systematic changes that fit our personnel better, and I think the kids have responded to that.”
Rippy said the biggest change will be the Lady Panthers’ pace of play.
“We’re trying to speed things up offensively and defensively,” he said. “For instance, we’re trying to have our first offensive look in four to five seconds, and we do a lot of drills trying to get a score in four seconds or less.”
Defensively, Rippy said the Lady Panthers will try and trap more to create turnovers, utilizing full court press and zone defenses.
“We have some long, rangy kids that can move,” Rippy said. “We’re trying to take advantage of our wing span and length.”
The Lady Panthers only lose one senior from last year’s team in Sidney Henry and junior Alexis Roach transferred to Farmington. Every one else is back along with a talented group of sophomores, several of which will play large roles.
Junior Chloe Price (5-foot-6) returns at point guard for Siloam Springs after averaging around 10 points per game last season.
“She does a nice job of getting us into our offense,” Rippy said. “She’s grown in her understanding of the game. We look at her as a leader, and she shakes off
her mistakes well and continues to play.”
Senior Morgan Vaughn (5-3) averaged 14.7 points per game to lead the team last year. Vaughn will play the shooting guard position but can also handle the point at times.
Rippy said Vaughn has had her best fall practice so far in her three years of high school.
“She has shown some maturity in the way she deals with situations on the court,” he said. “She’s been a good scorer for us. We’ve seen more consistency out of her. Now we need to see it in the season. We have enough weapons around her that she doesn’t have to force things.
“We feel great when both (Price and Vaughn) are on the floor.”
Sophomore Madison Pharr (5-1) will run the point guard spot on the junior varsity squad, but Rippy hasn’t ruled out Pharr earning varsity minutes as well.
The Lady Panthers feel good about the depth they have at the guard and swing positions.
Junior Hailey Dorsey (5-7), seniors Kenlie Noel (5-9), Kirsten Loftis (56), Brooklyn Buckminster (5-9), Brianna Ponticello (5-1) and sophomores Jael Harried (5-9) and Turtle Shreve are all expected to contribute in that role.
Dorsey and Noel are both good in zone defense and transition offense, Rippy said.
Buckminster is one of the team’s best defenders and has improved her offensive game, he said.
“She has improved around the basket,” Rippy said. “That’s what we need from her. We need her to know her role, finish in transition and get second chance points. She’s a big asset.”
In the post, the Lady Panthers are excited about sophomore Shelby Johnson (5-9).
“She’s a sophomore that’s going to make a big impact defensively and offensively as well,” Rippy said. “She’s a great athlete. She makes our zone (defense) and presses more effective on the floor. She’s a great rebounder. She causes lots of problems with her length and wingspan. She’s one of the best athletes I’ve had since I’ve been at Siloam.”
Senior Hadlee Hollenback (5-9) is a two-year starter and will play the other post position after averaging 7.6 points per game as a junior.
“We need her to step up and have a good senior year,” Rippy said. “She needs to finish better than a year ago, keep her confidence high and work her tail off.
“Hadlee doesn’t have to be great. She just needs to make simple shots and free throws.”
Junior Emery Brown (58) saw a lot of minutes in the post as a sophomore and has improved her game, her coach said.
The Lady Panthers also hope to have the services of senior Abby Vaughn (5-7), who’s been dealing with a back injury.
Abby Vaughn is the Lady Panthers’ vocal leader on and off the floor.
“We’re hoping she gets back healthy and contributes,” Rippy said.
The Lady Panthers will once again compete in the rugged 5A/6A District 1 with 5A teams Alma, Clarksville, Farmington and Harrison all coming off strong seasons. Class 6A teams Russellville and Greenwood all should be improved as well.
“Every single night out we have to go prove that we’re getting better,” Rippy said. “We have to earn victories. No one’s going to give us anything. … I think we are going to shock some people.”
Siloam Springs junior Hailey Dorsey drives to the basket against Russellville during a game last season. The Lady Panthers open the 2017-18 basketball season Tuesday at Rogers Heritage.