Bolivar fielded a young team in 2016-17 with just one of their top seven scorers being a senior. That bodes well for the Lady Liberators as they look to improve off of their 13-win season and district semifinal appearance.
“We experienced some growing pains early in the season and once our youngsters became settled and began figuring things out, the injury bug bit us and we never really recovered from losing a few key players,” Bolivar head coach Darin Archer said. “We did gain valuable experience, especially with many of our younger players, which I hope will translate to success on the court this season. We still have several areas we need to focus on and work hard to improve, but I really like this group’s work ethic and we have a great group of seniors that will lead by example, and a talented group of underclassmen that has experience and understands the rigors of varsity basketball.”
Senior Michelle Gabani will be the unquestioned leader this season after averaging a double-double of 16.2 points and 10.3 rebounds per game. She also led the team in assists (4.5), steals (4.6) and blocks (1.7). Her 45% shooting percentage from the field also led the team.
“She (Gabani) is a complete player. She has averaged a double-double the last two seasons and I expect much of the same from her again this season,” Archer said. “Michelle has the ability to make her teammates better by setting them up on both ends of the floor. She is one of the best defensive players in the area and she has the ability to put up big numbers on offense every time she steps on the floor.”
Seniors Rheagan Hancock and Reaghan Lesh along with juniors Taylor Dial and Hannah Newcomb return to the starting lineup alongside Gabani. Hancock and Lesh averaged 7.5 and 6.8 points per game, respectively, last season. Dial was at 4.7 points per game with Newcomb just behind her at 4 points per game. Hancock is making her way back from a knee injury suffered during last season.
“They have all have at least a year of varsity experience and they have a very good understanding of their roles on our team,” Archer said. “Reaghan Lesh and Taylor Dial are both seniors that will provide great leadership on and off the floor as well as play major roles on this team. Rheagan Hancock was having a breakout year as a sophomore, but suffered a season ending knee injury in late January. Hannah Newcomb played a big role as a sophomore last season. She is a versatile player that can play several positions.”
Seniors Logan Fullerton, Megan Campbell, Lydia Merdith and Emma Kramer should all see their roles expand. Fullerton suffered a season-ending knee injury in December of last year, but was a key reserve prior to the injury.
Freshman Lexi Berry is expected to play a major role on varsity after transferring from Osage.
Bolivar will look to compete for both conference and district titles here in the final year of the COC Small.
“We have a talented group with valuable varsity experience. We have several areas we need to work on and improve, but this group is not afraid of hard work. Obviously, Michelle Gabani is a special player, but we are much more than a one person team,” Archer said. “We have good depth and experience at each position. We have a very challenging non-conference schedule which should prepare us for a very rigorous and well balanced conference race.”
Bolivar opens the season on Nov. 28 at home against Clinton.