Lady Pan­thers look­ing to fin­ish

■ Siloam Springs’ girls lost 15 games by 10 points or less last sea­son.

Siloam Springs Herald Leader - - SPORTS - By Gra­ham Thomas Staff Writer gth­

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.”

Bud Sullins/Spe­cial to Siloam Sun­day

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.

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