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Fruitport Girls Basketball Preview

Josh VanDyke • Dec 3, 2018 at 2:00 PM

The Fruitport girls basketball team was forced to learn on the fly last season, as they deployed a massively inexperienced roster that had only two seniors on it.

Two non-conference wins would be all the squad could muster, as a challenging schedule combined with inconsistent offensive production would result in some tough lessons and some growing pains.

The experience gained last season should serve the team well, however, as the Trojans will bring back the majority of its production from last year's team, while also adding a new cast of playmakers to the mix.

WHO'S BACK

The team returns almost the entire roster from last season, except for seniors Isabelle Raven and Jaydie Hanks, which gives the Trojans an experienced core to build off of.

"We've got a lot of returning players that have a couple years of varsity experience under their belts now, so we feel pretty confident that we will see a lot of improvement this season," said Fruitport head coach Bob German. "Emily Dirkse and Taylor Burke are our only two seniors, but they've spent a lot of time at the varsity level.

"The exciting part for the program is that we have a large number of juniors who were on the varsity team as sophomores and freshmen. Sydney Bol has been on the varsity team since she was a freshman, and she really gained a lot of confidence last year. Her and Kennah VerMerris are both going to be primary scorers for us. Those two are juniors that should give us a boost and be our leaders on the stat sheet."

German highlighted the team's collective attitude and competitiveness as reasons he believes the team will turn a corner this season.

"Emily Dirkse is a girl that missed a large portion of the season with a concussion last year, so she's really motivated to make an impact in her senior season," he said. "Taylor Burke and Ellie Fisher both bring so much energy to the team dynamic. They always compete at practice and hate losing.

"That kind of energy is contagious on a team. Everyone sees it and wants to compete, too. I think just bringing that kind of attitude to each game, especially on defense, will make us better and hopefully, bring us better results this year."

A lack of offensive production was the primary issue in most of the team's losses last winter, as the Trojans struggled to reach 30 points in most contests. With experience comes confidence, however, and German hopes that means a little more aggression from his squad.

"The problem last year was that we didn't really have an identity, as far as roles on the team," German said. "I think the underclassmen deferred to the upperclassmen in a lot of spots, and we just weren't aggressive enough on either end of the court.

"We struggled scoring last year, and I think that will improve this year. Our scoring was mostly from the kids we have coming back this year, and there's a little more sense of urgency when we are out on the court so far this season.

"We also need to play better defense. We've put a lot of focus on scoring more, but we also need to do a better job of staying in front of people, boxing out and rebounding. Sometimes, I think our struggles on offense carried over to the defensive end, and we can't let that happen this time around. I think improving on defense is the easiest way to get our offense going."

Bol emerged as a go-to performer for the Trojans last year, and German expects her to continue to be a playmaker in her third year at the varsity level, while looking to some of her talented teammates to scorch the nets this season.

"Sydney Bol is a three-sport athlete, and she just wants to compete," he said. "When you ask her to do something or work on something, she'll do it. She wants to get better, and she's very coachable, which is music to a coach's ears.

"Kennah VerMerris is another junior who should help us improve on offense. She's really worked on her game, and she's a lot more comfortable playing at this level, now. Ellie Fisher has a knack that is hard to teach. She comes from a soccer background, so she knows angles well and always positions herself well when she's out on the court. Those traits are what make her a great rebounder and defensive player, because people aren't going to get past her or out-rebound her in most cases."

WHO'S NEW

Incoming sophomores like Andi Quasebarth and Willo Staal will be joined by juniors Gabrielle Sturtevant, Adrienne Schoenmaker, Brooklyn Poole and Ryleigh Green, as potential breakout performers for the Trojans.

"Some of the incoming sophomores and juniors are raw, but their potential is really high," said German. "The more they play, the better they'll become, and we're hoping to have a large rotation of girls contributing this year.

"Andi and Willo are two youngsters that already have a feel for the game, but they need to gain a little in-game experience in order to hone their skills. All of those juniors are talented athletes that are tough and competitive and really give us some depth that we haven't had in a while."

KEY GAMES

Life in the O-K Black Conference can be especially difficult in girls basketball, as Muskegon, Mona Shores, Reeths-Puffer and Jenison have all put together impressive runs in recent seasons. Instead of accepting defeat, however, the Trojans will take on those challenges with a new-found confidence in hopes of becoming a contender.

The team also has some critical non-conference clashes with Spring Lake (Dec. 7), Western Michigan Christian (Dec. 21) and Fruitport Calvary Christian (Feb. 12).

"We're in such a tough conference that it's going to difficult to gauge our improvements by wins and losses," said German. "But, we're going to compete every night, and I think you'll see us improving on both ends of the court. We're going to be in a lot of ball games late, and I think that's exciting for our girls. They want to compete against some of the better teams in the area and we're going to get plenty of opportunities to improve throughout the course of the season.

"If we can pick up a few wins by the time the playoffs roll around, I think we'll be in a good spot. Regardless, I think there's plenty to be excited about with this program in the next few years."

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