BATH TOWNSHIP – At the start of every basketball season, the Bath girls are always mentioned as a team to be reckoned with.
This season isn’t any different.
Bath has run the table in the Western Buckeye League the past two seasons.
Last year, Bath won the WBL title and went on to win the Division II district championship.
To win the WBL for the third consecutive season won’t be easy, as the Wildkittens graduated a few key players from last year’s 20-6 squad.
Out of the 48.9 points per game it averaged last season, the players Bath lost to graduation accounted for 23.7 of those points.
“We’ve got a void, there’s no question about it,” longtime Bath coach Greg Mauk said. “We’re trying to replace the three-time Western Buckeye League Player of the Year in Emily Ruhe. She also was the District 8 Player of the Year, two years in a row. Her presence inside is a real challenge for us to try to replace. Those are big shoes to fill. We also lost Taylor Dackin and Katie Dackin out of that class, who were two good perimeter players.”
Bath returns six letterwinners from last year’s squad. Jenna Hollar (5-5, Sr., 3.8 points per game); Audrey Brandon (5-8, Sr., 3.0); Madison Dackin (5-9, Jr., 5.9); Alyssa Manley (5-5, Jr., 8.7); Cassie Best (5-8, Jr., 2.8) and Bri Smith (6-0, Jr., 2.3) return for the Wildkittens.
Other players looking to make an impact for Bath are Tara Herr (5-6, Sr.); Danielle VanDyne (6-1, Sr.); Ellie Dackin (5-8, Jr.) and Courtny Johnson (5-5, Sr.).
With the loss of the 6-foot Ruhe, who was a dominant post player, Bath will be looking to push the pace even more this season.
“It’s been a big challenge for us to find a different way to play, because we don’t have the big kid inside to get on the block to score for us,” Mauk said. “So, it’s been a challenge for us to see if we can get up and down the court a little bit faster. We also have to become a lot more consistent shooting the basketball than what we have been.”
One of the players Mauk will look upon for leadership this season is senior Audrey Brandon.
“We knew we had big shoes to fill. We had three really good seniors last year,” Brandon said. “We put a lot of work in during the summer, during the fall and during the spring, just so we could fill those shoes.”
Brandon said the goals are consistent from year to year.
“Our first goal every year is to win the WBL. We always think (win the) WBL first. You always want to come out and play your best game, because it’s a tough league,” she said.
With the lack of size and leadership, Mauk said it could take some time before this year’s squad finds its identity.
“Right now, this team is a real work in progress,” Mauk said. “There are nights where we will do things at a fairly consistent level. Then there are other nights when I wonder who the heck is out there in our Bath uniforms. I think there is a lot of growth that has to take place. So, we’re trying to be patient. We’re trying to work through some things. But, we’re hoping with this senior leadership that we have out of a couple of our kids and with our strong junior class, that we’ll overcome some of these situations.”
Bath started off the season by winning the Bath Kewpee Tip-Off Classic.