West heads into season looking to contend again

West heads into season looking to contend again

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West heads into season looking to contend again

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Last season, the Oshkosh West Wildcats girls basketball team went on a magical run that ended on the Kohl Center floor at the WIAA State Tournament.

While at the beginning of that season it didn’t go well for the Wildcats, the end of the season sure did.

That’s something the Wildcats hope to copy again this season, even with a younger team.

“We always go in with the goal of being top 3 in conference and making it as far into the postseason as we can,” Oshkosh West coach Niki Sutter said. “We are inexperienced and a lot of kids will be seeing court time that haven’t had varsity experience.”

But that inexperience won’t deter them from the Wildcats brand of basketball, a system that has proved effective and hopefully by the end of the season leads West on another magical playoff run.

“We’ve always been towards the top since I can remember,” senior Marina Hereford said. “I think once we start meshing I think we should be all right.”

Keeping the balance

One thing that defined the Oshkosh West offense last year was how balanced it was.

Ashley Neustifter led the way averaging just over 10 points per game, but other also chipped in with points, including the returning Hereford (4.6 points per game) and junior Deidra Unger (8 points per game).

With how many seniors the Wildcats did lose, however, it brings into question how balanced they can be once again.

Sutter expects Hereford and Unger to pick up at least a pretty good portion of the load this year.

“With the injuries that we had towards the end of last season, those were two of the girls that did step up and replace some of the points that we were missing,” she said. “They know that (they need to score).”

Both of them also know that is their roles on the team, especially when the Wildcats need to score.

“I think we try to get everyone involved as much as we can,” Hereford said. “If things start to break down, we tend to take over.”

But Sutter expects there West to be balanced once again on the offense, especially when the younger players have had a few games under their belt.

“I think we will have balanced scoring this year, which will make us a tougher team,” she said. “I think not having a go-to scorer, it makes us tougher for other teams to defend.”

‘Junior’ varsity

Take a look at Oshkosh West’s roster and you will notice one thing.

It’s dominated by juniors. Seven of the 14 to be exact. They will be the key to how good Oshkosh West can be.

It’s starts with Unger on the inside, who is the top returning scorer for the Wildcats this season.

But Sutter also expects contributions from Alison Panske, Lena Wells and Jaime Schmidt to help fill the voids left by the seniors from last season.

All saw limited time on varsity last season. Sutter expects there to be some bumps in the road with them, but once they get up to speed and mesh with Hereford and Unger, look out.

“We might hit a few bumps in the road and take our hits early in the season,” she said. “I see this group getting better and better as the season goes on.”

D-D-D-Defense

Where it really starts for the Wildcats is on the defensive end.

Sutter preaches a tough, hard-nosed, physical defense that most girls teams don’t play.

“We spend a lot of our time in practice focusing on defense,” she said. “They know that there is a place for them on the floor if they play hard ‘D.'”

Last year, the Wildcats played a lot of man-to-man defense. But with personnel changes, Sutter expects to mix up the defense a little bit more than in years past.

“You’ll probably see us mix it up a little bit more,” she said. “We’ll be playings some man, some zone. Using the personnel that we have.”

Either way, the defense will have to be just as strong as it was last year, when they held teams to just 36 points per game in the regular season.

Especially when the Wildcats may not pack as much of a scoring punch this season.

“I think it’s going to be really important this year since we lost a lot of main scorers last year,” Unger said. “We don’t know who is going to step up yet.”

Role playing

As it is with any team, West knows that finding a role on the team will be important to the success of their team.

They already have two of those roles filled with Hereford and Unger being the scorers and leaders of the squad.

“We look to put a lot on those two kids shoulders,” Sutter said. “So far in practice they’ve been stepping up, taking the newcomers under their wing and showing them the ropes.”

Both Unger and Hereford know how important that roles is and trying to get those newcomers up to speed with everything.

“Me and Deidra work together and try to help the girls out,” Hereford added. “We’re trying to get them used to the varsity game as much as we can.”

“We have to try and help the girls that haven’t had varsity experience to kind of learn the environment in practice,” Unger added.

Now it will be up to the other girls to follow along and find their spots on the team, especially on the floor.

‘One game at a time’

Last year, the Wildcats faced their bumps in the road. Much like the ones that they will face again this year.

But it’s how the Wildcats take those bumps and use them to get better that will define how well the season goes.

“We just have to take it one game at a time,” Unger said. “Fix our mistakes. We can’t say where we will end up.”

But if that happens, Sutter expects nothing but the same old from her Wildcats. It’s just a matter of continuing to get better.

“We always have high expectations for our girls and our program,” she said. “We are going to build on every game and learn from each experience.”

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