Sturgis’ girls basketball team tips off the 2013-14 season today at home by jumping immediately into Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference play against defending East Division champion Marshall.
Amie Burger takes over as head coach and replaces Brian Beebe. Burger played varsity basketball at nearby Lakeland High School in LaGrange, Ind. and went on to compete for Glen Oaks Community College (1995-97) and Indiana University South Bend (1997-99). She spent six years coaching at various levels at Lakeland.
The Trojans finished 6-16 overall and 3-11 in SMAC play last winter, falling to Three Rivers in the Class B district finals. Seven letterwinners return, including junior center Rachel Anderson, who earned All-SMAC honors a year ago, and seniors Marissa Parker (point guard), Megan Courtney (forward) and Courtney Lovelace (guard). Sophomores Morgan Pueschel (guard), Kayla Nichols (guard) and Nicolette Nelson (center) are back after gaining valuable experience in 2012-13.
Nelson, Parker, Anderson and Pueschel all started last year. Anderson and Nelson measure in at 6-foot-2, providing nice height to go along with a roster full of speedy ball handlers and shooters. But making up for the graduation loss of Ariana George, who was named an All-SMAC honorable mention after draining 41 3-pointers, is going to be a challenge.
Burger’s goal is to score in transition, capitalize off opponent’s turnovers and make use of the height at her disposal.
“We want to push the ball up the court and look to utilize our players on the inside,” she said. We will be looking to score before our opponents have a chance to set up their defense. … We will need to put a lot of pressure on the ball and try to make our opponents hurry their offense.”
Her first year coaching against SMAC schools will also be Burger’s only tour through the league with Sturgis set to join the Wolverine Conference next year.
“Since this will be my first in in the conference, I am looking forward to the opportunity to see all of the teams in this league,” she said. “I know there are a lot of good athletes in this conference, which will make this conference a competitive one.”
Sturgis has six seniors this year compared to zero last season. New additions include senior Gretchen Inman, a 5-7 post player who took last year off, and guards Goretti Alfaro (senior), Jessica Cline (senior) and Annalissa Cholometes (junior).
Alfaro (5-5), nicknamed “G” by her teammates, has impressed in preseason preparation and could help out immensely replacing George.
“She’s pretty good,” Anderson said.
Anderson, who scored well over 200 points and grabbed more than 100 rebounds as a sophomore, thinks the program as a whole is going to be pretty solid this winter.
“I actually think we’re going to be pretty good,” She said. “A lot of the other schools’ star players have left, and this is our last year in this conference, so we want to be at the top. We have a much stronger and bigger team this year.”
Nelson and Anderson get plenty of reps in at practice banging against each other, readying them for the post players they’ll see in the league.
Sturgis is a little banged up heading into the opener, with Courtney nursing a sprained ankle and Lovelace dealing with shin splints. The Trojans suffered numerous injuries last year, which played a significant role in their struggles.
“There were a few games we could have won, but every year we have problems with injuries,” Anderson said. “We would only have seven girls that could play and we’d get tired and kind of give up. This year we have a bigger team, so I don’t think it’s going to be that big of a problem.”