The Highland girls basketball team will be looking for more success on the court this winter and will have a new face on the bench leading the traditionally successful Bulldogs program.
Mike Arbuthnot retired as head coach this spring and Clint Hamilton, a Pittsfield native who has coached the Bulldogs junior varsity club the last two seasons, will take over the top spot for Highland.
Hamilton inherits a bit of a young roster with five sophomores but Highland’s top two scorers, junior guard Ellie Brown ( 12.6 points per game), and senior guard Emmy Nyquist (7.6 points per game) are back from a team that went 19-11 last year.
“It’s nice having our top two guards coming back and both of them got varsity experience last year,” Hamilton said. “Having them on the team just kind of settles everybody else down knowing that they get us our offense whenever we need to and they can score when they need to.”
Two other seniors will be counted on as well as 5-foot-8 post/forward Mae Riffel and 5-10 senior post Lexi Taylor are expected to bring experience and toughness down near the basket.
“Having them back is nice,” Hamilton said. “We’re still a fairly young team overall but having those seniors, they kind of know what we want day in and day out in practice and they bring the mentality of toughness and knowing what we want on a day to day basis.”
Leading scorer Rece Portell graduated, but juniors 5-7 junior guard Ashlyn Klucker and 5-10 junior guard Megan Kronk will be looking to fill the void left by Portell’s graduation.
“They are both juniors and will come off the bench or have a chance to start,” Hamilton said. “Both of them are similar type players as Rece. They are guard/wing type players that can score a little bit.
Down in the paint, 5-11 sophomores Bella LaPorta, 5-11 sophomores Taylor Kesner, and 6-foot junior Madison Clarke will give the Bulldogs inside scoring presence that was lacking last season.
“All three of them are around six feet tall, six-foot-one, so they are all pretty good size kids,” Hamilton said. “Having them on the floor will give our offense a little different dynamic, which will be nice.”
Depth will be a key plus to help Highland stay strong through a schedule that includes regular season tournaments in Salem, Mascoutah, and the Highland tournament in mid-January.
“We’re very deep and we’re going to have or 10 kids that can play every given night which is good for us because we’re going to run an up tempo type offense and up tempo defense,” Hamilton said. “So, we’re going to have to get a lot of kids in and out games and I think we have that’s very well equipped to do that.”
Highland will tip off the season next Friday (Nov. 16) with a trip to the Salem Tournament. The Bulldogs will open the season on Friday against host Salem and then on Saturday (Nov. 17) will play Carterville and Althoff.