“Ultimately, our success will be determined by how hard we play,” said head coach Jim Flora. “We will play an up-tempo, full-court game. We also need our post players to step up and become a real threat on offense.”
Pleasant Hope’s sparkplug will be senior Catlin Evans, a speedy point guard who is the top returning scorer at 12 points per contest.
“She is our leader and catalyst,” said Flora of Evans, who is one of several Lady Pirates who were members of the school’s Class 2 state championship softball team this fall. “She makes us go. She runs everything and will be asked to score more this season.”
Senior Kari Hillenburg, who like Evans was an All-State honoree on the diamond this fall, is the Lady Pirates’ shooting guard and 3-point specialist. Hillenburg, also the team’s best defender, will look to increase her 10 points per game scoring average from a year ago. Fellow classmate Bailey Hinkle will be returning to the post after rehabbing an ACL injury.
The Lady Pirates will not lack speed, including an athletic slasher in junior guard Starla Staffen, who averaged seven points per game as a sophomore. Junior Kylie Harldson is one of the team’s best defenders, while fellow classmate Becca Altic, a center, might be the squad’s most improved player after a great summer.
Sophomore Kori Hillenburg is a quick and athletic option off the bench at the point, while fellow classmate Haley Hillenburg is a versatile inside-outside scoring threat that also attacks the boards. Sophomore newcomer Taylor Greene brings athleticism and rebounding to the team.
“Our strengths will be our quickness, speed and shooting, but we need to work on our rebounding,” said Flora, who also coached the Lady Pirates to a state championship on the diamond. “I think we will be very competitive, with a real chance to be good. It all will depend on how our young players and post players improve and step up. We play a very difficult schedule that hopefully will prepare us for districts.”
Pleasant Hope’s schedule, which begins with a game on Nov. 19 against visiting Central, includes a gauntlet through the Mid-Lakes Conference, a conference which has produced at least one Final Four team the past two seasons.