North Carroll's Knill is bringing a laid-back approach to season

December 06, 1993|By Bill Free | Bill Free,Staff Writer

It's been nine months since the Middletown disaster and everybody around the North Carroll girls basketball team is trying to forget it.

But it's not easy.

Teams just don't get blown away, 71-33, in regional championship games very often. Especially teams that have two accomplished senior players like Michele Jeffery and Ashlee Douglas.

That loss was so devastating for North Carroll coach Greg Knill that he has completely revamped his philosophy for this season.

"I learned a lesson as a coach last season," said Knill. "I put too much pressure on those girls. Instead of just letting them go out and play, I said from the first day of the season our goal was to beat Middletown and win the regional championship. We worked for that game all year and then went out and panicked."

So Knill has one major theme for this season: no pressure.

"We're just going to relax and play basketball and see what happens," he said.

To emphasize that new low-key atmosphere, Knill munched on some cookies the other day and calmly talked about his team's prospects.

It was almost as if he was preparing for an intramural season or a county play day.

There were no major goals, no talk about any players needing to produce to make the team successful, no strong push to defend the team's county girls championship, and no big focus on players who are expected to replace Jeffery at center and Douglas at point guard.

Knill said three players might share the responsibility of replacing Jeffery's 15.9 points and 12.2 rebounds a game. They are returning veterans Jill Ballard (a 5-8 junior) and Casey Rhoten (a 5-8 senior) and newcomer Kandi Lippy (a 5-7 junior).

At the critical point-guard position, junior Cori Bradford and sophomore Julie Baker are the front-runners to take over for Douglas, who averaged five assists and three steals a game last season.

Bradford was a backup to Douglas last season and learned a lot from her, said Knill.

Baker doesn't have that experience, but she has a lot of potential.

"Julie is a talented young lady," said Knill. "She is learning how to make the system work to her advantage. She has the quickness to play the point and might wind up there with Bradford playing on the wing."

Ballard, Rhoten, Bradford and junior wing Teresa Mays are the four returning players from last season's 18-6 squad. Rhoten is the only senior on the team.

Providing depth will be versatile sophomore Kathleen Tunney and juniors Kelly Dunkleberger, Melissa Wilfong, Amber Fleming and Barbi Johnson. Dunkleberger, at 5-9, is the team's tallest player.

"We're young and making some mistakes," said Knill. "But we're working hard to correct them. We'll do the little things that help win games."

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