Seniors who will lead the Lady Longhorn basketball team this season are, from left, Whitney Hopp, Lauren Gockley, Ragan Nickless and Andrea Page. (Johnson Publications photo)

Coach: team playing at high level entering opener

    After a highly successful 17-8 season last year with the most wins since 1989, some may have believed this year would be one of rebuilding for the Lady Longhorn basketball team.
    Not so, says Coach Mark Bottom, even though they lost a talented senior class of nine players.
    When the Chase County girls open their season tonight (Thursday) at Cozad, fans will get their first look at a team Bottom believes will also make some noise.
    “My instincts are that people believe this is a rebuilding year for us. It don’t think it’s that at all,” the coach said.
    He believes that because of what’s shown up at practice so far and what transpired at Saturday’s pre-season scrimmage.
    “We have an athletic front line with good height that will be hard to match up with    ,” he noted.
    He believes that’s going to catch some teams off guard, especially early in the season.
    “We have been practicing at a very high level. Both our offenses and defenses are running very well for this early, and they’re doing a good job with defensive transitions,” he added.
    While the overall team speed may be down this year compared to last, that’s going to be offset by their height and knowledge of plays.
    Twenty-four are on the 2017-18 roster led by four seniors and a junior. Nineteen players are underclassmen.
    “That means we’ll be looking to a lot of our sophomores to step up,” Bottom said.
    His varsity starters were confirmed early this week.         They include senior Lauren Gockley and sophomore Mallie McNair, guards; seniors Andrea Page and Ragan Nickless, wings; and junior Allison Owings at post. Bottom said they’ll be able to  move Nickless in and out of the post position when needed, too.
    While they lost the team’s leading scorer (Taylin McNair) to graduation, three of last year’s top scorers are back—Mallie McNair, Owings and Nickless.
    Several sophomores who are stepping up and competing for varsity spots include Sophie Spady, Ashley Bubak, Maddi Brown and Madison Schuller, the coach said.
    He said they all are playing really well together as a team.
    The coaches were still working on numbers of JV quarters players would be in to stay in line with the six-quarter per-night limit set by NSAA.
    “We have some things to work on yet this week, but we’ve got good energy and are in good shape,” he said.
    Assistant coaches who have returned include Jeff Gleisberg, Alex McNair and Ashley Boman.
    Here’s the player roster by class:
    Seniors—Lauren Gockley, Whitney Hopp, Ragan Nickless, Andrea Page.
    Juniors—Allison Owings.
    Sophomores—Mallie McNair, Riley Owens, Hannah Meeske, Sophie Spady, Jozie Schilke, Maddi Brown, Brooklyn Christensen, Ashley Bubak, Valerie Herbert, Madison Schuller.
    Freshmen—Kora Weiss, Kambree Meeske, Courtney Odens, Jordan Hopp, Kamrie Dillan, Alexis Richmond, Ashlie Benge, Getsemani Hinojoza, Dai Medina.
Schedule has some changes
    After traveling to Cozad tonight (Thursday), the Lady Longhorns will be home on Friday against McCook.
    Games at Cozad start Thursday at 3 p.m. MT with JVs, followed by varsity.

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