The pre-season never seems long enough to coaches. Lady Aces coach Tim Willis is concerned about his team’s conditioning and defense after only two weeks of preparation for Tuesday’s season opener at Washington. Yet, “overall I think we’re ready to play and it’s time to get it started and see where we’re at,” Willis said.
It is tough enough to open the season with an important Big 8 Conference game, but the Hatchets have already played a game on top of that. Washington is 1-0 after a 48-46 victory last Tuesday over South Knox. In that game, the Lady Hatchets led by 13 points at the end of the first period, but watched as South Knox spent the rest of the night battling back. Ally Hunsinger led Washington with 13 points, while Audra Lane added 11. The Hatchets were guilty of 22 turnovers in the game. “They have a game under their belt, so that’s an advantage for them. But, we got to scout them, which is an advantage for us,” Willis said.”We’ve done this for so many years, we’re excited about it. Our girls are looking forward to the atmosphere at the Hatchet House.” The Lady Aces return three starters from last year, including junior all-stater Tyra Buss. Buss has 2,149 points in her first two seasons at the Hilltop. She is almost 400 points ahead of the two-year pace of Olney’s Brittany Johnson on her way to setting the state scoring record in 2007. Buss had the third highest scoring average in the country last year. Willis is hopeful that the Lady Aces will flourish in the new motion offense, introduced last year, but strengthened over the summer and in pre-season workouts. “We’re pleased with the motion offense we have put in,” Willis said. “Now we need to find out how it does against other defenses.” Expect “a lot less sets” with this offense, Willis said. “We will have more options for the junk defenses that we will see. So, we’ll have more options to battle that.” Alyssa Lang, a transfer from Fairfield, has been busy learning the Aces system. Willis said she is catching on very quickly. “The kids have really embraced her, and made her part of the team.” As a scoring threat all her own, with an ability to score from both inside and out, Lang’s presence could take some of the heat off of both Buss and post player Alex Rosignol at the same time. Willis isn’t so sure he agrees with some who call Lang a missing link for the Lady Aces, who in February lost to Teutopolis in the Class 2A sectional for a second straight year. “I don’t know about that,” he said. “At tournament time, it’s going to come down to who can knock down shots and get the rebounds. Lang certainly makes us better.” Buss is also becoming an even better player as her prep career advances. “She is certainly stronger than she was a year ago,” Willis said. “She finishes better in traffic, and her shot is just as good as always. What we don’t give her enough credit for is her defensive ability and her basketball savvy.” Both teams tied for third in the final Big 8 standings last year, at 3-3. Mt. Carmel was 26-6 overall, Washington finished 14-8. The junior varsity game begins at 5:30 p.m., with the varsity action projected to tipoff at 7 p.m.