Since Chris Oliger took over as head coach of the Hagerstown High School girls basketball team, the Tigers always find a way to be in games.
That has a lot to do with his emphasis on defense.
After losing every starter from a 2011-12 Tri-Eastern Conference championship team, the Tigers went 12-10, 4-3 in TEC play in the program’s seventh straight winning season.
“I think the key has been for the last six, seven years,” Oliger said. “We’re going to come play our best defensive game that we can. I always preach to them defense keeps you in the games. That way if the shot’s not falling, I think that always gives us an opportunity.”
The Tigers return starting guard senior Hayley Rogers.
The five-foot-7 Rogers is coming off a fourth straight trip to the cross country semistate in the fall and was the Tigers’ leading scorer with her 15.4 points per game as a junior. She added 5.8 rebounds a contest.
Though she’s the only starter returning to the court, the Tigers have lots of young contributors back.
Karley Hannon is also a senior hoping to earn varsity minutes, along with juniors Tawni Brown, Kaley Caudill, Marissa Matanich, Olivia Houck, Vivian Pierson, Hannah Blumer and Julie Robinson. Sophomores Gabby Willis and Savannah Houck logged varsity minutes last year and about six freshmen are looking to earn a varsity spot.
“I think this year we’re going to try to maybe open it up a little bit,” Oliger said. “We’re not going to be real big, Julie and Tawni are 5-9, 5-11. Other than that we don’t have very much height.”
The Tigers open the season Thursday at Knightstown and travel to Seton Catholic for the first time Nov. 20, before opening their home schedule Nov. 22 opposite Monroe Central.
Their first TEC game is at the home of reigning champion Winchester on Nov. 27.
Oliger hopes his team’s defense can once again keep them in the TEC title hunt.
“We’re going to see if we can be that way again. It’s going to be just as tough a season. Winchester’s got (three) starters back, Lincoln’s got four starters back, Union City’s got everybody back … I think it’s going to be a very competitive TEC,” Oliger said.
The Tigers host TEC games against Centerville (Dec. 17), Tri High (Dec. 21) and Union City (Jan. 28), while traveling to Winchester, Union County (Dec. 11), Lincoln (Jan. 16) and Northeastern (Jan. 21).
Other home games are against Daleville (Nov. 23), Shenandoah (Dec. 3), Union (Jan. 2) and Muncie Burris (Jan. 25), while they travel to the Cascade tournament Dec. 28 and host the Wayne County tournament Jan. 9-11.
Madison Houck, Courtney Rogers, Olivia Robinson and Kelsie Arnold graduated, but Robinson looks to contribute as an assistant coach.
“It’s been a great group to work with. They’re playing hard. They’re very competitive, working each other hard and making each other better,” Oliger said.
“… You’re going to see Hayley have a good year. She’s going to continue to play hard. I’m excited to watch the younger girls improve.
“You want that TEC and that county tourney, but ultimately you want to be playing your best basketball come February.”