NAPPANEE – There was a lot to learn from how NorthWood was eliminated from last year’s girls basketball sectional at Fairfield. Adam Yoder was taking notes.
Yoder, entering his fifth season on the varsity bench for the Panthers, took in how Fairfield picked apart his team in the sectional championship game. That philosophy, while completely organic to his squad and how they already were operating, has elements to how his team will enter the 2018-19 basketball season.
Without a go-to, write-it-in, 20-point scorer on the roster, Yoder is employing a version of how Fairfield made its semi-state run. Solid defense, sharing the ball on offense, letting the hot hand take over.
“Based on past year’s performances, obviously several of our girls have proven they can do that at times,” Yoder said of multiple players taking over a game. “ We’re not a team that I see scoring most of their points from 1-2-3 players consistently, though. I envision us in the Fairfield mold from last year with a lot of players that know their roles, the system, and are capable of being the leading scorer when their time comes.”
NorthWood was a young team last year, and with several sophomores impacting last season, will continue to be a young bunch this year. The team lost a good one in the departure of Savannah Feenstra to Bethel College, and will have to absorb her 808 career points and 608 rebounds. Feenstra, however, was the lone varsity regular to leave the program.
On the defensive glass, that help should come from the junior duo of Maddy Payne and Kate Rulli. The two have over 350 rebounds in their career between them in just two years of varsity service, Rulli pulling down a team-leading 7.2 rebounds a night last year to Payne’s 6.0. Feenstra was second on the team at 7.1 boards a game.
Payne and Rulli also scored a little over 16 points a night, serving as the three and four scorers for the team. Senior Kenzie Bergman comes back as the team’s leading scorer at 9.3 ppg. Bergman, built like a cross country runner, plays fearless basketball. Also serving as the girls soccer sweeping defender, Bergman isn’t afraid to mix it up with anyone, which allows her to score both inside and outside. Bergman reached double digit scoring in 10 of NorthWood’s 25 games last year, including a 21-point effort in a win over Oregon-Davis and 19 points in another victory over Columbia City.
Bergman is just one of two seniors on the club, the other being three-year letterwinner Neely Trenshaw. Another selfless player, Trenshaw brings grit and a defensive mindset. Trenshaw only averaged a bucket a night, but gave the team 2.4 rebounds, 2.4 assists and a steal per game while usually marking one of the opponent’s perimeter options.
“With all of our primary ball-handlers returning, we expect to be better ball-handlers, passers, catchers, and shooters on the perimeter,” Yoder said. “Our perimeter players know that we play inside-out first and foremost at NorthWood, whether it be through post players or with dribble attacks, because that opens up better shots on the arc. We are fortunate to return two of the three six-footers we used last year (Payne and Rulli), so that philosophy will not change. In addition, Maddy and Kate are excellent screeners and passers, so our shooters and cutters must use that to their advantage to get themselves open and free up the inside.”
NorthWood, which ended up 16-9 last season, saw improved performance from Karlie Fielstra, who is entering her third year of varsity service as a junior guard. Sophomores Alea Minnich, Bre Wise and Kendal Miller also earned letters in their first year with the team, and Yoder will also have the services of juniors Reagan Hartman and Sidney Hostetler.
The Panthers open the season Thursday at South Bend Riley.