Strong returning cast for Lady Rebels

Nathan Oster

Coach Jason Mitchell is taking the long view of his Riverside girls basketball team as it prepares for this weekend’s tournament in Upton, viewing the games as an opportunity to lay the foundation for future success.
“December wins and losses won’t matter much once we get to February,” he said, pointing out four of his team’s first six opponents are likely to ranked among the top five in their respective classifications.  
“We need to value those opportunities to play against quality basketball teams and let that experience make us a better team when we come back after Christmas break.”
The Lady Rebels are scheduled to play Friday games against Upton at 12:30 p.m. and Sundance at 3:30 p.m. before closing out tournament play with a noon matchup against Arvada-Clearmont on Saturday.  In the preseason poll, Upton is ranked No. 2 in 1A and Sundance is No. 4 in 2A.
Last season ended abruptly for the Lady Rebels, who lost a loser-out game at regionals but still finished above .500 at 13-10 overall and 4-2 in the conference, trailing only Burlington.  Caroline Schlattmann, who led in most statistical categories including scoring (13.9 ppg) and rebounding (10.3 rpg), graduated. As big a loss as she is, the Rebels have some quality players returning, according to Mitchell.
“We’re not as refined in terms of basketball-specific skills or live game basketball IQ as we have been the last couple years. But at least for now, I think we may be able to go deeper into the bench than we’ve done in the past,” he said. “I really love the work ethic and approach of our girls. We haven’t overloaded them so far, but I think our top girls would run themselves into the ground if that’s what was asked of them.”
Sophomore Brooklynn Paxton, who ranked right behind Schlattmann in scoring (10.0 ppg) and rebounding (8.2 rpg), leads the returning cast which also features junior Vinaya VanderPloeg (4.9 ppg, 3.6 rpg) and sophomore Johnna Clifford (3.0 ppg, 3.5 rpg).
“They will need to be our leaders early on,” said Mitchell. “All three of them played significant minutes for us last year. They’ll need to set the example of willingly sharing the ball and playing within your own abilities.”
Other returning players with varsity experience include seniors Anna Stone, Teagan Kozisek, junior Ada Pratt, and sophomores Kennedy Bassett and Varissa Olsen.
Rounding out the roster are junior Alison McClure, sophomores McKenzie Potter and Julie Earl and freshman Daya Olsen.