SIDNEY — Anna and Lehman Catholic’s girls basketball teams have a similar mix of returnees and newcomers, but it was apparent in a nonconference game on Saturday they’re in different spots ability-wise early in the season.
The Rockets picked up their first win of the season in Lehman’s opener by running away to a 70-33 victory. The big victory came four days after Anna lost its season opener 48-46 at West Liberty-Salem in a matchup of two of the Dayton Division III sectional’s most consistent powers.
“We’re getting better,” Anna coach Jeff Maurer said. “We’ve got some things to figure out; it’s going to take us a while, just like a lot of teams this year. With the pandemic and not having much of a summer and not having much of a preseason, we’re still learning.
“It’s a process. We tell the girls that we just want to get better every day in the gym. They’re doing a good job.”
Anna has five returning letterwinners from last season. Headlining the group is senior guard Ella Doseck, who has been a three-year varsity player. Doseck was a first team all-SCAL selection last season after averaging 11.5 points, 3.5 assists, 3.5 rebounds and three steals per game in regular season.
Doseck will be depended upon after the loss of three seniors from last year’s squad, which won a Division III regional title and was slated to play in a state semifinal before COVID-19 derailed the tournament. Among the losses to graduation is center Lauren Barhorst, who averaged about 12 points per game last season.
Doseck scored 28 points in the team’s opener at West Liberty-Salem and scored 17 against the Cavaliers on Saturday.
“She’s one of the top players in the area, and she knows she has to take more of the scoring responsibility on,” Maurer said. “She did late in the year last year for us. She’s a great player, and we definitely need to have her involved in everything we’re doing.
“… She had a great game against West Liberty. It was one those nights where she was feeling it. Credit to the rest of the girls; they knew it, and they were getting her the ball.”
With the loss of Barhorst and forward Kiplyn Rowland among others, the Rockets are more guard-oriented this season. Junior forward Lenna Rowland is the team’s tallest player at 5-foot-10, and she is recovering from an injury.
Anna is playing more of a run-and-gun style and pushing the ball in transition more as a result. That style frustrated Lehman, which couldn’t slow the pace or keep up with the Rockets on Saturday.
“Since we don’t have 6-2 (Barhorst) anymore to walk it up and just throw the high-low, we have to adjust,” Maurer said. “The girls are doing a good job.”
Doseck isn’t the only returning guard. Senior Mary Landis is a two-year letterwinner and juniors Kayli Brewer and Breann Reaman were letterwinners last year. Junior Molly Rioch saw some playing time off the bench, as did sophomore Taylor Poeppelman, who Maurer said will see much more time this season after being a key junior varsity player last year.
“We’ve got some young girls that are just getting their feet wet,” Maurer said. “We’ve got some freshmen that are getting their first minutes. Taylor is factoring in pretty big for us right now, and we’re real pleased with what she’s doing for us.
“I’m happy with where we’re at. We’ve got a lot of work to do and a lot of improvements to make, but it’s a good start.”
Doseck and Brewer each made two 3-pointers in the first quarter to help Anna built an 18-6 lead over Lehman. The Rockets used a 21-5 scoring advantage in the second to pull out to a 39-11 lead before halftime and outscored the Cavaliers 15-14 in the third quarter and 16-8 in the fourth.
Reaman led Anna with 20 points while Brewer finished with 13.The Rockets shot 20 for 43 (47 percent) from the floor, 24 for 28 (86 percent) from the free-throw line and outrebounded Lehman 18-16.
“Great way to start today,” Maurer said. “Saturday morning game, sometimes you don’t know what kind of focus the girls are going to have. But I thought the girls came with a focus and an energy right from the start, mentally especially.”
Like Anna, Lehman lost three starters to graduation and has the bulk of its roster back from a 16-7 squad that won the Northwest Central Conference last season.
But it lost its top two scorers in Lauren McFarland and Rylie McIver, as well as starter Hope Anthony. The three players together averaged 26.8 of Lehman’s 47.5 points per game.
“We’re still trying to find our place as far as our team goes, as far as who’s best at what position,” Hall said. “We’ve got some nice freshmen coming in that have some potential. But it’s a matter of not wanting to push them into it too quickly and have them overwhelmed.”
Lehman didn’t have much time in preseason to work, either. Several players got a late start to practice due to the girls soccer team’s district final run, and Hall was quarantined for two weeks as a result of COVID-19 contact tracing earlier this month, which prevented the squad from practicing.
Hall said the team had only about 10 total practices before Saturday’s loss.
“It’s been a rough start for everybody, there’s no question about it,” Hall, who was named the NWCC coach of the year last year, said. “… It is what it is. But even with the (scoring problems), I told them at halftime today that you don’t have to have any skill to play defense and rebound. We struggled doing that.”
The Cavaliers shot 12 for 27 (32 percent) from the floor and committed 25 turnovers.
“This game was a lot like the rest of the year,” Hall said. “It was one to forget.”
Hall is hoping the rest of the season will be one to remember, though. It’ll be the Cavaliers last as a member of the NWCC, and he’s hoping the squad can leave with another league title.
Several players return this season, including seniors Anna Cianciolo and Emma Kennedy and junior Heidi Toner. Cianciolo averaged 8.1 points and 4.1 rebounds per game last year while Toner averaged seven points and 5.7 rebounds.
Cianciolo led Lehman with 12 points on Saturday while Caroline Wesner scored eight.
“We’re still trying to find out who the go-to person for scoring is,” Hall said. “We have Anna handling the ball, and we have to get her some relief. We can’t expect her to do it for 32 minutes every day.
“We’d like to play uptempo because we’re an athletic team, but we’ve got to figure out what kind of depth we’ve got. We’ve got a lot to learn. I did learn a lot in the second half today instead of the first half. We’re still going through the learning curve.”
Other returnees include Wesner, a sophomore, and junior Colleen O’Leary. Key newcomers include junior Kiersten Franklin and freshmen Ava Dexter, Aubri Karn, Taylor Geise and Mara O’Leary. Senior LeAnn Trahey has rejoined the team after missing last season.
“I knew to expect a lot of growing pains today, but getting outhustled and outrebounded was disappointing,” Hall said. “Defense and rebounding is just all effort. But we’re going to regroup.”
Reach Bryant Billing at 937-538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.