INDIANAPOLIS – Zionsville head coach Andy Maguire didn’t really know what to expect heading into Thursday night’s opener against Crispus Attucks.
The Lady Eagles were missing three starters to injury, and had virtually no varsity experience on the court.
But the Eagles came out clicking on all cylinders, scoring 24 points in the first quarter and never looking back in a 73-20 win over the Tigers.
“I was a little surprised with how well we came out,” Maguire said. “We were able to get a lot of open shots, and it looked like we had practiced together for years. Marissa Urbanek stepped into the starting point guard role and played extremely well. We were 10-of-30 on 3s, and they kind of packed it in and we made them pay.”
Urbanek and Alyssa McCarthy both hit four 3-pointers and scored 16 points to lead the Eagles.
Katie Wright hit the other two 3-pointers. Maguire said he wasn’t sure if long-range shooting would be a strength of the team, but said it was a good start.
“We shot well in the scrimmage too against Lafayette Jeff,” Maguire said. “We were able to take advantage of all our opportunities. We did a lot of shooting so far, but it felt like it wasn’t enough, because we had to work on a lot more stuff early than we have had to the last 2-3 years. But whatever the girls are doing has worked well. Every kid was ready to shoot when they got their chance and we passed the ball really well.”
The Eagles also got 13 points from Laila Hull, who was an impressive plus-37 in her varsity debut.
Maguire said the freshman did a little bit of everything for the Eagles.
“She made a lot happen, especially on the defensive end,” Maguire said. “She did a great job of reading passing lanes, getting steals, rebounding and just letting us push the tempo offensively.”
The three Eagles with the most experience – Katey Richason, Imani Thomas and Aalia Carlson – all missed the game with injuries and should be back in the near future.
Maguire said that one thing that helped on Thursday is that this group of Eagles played all of last year together on the JV, and while it was a step up, they had that experience.
“They have played a lot together,” Maguire said. “They are playing with confidence too which was great to see. I was really happy with what they did, and it showed that we may have more depth than we thought.”
One thing that has been a staple of the successful Zionsville teams in the past four years has been defense.
The Eagles’ 20 points allowed was the fewest since Tri-West scored 14 in Dec. 2015.
“Our defense was solid all night,” Maguire said. “Our ability to rebound was a little bit of a concern coming into the game, and something we took for granted the past few years. But Gabby Gay, Laila, Mya Childress, Erica Bostwick, they all rebounded well. We forced Attucks into taking some really tough shots.”
The Eagles are off until Tuesday, when they host Lawrence North.
The third-ranked Wildcats are 1-0.
“We didn’t really have to worry about pressure tonight, but against LN we really have to be ready for it,” Maguire said. “They are physical and they really press you. We need to make sure we are stronger with the ball. We can’t shoot 30 3s like we did tonight, we have to be more patient and run our offense.”
New-look Eagles still have lofty goals
The 2019-20 season will be a new look for the Lady Eagles, after losing a strong six-player senior class that helped bring the program to new heights.
“We still have a lot of unknowns with this group and we have a lot of young kids,” Maguire said. “There is still a lot to work on, but we have been pleased so far.”
Maguire said the Eagles haven’t really talked about win-loss goals at this point of the season.
The main objective is to give themselves the best chance to compete for a sectional title in February.
“Our goal is to just keep improving every day,” Maguire said. “We are just focused on improving the little things. With our schedule, we know there is going to be some tough stretches, but the goal is that by tournament time, we have a strong group of 10-12 girls that play well together.”
The Eagles do return their top scorer and rebounder in Katey Richason, who averaged 13.7 points and 7.0 rebounds a game.
Imani Thomas is also back after averaging 4.0 points and 2.2 rebounds, with Aalia Carlson expected to have a bigger role after missing a lot of time last year with an injury.
“It has been hard for them too, because they have been spoiled the past few years too with that class,” Maguire said. “They have watched and learned from it, but now they have to be the leaders. Katey Richason has done a great job, especially helping and teaching the younger kids. We want Imani to be more vocal, because she has that experience that can help us.”
Maguire said he has also been impressed with some of the girls who will be new editions to the varsity line-up this year.
Alyssa McCarthy, Laila Hull, Erica Bostwick, Mya Childress and Gabby Gay are among that group, and Maguire said that they will have a lot of girls playing five quarters this year, playing half varsity, half JV on a night.
Hull comes in as one of the top freshman in the state, and has done a lot of good things so far.
“She is really composed and steady,” Maguire said. “She knows basketball and is a great athlete. Her outside shot is a lot better than people think. Like a lot of freshmen, she has to work on being a little more physical and being a better communicator, but that will come around. I have been really impressed by her.”
Maguire said that right now the offense is ahead of the defense, and that one thing the Eagles really have to focus on improving is their communication on the court.
They will need to in the always tough Hoosier Crossroads Conference, which has three teams ranked in the top-10 and another few right there.
“I think the conference is going to be really good,” Maguire said. “I think Brownsburg may have the best overall team if everyone is healthy. HSE has the best player in the state and they will be solid. Those two will be the two teams to beat, but the rest will be really good too.”