De Soto girls basketball fans will be keeping a close eye on the scoreboard this season.
That’s because for the Pirates, points will equal success.
De Soto has to replace its leading scorer from a year ago — Morgan Olson, who graduated. Olson scored 7.8 points per game and was also the team’s second-leading rebounder, grabbing 5.4 balls off the glass each game.
Second-year head coach Heath Eliason isn’t worried about senior leadership or the potential of his players this season. Instead he’s focused on De Soto’s ability to play tough defense and put up points.
“If we play defense the way we are capable and we can score into the 40s, we'll have a chance to win every game,” Eliason said. “If we can score into the 50s and 60s the chances of us winning improve drastically.”
The Pirates will be keyed on the floor by senior Shelbie Buckles, who was the team’s most valuable player in 2012-13 and an all-Ridge and Valley Conference honorable mention player a year ago. Buckles scored 7.2 points per game, which was impressive, but even more important was her tenacity under the hoop. She led the team grabbing 8.7 rebounds per game.
“Shelbie is an excellent defender and very athletic,” Eliason said.
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Senior Jessica Kuchta was last season's third leading scorer (6.8 points per game) and assist leader (3.2 assists per game).
“Jessica is a solid ball-handler, and point guard,” Eliason said.
De Soto’s strengths this season will revolve around athleticism, defense and rebounding. If the team can build on those strengths it could improve on last year’s third place 8-6 finish in league play and 9-14 overall record.
Eliason is hoping that senior Emily Lagerman can step into the post position left by Olson’s graduation and give the team scoring and rebounding.
“If we play solid defense and rebound we will give ourselves a chance to win every night,” Eliason said.
The real trick, Eliason said, will be seeing how the Pirates are able to bring their offense along to score the 40, 50 or 60 points necessary to be in position to win games.
In order to do that, Eliason said he’s been feeding the Pirates a steady diet of positive reinforcement, not just from him to them, but to each other.
“[We’re telling the players to] ‘encourage each other,’ ‘trust your teammates,’ and ‘play your role,’” Eliason said. “We expect to get better every practice and compete as hard as we can each game. If we do that, we will be in the mix of a wide-open Ridge and Valley Conference.”
Eliason said De Soto will be competitive.
“Ithaca and Seneca will most likely be top teams, but conference is very close this season,” Eliason said. “Teams one through eight are all pretty equal. If we play great defense and rebound, we could compete for a conference championship. Our goal is to win each game we play.”