Senior Harper Schreiner dribbles up the court as senior Abby Watson defends.

The girls’ basketball team opens the season today against Basehor-Linwood, and leadership from the seniors will be crucial for team development as more players step up in new and expanded roles.

The girls’ team finds themselves in a similar situation to the boys’ team as they both lost players with significant varsity experience last year, including six seniors from the girls' team. 

Seniors Harper Schreiner and Mackenzie Mayer played notable roles on the varsity team last year and the team will lean on their experience this season. 

“Initially, starter-wise, we got Harper and Mackenzie back, and those are really the two with the experience,” head coach Brandon Parker said. “Sawyer Schreiner is probably the person that stepped up. She has done a really nice job and is doing her role well.” 

Harper recently signed with Pittsburg State University to play basketball. She had considered Emporia, where her mother Gretchen played basketball, but ultimately decided to sign with Pittsburg State citing head coach Amanda Davied and their style of play as just a couple of the reasons she signed with them. 

“Basketball has been by far my favorite sport growing up,” she said. “My mom played at Emporia State, so I always wanted to follow in her footsteps. Through the summer, through Wheat State Elite, I got a lot of exposure and I think that helped me a lot getting to the next level.” 

Harper said everyone is aggressive on defense in practice, and it will be one of their strengths this season, but there will be challenges early on.

“I think the key to success right now, especially in the beginning of the season, is working through fatigue,” she said. “Obviously we’re not in basketball shape yet, and I think a key for us this Friday is working through that fatigue and keeping with our aggressive defense.” 

Despite being a younger team, Mayer said they have benefited from being familiar with each other. She echoed Harper’s view of the defense, saying there are good defenders at every level on the court.

“We definitely have a young team, and we’re definitely trying to get some things figured out, but we’ve also been around each other for a while,” she said. “Most of the people who are going to start this year were with us last year, so we kind of know how we work, but there’s definitely some work to do.” 

Parker said players are getting more comfortable in their roles, such as seniors Abby Watson and Ashley Kuntz and sophomores Mackenzie Yoder and Jayla Erpelding. Parker noted the natural progression some players make from their sophomore to junior year, and junior Sawyer Schreiner’s development could be attributed to it.  

“We just have a lot of kids that are vying for playing time right now and competing,” he said. “Our big thing is that we don’t return a lot of experience, so it’s going to take a little time. I don’t know if there’s any rhyme or reason, but sophomore year to junior year is typically where you see some big jumps.” 

Yoder and Watson have stuck out during practice with their rebounding and instincts with ball fakes and finding open teammates. Parker said a starting lineup is not set in stone, and it could change depending on how they matchup against opposing teams. 

“The kids all know that could fluctuate depending on what we need, but they’re all ready to step up no matter who starts,” he said. “We’re ready to bring people off the bench that we feel very comfortable with and they’re only going to get better.” 

This week’s matchup will give the Cardinals a great opportunity to discover their strengths and learn what to build on as the season progresses.

“We start off with a really good opponent and we’ll kind of throw them into the fire early on here and that will be good for them,” he said. “Basehor is going to be tough, they’re well coached, but we know that it will be a good experience for our younger kids to play against a quality opponent out of the gate.”  

Eudora will host Basehor-Linwood at 6 p.m. today. 

Reach sports editor Chris Fortune

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