The faces will be familiar when Heath takes the court this season.
The Bulldogs return their entire starting lineup. Their ultimate level of success, however, might be determined by a few fresh faces to the varsity program.
Heath has 20 girls in the program, and coach Doug Griffin hopes a large group of freshmen and sophomores can alleviate the depth issues that have plagued the Bulldogs the past two seasons.
“They have a lot of experience and been through the wars, so we will depend on them to do a lot for us,” Griffin said. “Hopefully, we get a couple three of these younger kids to come along and be major contributors for us.”
If competition breeds success, Heath might have the missing ingredients. Seasons of eight and seven wins the past two seasons have been a far cry from annually competing for Mid-State League-Ohio Division and Division III district titles.
“We have a couple young kids that can play for us — whether it is going to be in a starting position or coming off the bench,” Griffin said. “It depends a lot on the so-called veterans.”
Despite a short bench, Heath will attempt to push the ball. Sophomore Halie Bruck will feed the ball to seniors Taya Croom and Amber Brown.
When Croom and Brown are able to get Heath into 3-on-2 and 4-on-3 situations, senior Tiffany LaRue and sophomore Martasha Hinkle should benefit on the block. If they can finish shots within 10 feet, they could score big time.
“We don’t have that kid on the team to count on to get 18 or 20 every night,” Griffin said. “It’s got to be somebody different each night contributing for us. The thing we have really been concentrating on is the defensive end. I didn’t think we were very good defensively last year. If we are to be any good this year, we have to improve quite a bit on our defense.”
While Heath often breaks the speed limit on offense, the Bulldogs attempt to grind the game to a halt defensively. With a short bench, Heath has attempted to keep the fouling to a minimum.
Teams, however, often took advantage of that in 2011-12. Knowing Heath was not willing to be aggressive, opponents attacked with drives and offensive rebounding. With a deeper bench, Griffin already has sent a message.
“They take their breaks on the defensive end,” Griffin said. “I told some kids, ‘If you feel comfortable about a position you have, you might be watching from the sideline.'”
Heath has found it is easier to fall back than climb up the standings.