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Woodmen try to build upon 18-5 campaign

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Debbie Guckenberger’s first 10 seasons as Greenwood’s girls basketball coach proved quite a journey.

Her first two Woodmen teams won a total of five games; her most recent two squads combined to win 38.

Along the way, Greenwood finally stepped outside its postseason comfort zone when in 2012 it picked up the program’s first sectional championship.

Having graduated four-fifths of her starting lineup and some key reserve players, Guckenberger knows duplicating or improving upon last season’s 18-5 season will be extremely difficult.

Not that she isn’t willing to try.

“We’re going to have to stay injury-free and probably slow down the pace somewhat,” said Guckenberger, whose senior-laden team of a year ago lost to Franklin Central, 53-36, in the championship game of the Class 4A Franklin Sectional.

“It’s definitely a rebuilding year in the sense we don’t have a lot of kids with varsity minutes. Last year, if a player was injured it was next man up. Right now the biggest challenge we have is depth.”

This Greenwood squad goes seven deep with the coach pretty much set on a starting lineup for Tuesday night’s season-opener at home against Bloomington North.

Running the show from her point guard position will be 5-foot-4 sophomore Holly Hoopingarner, the lone starter returning after averaging eight points a game.

It’s Hoopingarner who, even as one of the roster’s younger players, establishes the tone for the Woodmen. She wasn’t starting as a freshman by accident.

“She is hands-down the leader on our team. Holly is very vocal and is our best player,” Guckenberger said. “We look for her to distribute the basketball and get people open. She’s fun to watch. The problem is other teams are probably going to be focusing on her.”

Six-foot forward Sarah McLeod and 5-11 post Brittany Gray, both seniors, are Greenwood’s primary interior options. Joining Hoopingarner in the backcourt will be 5-5 senior Sydney Hite, while 5-9 sophomore Megan Overton is the other starting forward.

“I think Brittany and Sarah have to have big years,” Guckenberger said. “Sarah has a lot of ability but has always had to play behind stars. I think she’s excited about the opportunity to get more minutes this season.”

The two players primed to come off the bench are 5-9 junior forward Madeline Wolf and 5-3 sophomore guard Maddie Renfro. Cassidy Branagan and Kennedy Rains, both 5-5 sophomores, could factor into Greenwood’s plans as the regular season progresses.

After hosting Bloomington North, the Woodmen are at Beech Grove on Nov. 16. The annual Johnson County Tournament takes place Nov. 19-23, and Greenwood’s first Mid-State Conference test comes Nov. 27 at Plainfield.

Guckenberger’s program has secured the past two league titles by winning 11 of 12 Mid-State games. The Woodmen’s last in-conference setback came in January 2012 with a 50-47 loss at Whiteland.

Victories, the previously mentioned sectional title and mention in the 4A state rankings more often than not during the past two seasons represent the most successful era in Greenwood girls basketball history.

Guckenberger’s hope is that this group somehow manages to keep the good times going.

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