Rochester girls basketball preview: Lady Zs are versatile, deep, but Jennings wants better defense
BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS
Sports Editor, RTC
The Rochester girls basketball team might be a guard-oriented team but only when they are not a frontcourt-oriented team.
They return four starters from a team that won its second straight sectional title last year.
In Emma Howdeshell, Sydney Haughs, Kami Burkett and Kallie Watson, they have four returning guards from last year. A fifth guard, junior Rily Holloway, transferred in from Tippecanoe Valley.
But they also have experienced post players in Lexy Thomas and Millie Scorsone. Kennedy Jackson is a junior who possesses a versatile skill set and can play several different positions.
“I feel like I can drive, I can dribble, and I can do a little midrange and everything like that,” Jackson said. “But I wanted to expand it and work on my jump shot and maybe get out to the 3(-point line). So this season, I really worked on that, and I think it’s definitely paying off, but we’ll just have to see what happens in the game.”
An emphasis figures to be on defense. Rochester won 18 games and allowed 40 points per game two years ago. They dropped to 12 wins and allowed 47 points per game last year.
However, they allowed only 38 points per game in three sectional games back in February.
“We’ve got to get more stops,” Rochester fourth-year coach Brian Jennings said. “We want to get our defensive average down a little bit lower. We’d like to hold opponents down to 37, 38 points a game. That’s what we’re looking at. If we figure if we can hold them to that 37, 38 range, even if we would happen to have a poor shooting night like we did in the regional (a 49-40 loss to Clinton Prairie on Feb. 13), we should still be able to compete at that level.”
Thomas was first-team all-TRC in the post, and she is Rochester’s leading returning scorer at 8.5 points per game.
Newcomers to the varsity include juniors Maddie Heinzmann and Savanah Eccles and sophomore Lilli Eaton. Post player Elizabeth Weaver will also be a full-time varsity player.
The team will be missing one senior when Emily Hughes chose not to play. Hughes had been on the varsity since midway through her freshman season.
But the leaders figure to be Thomas and Burkett, the two remaining seniors.
“Lex has been phenomenal,” Jennings said. “Throughout the summer, though, our seniors, they’re getting ready for college. And Lex, she had a job this summer, and Kami had a job this summer. So our seniors really missed some things this summer, but it was kind of a good thing because it gave some of our younger kids a chance to play at that varsity level and get that varsity experience that Kami and Lex already had.”
Howdeshell said she has been working on a jump-stop move off a screen.
“We’re really deep again this year just like we were last year,” Howdeshell said. “We’ve all been playing since my freshman year, and I feel like the seniors this year, this is going to be our best chance to win some games this year. … Because this is our third year together.”
Burkett, who also plays soccer and track, said she took a break from basketball over the summer. She said she is working on her defense.
“I think that’s kind of what I focused more on over the summer games that we had,” Burkett said. “I haven’t really been a big part of the shooting aspect, and I’m OK with that. I think that we have a lot of great shooters at Rochester, and I’m OK at not being one of those.”
Burkett is the team’s other senior, and she is back after missing Rochester’s tournament run last year due to a knee injury that required surgery.
The coaching staff has worked with Burkett on developing her post moves as part of a smaller, quicker lineup that could be good at pressure defense, according to Jennings.
“We have multiple ways that we can go about playing somebody,” Jennings said. “At this point, though, we’ve just got to figure out what is going to click with us and go with that.”
Rochester Lady Zs schedule (JV/Varsity)
Nov. 4 – vs. North Judson, 6:30 p.m./8 p.m.
Nov. 6 – at Caston, 6 p.m./7:30 p.m.
Nov. 10 – vs. Northwestern, 5:30 p.m./7 p.m.
Nov. 13 – vs. NorthWood, noon/1:30 p.m.
Nov. 18 – at Peru, 6:15 p.m./7:45 p.m.
Nov. 20 – at Maconaquah, 6:15 p.m./7:45 p.m.
Nov. 23 – at Lewis Cass, 6 p.m./7:30 p.m.
Nov. 27 – vs. Winamac, 6 p.m./7:30 p.m.
Dec. 1 – at Culver, 6 p.m./7:30 p.m.
Dec. 4 – vs. Southwood, 6:15 p.m./7:45 p.m.
Dec. 9 – vs. Argos, 6 p.m./7:30 p.m.
Dec. 11 – at Wabash, 6:15 p.m./7:45 p.m.
Dec. 16 – vs. North Miami, 6:15 p.m./7:45 p.m.
Dec. 28-29 – at Twin Lakes Invitational (field includes Twin Lakes, Kankakee Valley, North White, Logansport, Clinton Prairie, Pioneer, Mount Vernon (Fortville))
Jan. 5 – vs. Plymouth, 6 p.m./7:30 p.m.
Jan. 8 – at Whitko, 1 p.m./2:30 p.m.
Jan. 12 – at Logansport, 6 p.m./7:30 p.m.
Jan. 15 – vs. Tippecanoe Valley, 6:15 p.m./7:45 p.m.
Jan. 20 – vs. Goshen, 7:30 p.m. (at Grace College, varsity only)
Jan. 22 – vs. Manchester, 6:15 p.m./7:45 p.m.
Jan. 27 – at Northfield, 6:15 p.m./7:45 p.m.
Feb. 1-5 – Class 2A, Sectional 37 at Lewis Cass
Class 2A, Sectional 37
Carroll (Flora), Delphi, Lewis Cass, Manchester, Pioneer, Rochester, Wabash
Lexy Thomas Rily Holloway