Girls prep hoops preseason countdown: #7 SOUTH ADAMS STARFIRES
Coming into his first season as the South Adams girls basketball coach in 2012, Brett Freeman was inheriting a 3-18 team. Last year, in his fifth season, the Starfires won their first-ever Allen County Athletic Conference championship and first sectional title since 1995.
“We’re climbing the ladder,” Freeman said. “We didn’t even have a ladder when I started, but we were looking around for one.”
This has a chance to become an all-time great year in Berne as the Starfires didn’t lose anyone from a 16-10 team and all eight top players return, including first-team all-conference stars Lexi Dellinger and Madi Wurster. Every one of their 46.3 points returns.
“I’ve tried to stress to them that last year we were one point away from playing in the semistate,” Freeman said. “The sky is the limit.”
Wurster, a 6-1 center, averaged 9.8 points, 8 rebounds and 3.3 blocks per game last year as a junior while 5-10 classmate Calyssa Lehman scored 5.5 points and grabbed 6.8 rebounds. Usually, the Starfires started three guards, but this year Freeman will have flexibility to do something different if he chooses with 5-10 junior Shaelynn Bowman. There’s also 5-6 junior Kirstien Herman and 5-7 sophomore Taylor Augsburger.
“Calyssa is able to step out and help us on the perimeter,” Freeman said. “Shaelynn hit some big mid-range shots for us last year. Last year it was tough to want to put people in just because they were still learning a lot of things, but I do feel comfortable this year that we have about eight kids we can rotate in pretty easily.”
It’s possible this could be the best backcourt outside of Allen County, led by Dellinger who averaged 17.3 points, 4.8 assists and 3.0 steals per game last year. Sydney Pierce averaged 8.1 points and 3.4 rebounds and Kayla LeFever and Emily Myers move up as juniors and Lydia Loshe as a sophomore. On other teams, they’d get a lot more shots and average more points.
Dellinger has a chance to become the school’s all-time scoring leader.
“Lexi just challenged herself on the floor and worked to be able to do some things off the bounce,” Freeman said. “I think this summer she was able to get some of the others a little more included in what we were doing.”
With Dellinger handling the ball and creating opportunities for others, Pierce worked on being ready to shoot immediately and at all times.
THE BIG QUESTION
Maybe it really is “How far can the Starfires go?” With eight returning players, all five starters and four seniors they can shoot for a triple crown of winning the ACAC regular-season, tournament and sectional titles and maybe even try for a long post-season run.
“We really worked harder in the off-season to keep getting better,” Dellinger said. “Day in and day out we just have to work harder than everybody else. I’m a little nervous because it’s all down to this year. Whatever we do this year is all that matters.”
BIG GAME TO WATCH
Last year South Adams beat Jay County by 10 at home and then lost to the Patriots by 16 in the ACAC Tournament. This year, the first meeting is Dec. 16 at Jay County, and the Patriots will be looking for revenge.
MISSED A DAY IN THE COUNTDOWN