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Young Indian Creek players excited for chance in spotlight

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Despite having a young roster, the Indian Creek girls basketball team has a simple mission this season.

It can’t dwell on who’s no longer suiting up for them, hard as it is.

After all, a team doesn’t face the prospect of replacing an Indiana All-Star every November. Ally Lehman, a four-year starter, is now at Northern Illinois University.

The Braves have to band together. However, that’s where fifth-year coach Dan Burkman looks at the upcoming campaign as a glass half full.

“I told them these are opportunities for you guys,” Burkman said. “I think by Christmas time they’ll have their own identity.

“Our overall attitude and team chemistry is really good so far, and I am pleased.”

Indian Creek had a plenty strong identity last winter. The Braves won the Mid-Hoosier Conference and had a 20-6 overall record in 2012-13.

To match, or exceed, last year’s success, they’ll have to do it without their top two scorers from last season, who were lost to graduation — Lehman and Brooke Mathena.

Lehman, of course, enjoyed a banner season. She averaged 24.2 points per game, hitting 60.7 percent of her field goal attempts., and pulled down 12.7 rebounds per contest.

She wasn’t the only key loss, though.

Mathena contributed 12.2 ppg. and 3.5 rebounds.

This year, the Braves will focus on two major areas of play.

“Defense and rebounding,” said Burkman, who owns a 72-22 record in his previous four seasons.“We’re not going to be very big, and we’re not very experienced.

“Our style of play will be different. We are spending more time on our half-court offense. And we will need to be patient.”

Indian Creek does, however, have three returning starters.

Sophomore guard Candace Danz averaged 12.2 points, 6.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 2.7 steals per outing.

“Candace has all the tools necessary to excel offensively and defensively as well as make her teammates better,” Burkman said.

Junior guard Alexis McGregor contributed 6.9 ppg. and 2.6 rpg., and senior post player Kaylee Haste averaged 1.8 points and 2.9 rebounds.

Also returning is senior guard Jessie Knight, who scored 3.8 ppg. last season.

“She’s a pretty determined kid,” Burkman said. “She’ll do everything in her power to lead the team in her way. It’s been Ally’s team for a long time.”

Junior forwards Raven Danz and Michaela Smith look to figure meaningfully, as do sophomore center Bailey Wilson and sophomore guard Cassie Smith.

With neither varsity experience nor size being in surplus, effective rebounding will be especially vital. Burkman believes rebounding is not just a technique but a mindset all its own.

“You have to have a willingness, a desire and a heart to do it,” he said. “We also can’t take bad shots. When you shoot the ball and the team is not expecting it, it’s a bad shot.”

The Braves will take their best shot when they open Friday against visiting Knightstown.

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