Throughout the past two seasons, varsity minutes were on the table for the Brownstown Central underclassmen.
Those opportunities weren’t squandered.
The Braves’ girls basketball program has graduated just two seniors since 2015.
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In the upcoming 2017-18 season, the Braves look to cash in all of court time put in by their current juniors and seniors.
Brownstown Central has three seniors on this year’s roster: Kristen Stuckwisch, Shelby Stuckwisch and Madison Klinge.
Since seeing limited time their freshmen years, the three have played major roles on the floor for the Braves.
“Over the years, they’ve grown and matured,” Braves coach Karla Rieckers said. “I think all three of them dressed as varsity at some point as freshmen. Each year, I’ve seen them grow and improve and take on leadership roles. I can’t be more happy with how hard they’re coming out, working and communicating with our kids.”
Klinge and Kristen Stuckwisch were in the starting lineup come sectional last season with Shelby Stuckwisch acting as the Braves’ sixth man off of the bench.
Unlike the rosters of recent years, the Braves don’t have a freshman in the rotation this season.
“My varsity is primarily made up of three seniors, three juniors and two sophomores,” Rieckers said. “I have eight kids who will dress full time, and that leaves 10 for junior varsity, and they will have very limited minutes. I will primarily go with the eight I have on varsity full time.”
Junior Tayler Garland and sophomore Ashley Schroer also return to the starting lineup this season.
The Braves also are looking forward to having junior Payton Farmer return to an expanded role.
In her freshman year, as a starter, Farmer averaged 11 points, seven rebounds and two steals per game before an injury set her back last winter.
In December 2015, as a freshman, Farmer learned of a nerve entrapment and also an extra bone on the back of her ankle. Farmer made it through sectional and went back to the doctor, and then later had surgery at the end of May 2016.
Farmer played in 13 games last season after missing all of the summer workouts, averaging three points and five rebounds.
This season, Farmer looks to return to form.
“Payton has been completing every practice and playing,” Rieckers said. “She gets a little frustrated with what she can and can’t do. I tell her that since she had her surgery, she will have to adjust. She missed close to a year, and she wants to be back to the original Payton. I’ve been proud of how hard she has been practicing, and she doesn’t seem to have any residual from the surgery.”
The Braves went 15-11 last season, including 4-5 in Mid-Southern Conference play for sixth place. North Harrison was the champion, going 9-0 in the MSC, before finishing runner-up in the Class 3A state championship.
“Everyone is hoping to do very well this season,” Kristen Stuckwisch said. “We want to raise the bar farther from last year and keep being successful.”
Due to the success factor, the Cats were bumped up to Class 4A during the recent reclassification.
The Cats weren’t the only MSC powerhouse last season. Eastern (Pekin), which was the MSC runner-up last year at 8-1, went on to win the Class 2A state finals.
With a lot of talent returning to the MSC, Rieckers looks forward to the challenge.
“I would say North Harrison is at the top of everyone’s pick,” Rieckers said. “I think Charlestown, also, they return everyone from their varsity last year. I think they will be good, and so will Salem. You look at our conference, and both North Harrison and Pekin were in the state finals. Pekin was a state champion, and they’re going to be someone to reckon with.
“If you look at our conference, I don’t think there’s a really easy game. Our conference is very competitive, which is good for us. It will be interesting to see how everything plays out.”
The Braves averaged 43.5 points per game last season. This year, the pace will continue to accelerate.
“We’re not very big or tall. We want to get out, push the ball and run,” Rieckers said. “I’ve been really happy with how they’ve adjusted to that. We’ve tried putting it in the past couple years, and sometimes, they got it, and other times, they didn’t. I think everyone is on the same page now with pushing the ball.
“Defensively, even though we’re not real big, I think we do a nice job. Ashley does a nice job on the boards for us, and it will be great to have Payton back in there to give us a little more height. We had a good summer, and I’m looking forward to a good year.”
Shelby Stuckwisch said this year’s team has lots of speed.
“We’re really quick compared to previous years since we’re basically all guards,” she said. “I think we have more confidence. I would say expectations are pretty high. We don’t have as many freshmen playing now. There’s a lot of experience. I think we just need to have the confidence knowing we can win.”
With the number of guard-type players, Klinge thinks the team will be able to control the pace.
“Everyone can handle the ball on the team,” Klinge said. “We have a lot of good shooters and post players. We’re doing pretty well all-around.”
Rieckers said she likes the way the team is shaping up as it heads into Saturday’s season-opener at Corydon Central.
“They work hard, all get along and have fun. That’s a big part of being successful,” Rieckers said.