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  • Val T.

Argos girls basketball preview:

Lady Dragons seek 3rd straight sectional with returning starters Redinger, Bollenbacher


BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS

Sports Editor, RTC

Argos coach Scott Jennings said last year’s senior point guard Baleigh Binkley made his job easy. When other teams tried to pressure Binkley, she would use her quickness to blow past the defense and help the Lady Dragons get into their offensive set.

Emma Dunlap, whose four clutch free throws helped defeat Triton in overtime in the sectional final, and post player Bella Stults also graduated.

“We lost three good seniors last year with a lot of quickness,” Jennings said. “Even Bella as a post player had some quickness. We’d put her out on the wing a little bit. It’s going to be hard to replace. They did a lot of the ballhandling. Baleigh Binkley was so darn quick for us last year. A lot of times, teams would try to press us, so we’d just give her the ball, and she’d run right through them. Well, we can’t do that this year. We’re going to have to pass through presses and take care of the ball a little bit more.”

Those three were part of a nucleus that are coming off back-to-back sectional titles, but with them gone, the go-to player on both ends might be senior shooting guard and leading returning scorer Samantha Redinger.

“She’s going to have to step up defensively for us, just to carry the team, and she’s done that in the past,” Jennings said. “Her freshman year, I used her as a defensive ace to stop a lot of the top offensive players from the other team. So she’s been my defensive ace. She does a good job not getting in foul trouble. She’s pretty smart, but she’s going to have to carry us vocally and just getting after it defensively.

“Her game has improved so much. She sees players so much. She can pass. She can shoot. She has that step-back shot that you just can’t get to. You’re going to see a big improvement in her.”

Juniors Morgyn Barcus and Alydia Leed will help in the backcourt. Jennings calls the trio of Redinger, Barcus and Leed “interchangeable.”

“I’ve got three guards that are pretty solid,” Jennings said. “You take Redinger, you take Barcus, and you take Leed. I’ve seen a lot of improvement from Leed over the summer. She’s finding what her role is. Last year, she played mostly JV, and we’d throw her out there, and a lot of times, she’d try to do too much on her own just to carry that team. This year, playing with some better girls, she can slow down a little bit and let things happen. Her ballhandling skills and shooting skills have come along.”

Jennings sees Barcus as the point guard, praising both her ballhandling and shooting skills.

Freshman Kinzlee Kelly, whom Jennings called “hard-nosed,” will also be the backcourt mix.

Leah Pizzuto, Lexi Gibson and Ava VanDerWeele are other backup guards, and Jennings praised that group for their intelligence, especially how quickly they were learning on defense.

The other seniors are Aleasia Sarver and Sophia Austin, and they will help out sophomore Ellie Bollenbacher in the frontcourt.

“Aleasia Sarver has played JV for three years,” Jennings said. “She’s probably my most vocal leader when it comes to defense out there. She has really stepped up her game. She has a nice shot. She’s worked on it this summer. I think she’s going to surprise some people, so as a senior, I think she’s grown into that role.”

Bollenbacher is two years younger than Sarver and Austin, but she is more experienced. Her role grew as her freshman season progressed, and she will now move into the post for her sophomore year.

“Ellie’s probably going to be in the post,” Jennings said. “We don’t have anybody else with that size to put down there right now. … But Ellie’s going to have to handle the other post players and play that defense and rebound for us. And she’s got a nice 10, 12, 15-foot shot. So we can throw her in the short corner, especially against zones and stuff. But she’s going to have to handle the post for us a lot.”

Austin is playing basketball for the first time since her freshman year. She will provide size and rebounding in the paint, according to Jennings.

Grace Thomas, a 5-10 freshman, will be a backup in the post. Jennings said he saw huge improvement in Thomas during volleyball season and thinks she can be a threat as the season progresses.

Argos’ defensive scoring average went from 35 two years ago to 43 last year. Lizzy Edmonds’ graduation in 2022 and simply playing at a faster tempo had something to do with that, according to Jennings.

This time, Jennings said that Argos will have to hold opponents down.

“Our halfcourt defense is going to have to be tremendous from the start, and hopefully, we can build off that as time goes,” Jennings said.

Jennings, who was named coach in 2020, said this is the youngest of his four Argos teams.

“You’re going to see us start peaking about midseason,” Jennings said. “Hopefully, by Bi-County (Tournament), we’re starting to roll, and even from then, get a little bit better come sectional time. As these girls get some experience and get some game time under their belts, I think you’re going to see them come along pretty good.”

Coaching changes

Former Plymouth coach Dave Duncan is back as an assistant, and Jennings said he is helping Bollenbacher develop her post moves.

“The girls love him,” Jennings said. “There are times in practice I just turn it over to him and let him run with it.”

Mallorie Sellers will coach the JV, and Amanda Davis will also help out.

Schedule changes

Argos dropped North Miami and Northwestern but added a tournament at Logansport on Dec. 30 in which they will play two games in one day at the Berry Bowl.

North Miami will return to the schedule next year when both schools join the Hoosier North.

“I’m taking it a game at a time right now,” Jennings said.

Class 1A, Sectional 50

ARGOS, Culver, Marquette Catholic, Oregon-Davis, Trinity Greenlawn, Triton, Westville

Schedule

Nov. 2 – vs. Caston, 7:30 p.m.

Nov. 7 – at Triton, 7:30 p.m.

Nov. 10 – vs. Winamac, 7:30 p.m.

Nov. 11 – vs. Elkhart Christian, 7:30 p.m.

Nov. 14 – at Mishawaka, 7:30 p.m.

Nov. 17 – at Trinity Greenlawn, 7:30 p.m.

Nov. 21 – vs. Culver, 7 p.m.

Nov. 30 – at North Judson, 8 p.m.

Dec. 2 – vs. West Central, 7:30 p.m.

Dec. 7 – at Rochester, 7 p.m.

Dec. 8 – at Culver Academy, 7:30 p.m.

Dec. 14 – at South Bend Career Academy, 7:30 p.m.

Dec. 19 – at New Prairie, 8 p.m.

Dec. 21 – vs. Bethany Christian, 7:30 p.m.

Dec. 30 – at Logansport tournament

Jan. 6 – vs. Lakeland Christian, 12:30 p.m.

Jan. 11 – vs. Oregon-Davis, 6:30 p.m.

Jan. 13 – vs. Pioneer, 7:30 p.m.

Jan. 16-20 – Bi-County Tournament (field includes Culver, Bremen, John Glenn, LaVille, New Prairie, Oregon-Davis, Triton)

Jan. 25 – at LaVille, 7:30 p.m.

Jan. 30-Feb. 3 – Class 1A, Sectional 50 at Culver


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