The Wilson Trojans girls basketball team (6-8) came into the 2014-15 season as one of the PIL favorites after reaching the 5A state quarterfinals last season. Those expectations came with the anticipation of a fully healthy squad. Unfortunately, that hasn’t been the case for the Trojans.
“We’ve got three players out with injuries,” Wilson head coach Mike Nolan said last week. “Three key players, including two starters.”
One starter, junior Nikki Hogan, suffered a broken finger. The 5-foot-11 post was becoming a solid complement option down low to senior Lily Brodrick.
“Nikki was playing great before she got hurt,” Nolan said.
Another starter, guard Jamie Kresl, tore her ACL and is out for the season. Kresl showed glimpses of being a consistent double-digit scoring threat during crucial games last season. Losing her talent, as well as experience, was a huge blow to the Trojans. Filling Kresl’s void has been senior guard Rachel Reese.
“Rachel has really stepped up,” Nolan said. “She’s played a huge role at the ‘two’ for us.”
Wilson also lost depth when McKenzie Hopfer, who was expected to be a leading contributor off the bench, also went out with a torn ACL injury.
“We’ve had a lot of adversity,” Nolan said. “Our bench is really short.”
With so many injuries to critical players, it could have been easy for the Trojans to take a big step back this season. Instead, they have fought back and find themselves in third place in the PIL with a 4-2 record. Their two league losses came to Grant and Lincoln, who are a combined 13-0 in league play.
“They’re resilient,” Nolan said. “They love to compete.”
Despite all of the injuries, the Trojans have found stability in senior point guard Madison Horn. She played an important role on the court in last year’s run to the state quarterfinals. This year she’s added to her on-court production by taking on the responsibilities as team leader.
“Madison is our engine,” Nolan said. “She makes us go. She does a great job.”
Without three key offensive players, Wilson has embraced being a defensive, rebound-oriented philosophy.
“Our defensive rebounding has been awesome so far,” Nolan said. “We’ve done a really good job of holding opponents to a low score, keeping the game tight, with the hope to wear them out in the fourth quarter.”
The Trojans are allowing just 41 points per game this season, relieving pressure from the offense.
“We share the ball really well,” Nolan said. “We don’t have a superstar. The girls understand that. We play a great team game.”
The top four teams from each of the 6A leagues receive automatic berths to the playoffs. Wilson has put themselves in good early position to earn one of the automatic berths. However, Nolan isn’t counting his girls out of the PIL race, despite 25-point and 17-point losses to Grant and Lincoln respectively.
“I don’t think anyone is going to go undefeated in the PIL. There’s going to be one or two losses. We just got to tighten up a couple of things here and there.”
The Trojans will need some outside help to jump back into the running for the PIL title. With all of the bad breaks they have been dealt this season, perhaps a good break is finally in the works.