After making it to the Class B regional semifinals a year ago, the Three Rivers girls basketball team takes the home court tonight against Coloma to open a new season.
With three starters lost to graduation, head coach Jason Bingaman, who has an 84-13 record in four years guiding the Wildcats, can relax knowing a new lineup will be anchored by returning All-Wolverine Conference performers in Teagan Reeves and Linsey Masnari — a duo that accounted for 61 percent of the program’s scoring in 2012-13.
Reeves, a 6-foot-2 senior forward who has already signed with Western Michigan University, made the Associated Press Class B All-State Team after scoring 511 points, grabbing 268 rebounds and swatting a staggering 97 shots as a junior, leading the Wildcats to a 22-2 overall record, a 10-0 mark in the Wolverine West and a league title. Reeves also paced the team with 40 steals on top of her 21.3 points and 11.1 rebounds per outing.
Masnari, a 6-0 senior forward who recorded 269 points, 108 rebounds, 24 blocks, 39 steals and 46 steals, was a Basketball Coaches Association of Michigan All-State honorable mention. She averaged 11.2 points and 4.9 rebounds per game
Three Rivers shot 40 percent from the field (504-for-1,252) last season and knocked down 202 of 353 free-throw attempts (57 percent).
Returning letterwinners include seniors Cory Sanders (5-7, G), Alicia Schmittendorff (5-3, G), Holly Hines (5-9, C/F) and Kim Sibert (5-6, G). The Wildcats’ varsity rookies are juniors Addy Cooper (5-6, G), Alexis Herbert (5-9, G), Helaina Haffner (6-1, C/F), Taylor Schultz (5-8, G), Cheyenne Richardson (5-10, C/F) and Alyssa Smith (5-8, C/F).
Not much of a 3-point shooting team last season, Three Rivers lost its biggest long-range threats. No player other than Masnari and Reeves averaged more than two points per game, so it might take some time for new roles to be established.
However, the fresh faces are coming from a junior varsity squad that went 19-1 last winter and shouldn’t take long to become major contributors.
“We obviously want to get the ball into the hands of Teagan and Linsey as much as possible,” Bingaman said, “but I feel we have the necessary pieces around them to be consistent in other areas. We will want to play uptempo as much as possible because I feel we have the athletes to do so. But our strength will still be in the half court where we can grind the ball to our post strengths.”
That collective team speed is expected to bleed over to a trap-heavy defense, Bingaman explained.
Edwardsburg, South Haven and Berrien Springs all bring back mature teams and will try to dethrone the Wildcats in the West. Plainwell, last year’s league runner-up, Otsego and Paw Paw are the biggest threats in the East.