Lady Aces host annual Girls Basketball Postseason Banquet
Haubstadt, Ind. -- Mount Carmel student-athletes, parents and the girls basketball coaching staff all gathered at the Log Inn in Haubstadt on Tuesday night for the annual Girls Basketball Banquet, recollecting on the achievements of this year’s group, the time the seniors have devoted to the program and generating excitement for what’s to come.
It was certainly a rollercoaster ride of a season for Mount Carmel (14-16), who began the season 8-1. Head coach Tim Willis knew it’d be a challenging season for his group, who had a strong collection of underclassmen being asked to contribute big time minutes. They boasted a 13-7 record against Illinois foes, while 1-9 against Indiana opponents. The recent news of Mount Carmel leaving the Big Eight is obviously a welcome sight with that statistic in mind.
The staff at the Log Inn provided an excellent meal of fried chicken, ham, mashed potatoes with gravy, green beans and rolls at the tables in a thanksgiving style meal as the banquet commenced.
After the ladies and parents finished eating their meals, coach Willis provided a state of the program speech and talked about his expectations for next season.
“Our lack of experience showed at different times throughout the season -- we struggled all season slowing down when we needed to,” coach Willis recollected on the season. “We were fine when we were making the run at the other team but we struggled all year pulling in the reins and slowing down when the opponent was making their run. . . . On the flip side, I’d rather have a group we have to teach time, score and patience than have a group where effort was an issue. The experience we gained this season should help us as we move forward to next season.”
“We have the talent to make a run next season, but the preparation for the season has to start today.” Willis said.
Subsequently, he and the coaching staff handed out awards honoring the individual accomplishments of the ladies with awards specified to something they excelled at this past season.
First, Flynn Guard was awarded the Rookie of the Year Award. Guard spent most of the season playing on the JV squad prior to her late promotion for varsity. She tore her ACL late in the season and will be rehabbing from it in the months to come. Coach Willis says she brings energy on the defensive end, infectious enthusiasm and will help them on both ends next season.
Allie McPherson was given the award as Co-MVP of the Junior Varsity team. Coach Willis said McPherson’s a solid outside threat that they’d like to see become a more all-around player. They’d like to see McPherson become a key player on the defensive end and a big rebounder, citing her volleyball prowess as to her potential.
Jada Smith was awarded with the Hustle Award. This one was a no-brainer, every time Smith entered the ballgame she had an infectious enthusiasm, provided a spark off the bench and was a relentless on the ball defender. Coach Willis would like to see Smith improved on her outside shot in the offseason.
Next, Madi Smith was awarded the Windex Award. The 6-foot-1 Smith became a key player down the stretch as a starting big for the Lady Aces and her ability as a shot blocker was a big reason why. Coach Willis added that she has the chance to be a game changer for their team and she needs to want to be a big time player, as she’s capable.
The next award(s) was given to the Lady Ace floor general, Maya Smith. She was given the Offensive Player of the Year Award as well as the Bea Morgan Assist Award. Maya’s relentless pursuit in attacking the basket made her a major key for the Lady Aces. When she played well, they played tremendous as a team. Coach Willis said they’ll be working with her on here pull-up jumpers and they need her to grow as a defensive player and a leader.
Rylie Webb was next and was given the Defensive Player of the Year Award. Just a sophomore, Webb was asked to guard the oppositions best player most nights. Coach Willis added that they just need to keep her locked into the game and not get distracted by things out of her control.
Haley Wright was awarded as the co-MVP of the JV squad, joining McPherson. Wright, a lefty, boasts a nice jumper and can attack the basket with her ability to pull-up and score off the dribble. Coach Willis said they’ll look for Wright to improve her ability with her right hand and attacking the boards.
Next, Kassidy Drone was given the Sharpshooter Award. Drone consistently gave good minutes to the Lady Aces this season, working as a nice three-and-D type player, defending well and boasting a superb 3-point ball. The coaches will look for Drone to impose her will offensively more this coming season, noting she took just 63 free throws this season, they’d like for her to reach 125 next season and be a leader for next year’s group.
Lastly, Alli Kell rounded out the underclassmen. Kell was behind a strong group of senior bigs much of the year but made her impact. Coach Willis commented that she’s very strong and took a huge step forward this season, playing with a ton of confidence. He’d like to see Kell become more aggressive and provide toughness and scoring next season.
After talking about his returning players, coach Willis spoke of his seniors, who enjoyed a great deal of success in their careers and devoted their time to the program. The three, Mollie Dardeen, Meredith Jones and Sela Lashbrook. Impressively, all three girls work jobs outside of school and did so while playing basketball. Not an easy task for a high schooler.
First, coach Willis spoke of Dardeen. He called Dardeen their most versatile player, capable of playing inside or outside with her improved jumper that stretched out to 3-point range. He joked that they already knew she was a tough player, she didn’t need to prove it by breaking her hand. She’ll be the last Dardeen daughter to come through the program, following the legacies of her sisters, Annie and Maddie. Coach Willis wouldn’t comment on which of the sisters was a better player, but said Dardeen made her impact. Dardeen was given the Rebounding Award.
Jones was next up on coach Willis’ agenda. He spoke of how Jones won the starting job last summer and played well early, prior to her ankle injury against Princeton. The injury sidelined her for over a month, allowing the emergence of Madi Smith. He felt Jones’ best trait was her attitude and toughness, citing her ability to mix it up, set screens and do the dirty work. Thus, Jones received the Attitude Award.
Rounding out the three seniors, he spoke about Lashbrook. Lashbrook provided a great low post presence off the bench for the Lady Aces, boasting a physical presence underneath the basket and stretching the floor out to her 15-foot mid-range jumper. He spoke highly of Lashbrook’s ability in mentoring Madi Smith and taking her under her wing, citing what kind of teammate Lashbrook was throughout the season. Lashbrook was awarded with the prestigious Lady Ace Award.
After concluding his thoughts on the individual girls, coach Willis wrapped up the night by offering some thoughts to the returning ladies.
“Be ready to go. We should have high expectations, but expectations do not win games -- you win games. You win with preparation and discipline. How far we go next year is dependent on how much time and effort you want to put in over the summer, during the offseason.”
With that, he thanked everyone for coming out and the crowd dispersed. It should be a fun 2019-2020 season for Mount Carmel, if like coach Willis said, the young ladies buy in.