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December 3, 2021

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Lady Bulldog cagers to overcome depth issue with strong guard play

By Cort Reynolds

The 2021-22 Ada girls basketball team enters its fourth season under head coach Morgan Bass hoping to combat low roster numbers behind their three experienced returning guards.

Just nine players comprise the program, so there is no junior varsity squad this season.

Five letter winners and three starters are back from a team that went 5-15 overall (1-7 in Northwest Conference) last season. 

"We are going to roll with who we have," said Bass. "It is tough because we have a lack of numbers for practice."

The team has two seniors on its roster. One of them, three-year starting guard Kirsten Poling, is still recovering from a severe knee injury suffered in the sectional tournament last season.

There is no timetable yet for her return. "Kirsten is our defensive key," said Bass. The long-armed 5-7 guard can rebound, handle the ball well, pass and score in spurts.

Explosive 5-4 junior playmaker Courtney Sumner is the top returning scorer and assist leader. She averaged 15.5 points a game last year and authored several high-scoring games down the stretch.

Her 26-point outburst on the strength of five three-pointers vs. Lincolnview in the regular season finale was a season-high.

"Courtney is showing improved leadership," Bass noted. "She has skills." The coach added that the team needs her to be smarter about when she gambles for steals.

Bass expects Sumner to play more off the ball this season instead of being the primary ball handler most of the time. She was named honorable mention all-league last season.

Sumner is a good driver and finisher, and she is also a streaky three-point shooter. The team needs her to be more assertive in trying to score earlier in games. A hustler, she is not afraid to throw her body around the court for steals.

The other backcourt starter back is speedy 5-2 sophomore returnee Olivia Burkhart. Burkhart is expected to handle the ball more this season and assume a majority of the point guard duties, freeing the creative Sumner up to score.

"Olivia is quick and a good shooter," Bass noted. "She has good court vision and we want her to run the point more this year. Olivia just needs to play with more attitude."

Senior 5-5 wing Selena Jordan is another returning letter winner. "She has surprised me in a good way," Bass offered. "Selena is quicker and faster this season, and is a veteran. She is a good open shooter when she gets her feet set.

"She boxes out well, and will do whatever we ask her to do."

Others expected to vie for starting positions in the varsity lineup include 5-7 sophomore southpaw Mariah King and 6-0 soph post Daicy Robinson.

King lettered last season and has been moved from guard to the four forward position this year. "She is pretty athletic," said Bass. King also has a nose for the offensive glass.

Robinson "is our tallest player by far," Bass said. "She needs to get more aggressive so she can do some damage. She is the answer to us getting to the next level. Daicy has a very nice stroke and can rebound when she wants to."

Freshman 5-4 guard Lexi Poling has some "quickness and is athletic," said the coach. "She has a decent shot and just lacks experience at this level."

Sophomore Katie Sizemore, a 5-7 forward, is a hard worker, says Bass.

Rounding out the roster is 5-5 sophomore forward Awo Akyeampong.

As for the NWC race, Bass says "Delphos Jefferson, Columbus Grove and Spencerville should be good. Allen East could be pretty good in the next few years, they looked good in the summer.

"Leipsic will be one of the better teams I assume, but I have no idea," she continued. "I would love for us to finish somewhere toward the middle of the NWC, but the league is very tough."

Crestview and Delphos Jefferson shared the 2020-21 league title at 7-1. Spencerville, Columbus Grove and departed Paulding tied for third at 5-3. 

Bluffton was sixth at 4-4, followed by Lincolnview (2-6), Ada and Allen East (0-8). The Bulldog girls beat backyard rival AE 45-34 to finish ahead of them in eighth place in the nine-team league.

The three experienced guards Ada returns should be the strength of the squad. Lack of a proven post player, depth and size are potential areas of concern.

"We just want to be more competitive than last year," Bass said. "We need to be able to do more than just survive. I want us to make smarter decisions and understand one pass ahead. When we make mistakes, I want them to be out of aggression (commission, not omission).

"If we kick it up intensity-wise, we are more capable than the kids think they are," she added. "The desire is there. We need to get off to better starts.

"Last year we were a second-half team," she added. "We have to show up from the opening tip to the finish."

Former Bulldog guard Kyle Poling returns to the staff along with K.T. Martin, and newcomer Meagan Zoladz. 

With no JV team, varsity games will tip off at 6 p.m. on weeknights.

Ada tips off its campaign Friday, November 19 at non-conference foe McComb. "They run the floor and are physical," said Bass of the Panther girls.

The home opener is Nov. 23 vs. local non-league rival Cory-Rawson. The league lidlifter is December 2 at Lincolnview. Ada lost 54-51 last year to the Lancers.

The Bulldog girls face arch-rival USV in the Border Battle tournament semifinals December 28 at Allen East. The finals and consolation games are Dec. 30 at AE. Ada won the last Border tourney title in late Dec. of 2019 at USV.

Top Photo
The Ada varsity girls basketball team, left to right, front row: 
manager Jillian Allison, Selena Jordan, Lexi Poling, Olivia Burkhart, 
Courtney Sumner, Katie Sizemore.

Back: assistant coaches K.T. Martin and Kyle Poling, Kirsten Poling, 
Daicy Robinson, Mariah King, head coach Morgan Bass, assistant Meagan 

Absent: Awo Akyeampong.