Prep girls basketball roundup: Lincoln eyes taking a big step forward

Prep girls basketball roundup: Lincoln eyes taking a big step forward

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Prep girls basketball roundup: Lincoln eyes taking a big step forward

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Of the nine Fox River Classic Conference losses the Manitowoc Lincoln girls basketball team suffered last season, only one came to a team that finished below its No. 7 spot in the final conference standings.

The Ships are looking once again to be dominant against those below them in the standings, though this season the hope is that the number of teams below them in the FRCC standings by the season’s end is much larger than it was at the end of the 2011-2012 campaign.

“Our primary focus this season is taking things one game at a time, but the ultimate goal is to compete and challenge for a top spot in our conference,” Lincoln coach Jamie Ullman said. “That said, because our conference is one of the best in the state, we also know it prepares us for tournament play, so we feel that if we can compete in our conference that that will prepare us well for tournament play. But we are staying focused on taking care of business in our conference and not looking ahead.”

Not looking ahead won’t be difficult for a team that features a pair of four-year starters — Shawny Gabriel and Kali Hackmann — and another three-year starter to keep everyone in check. Hackmann recently signed a Nation Letter of Intent to play Division 2 basketball for Winona State University while Gabriel is fully recovered from an ACL injury that kept her out of 3/4 of last season. Ullman said having Gabriel back is like being able to have another coach on the floor.

“Shawny is player that doesn’t make many mistakes and understands game situations. … It’s nice to have her back at 100 percent because she has such a high basketball IQ,” Ullman said. “(Gabriel and Hackmann) are focused and how they approach practice is phenomenal. Kali is a great athlete and she has great speed and athleticism. … It’s great knowing you have those two leaders on the floor.”

For the first time in her career at Lincoln Hackmann will be playing her natural position on the perimeter this year. Normally Lincoln played the 5-foot-10-inch standout inside because of the rest of the team’s lack of height, but this year’s crop of Ships brings enough height to where Hackmann will be allowed to play outside of her typical court position.

“Our post play has improved from last season. In my time with (Lincoln), we haven’t had a consistent post play for wide array of reasons, but this year we have good size,” Ullman said, citing his three 5-foot-10-inch players and one 6-foot-3-inch player. “One of our focuses going into the season is utilizing our post play effectively. We’ve always had good guard play and had strong guards, but it’s nice to have an inside-outside combination this year. We will have a better post game this season.”

Another added strength of this year’s Lincoln squad is its depth with four seniors, three juniors and three sophomores, with many having been coached by Ullman from as far back as middle school. The Ships lost three players to graduation in the offseason, but Ullman said finding players to fill their voids has not been an issue.

“I don’t want to say we won’t miss those seniors, because we will, but we have kids that will step in and do a nice job,” Ullman said. “Any time you lose seniors you lose experience and those seniors helped and contributed, but we feel good at what we have returning with our nucleus. Not to dismiss the loss of those seniors, but I think with what we have coming back is a stronger team this year.”

Last year, the Ships fell in their regional opener to Kimberly. Because Ullman feels this year’s team is stronger, he also recognizes the expectations are a little higher and thus the hope for a deeper postseason run has become that much greater.

“In the postseason your goal is to give yourself a chance to get to sectionals, because that’s a special experience, and something Lincoln hasn’t experienced in a while, but that’s our long-term goal but right now we are just focused on being at the top of (the FRCC),” Ullman said. “With our experience, our hope is that, instead of finishing in the middle (of the FRCC), we can contend for the top of the conference. We know it’s a tough goal, but it’s one we are aiming for and we will need to beat some quality opponents to ultimately do it.”

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