Manchester girls basketball team aiming for success
NEW FRANKLIN — Through Jan. 28, the Manchester High School girls basketball team was 9-6 overall and 8-3 in the PAC-7 (Principals Athletic Conference).
“We’re struggling right now,” said head coach Tucker Pappas. “We’ve had a lot of injuries and it’s been tough going. We lost our best player in the second game of the season to a knee injury, and it looks like she’ll be back this week coming up. So we’re excited about that, and we’ll see if we can get things turned around before the tournament starts.”
Pappas said Karley Dougherty, who tore her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), has been going through therapy and has “made some good progress over the past three weeks.”
“She actually started practicing on [Jan. 23], so we’re hoping to see her back this week,” he said. “It will be huge to get her back. She’s a leader and one of our best ball-handlers, shooters, rebounders and defensive players. She’s top two in every category that we have, so that’s going to be a big energizer for us.”
According to Pappas, senior guard Kayci Krzynowek and junior post player Alex Klein have stepped up this season in Dougherty’s absence.
“Kayci has been playing well — averaging around 15 points and seven assists per game and giving good leadership,” he said. “And Alex is averaging 20 points a game and around seven rebounds. So those two have really been carrying us during the season.”
Pappas said he also has seen improved play from junior Emma Kreakbaum and sophomore Grier Cowles.
“Emma’s done a nice job handling the ball a little bit and scoring some. She’s also taking on a leadership role,” the coach said. “And Grier, who replaced Karley in the starting lineup, is a good defensive player and a pretty quick guard for teams to keep up with.”
Dougherty’s injury changed a lot of the team’s plans for the regular season, Pappas said.
“We had to start over when Karley got hurt, so we have just been trying to piece things together,” he said. “We’re getting better. We’re learning how to play the full 32 minutes, and that’s been our biggest problem. Of our six losses, we’ve had a double-digit lead in five of those games and went on to lose. With Karley’s injury, we lost depth and leadership, and that’s what we’ve been working through. We went from being one of the best teams around to an average team overnight.”
Dougherty’s return to the lineup should kick everything into another gear, Pappas said.
“With her on the floor, I think we can get back to being one of the better teams around,” he said. “She opens everything up for everybody with her shooting and scoring. It will get the other kids some easier shots. Everybody has been expected to do more, so when Karley comes back, they will still be doing those things that they’ve been doing without her. Adding her will just make the whole team that much better.
Starting Feb. 1, Manchester will play three games in five days, with Dougherty slated to come back Feb. 3, and Pappas said this stretch will be a good litmus test for his team.
“I see us making a ton of improvement,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of practice time lately, and I’ve seen us getting better and better at learning how to play as a team. The kids understand where we’re at right now and that this is the time to turn it on or it’s going to be a quick postseason. We can’t feel sorry for ourselves about what we’ve lost, and no else is feeling sorry for us. We’ve won the league nine years in a row, so no one will feel sorry for Manchester.”
In fact, Pappas said he expects other teams to underestimate what Manchester can accomplish in the postseason this year.
“I think we will be one of those teams where you will look at our record and think we aren’t as good as we really are,” he said. “We won’t get as high of a seed as we probably should get, so I think we’ll upset some teams and people will be surprised by what we do.”
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