The Westminster Christian girls basketball roster lists eight juniors and no seniors this year, but coach Ken Flickinger warns this is deceiving.
“We look at our juniors as seniors because all but one or two have been up with varsity since they were freshmen,” Flickinger said.
Coming off a 22-9 regional championship year, the Warriors expect to be competitive for the Northeastern Athletic Conference title with Luther North and Rockford Christian Life because of their large group of returning players who bring both talent and versatility.
“We’re going to be very solid defensively,” said Flickinger, whose team held opponents to 37 points per game last year. “That’s the foundation we built around. We have a lot of speed and we’re going to try to take advantage of that to play fast and turn people over, then get up and down the court.”
All five starters — Kinsley Donahue, Liz Meschewski, McKaila Hays, Claire Speweik, and Libbie Atchison — are juniors and the Warriors boast good height with Meschewski 5-10, Donahue 5-10, Speweik 5-11, and reserve sophomore post player Savannah Dutcher 6-foot.
“We’re pretty versatile and have guards who can handle the post and I’d say our top eight players can handle any position whether it’s guard or post,” Flickinger said. “We’ve got good size and length, which is going to help on defense and rebounding.”
Flickinger hadn’t really thought of the group as being good shooters last year.
“Then we were hitting 40 percent of our three-pointers by Christmas so we kind of said, ‘Let’s give them the green light,’” Flickinger said.
Hays might be the best three-point threat back. The Warriors have five players who averaged seven points or more last season. Speweik and Hays averaged nine points last year and Donahue, Meschewski and Atchison averaged seven last year.
“The goal is to get to the rim more than last year, so we’re not going to be all about shooting outside,” Flickinger said. “Our biggest problem might be trying to figure out who has the hot hand on a given night because I feel like we have eight players capable of scoring 15 points a game. We just have to find which one is going to do it that night.”
Juniors Christina Cusumano and Courtney Gnan and freshman Maddie Versluys figure to be key performers off the bench for Westminster. Junior Emma Anderson, sophomore Emma Kovachevich and freshmen Jackie Calabrese and Hannah Rodriguez provide added depth.
“We’ve got enough depth that I think we’ll be able to apply more pressure to teams,” Flickinger said
Westminster this year has added Schaumburg, Hampshire, St. Francis and De La Salle to its schedule.
“We’ve gradually toughened up our schedule,” said Flickinger. “It’s been done by design and I think it will help. We’re already seeing it. Two years ago we got in the Dundee-Crown summer league and won one game but this past year we were one game under .500. So we’re playing real good teams.”