Girls teams from Karns City, Redbank Valley have title aspirations
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One team has exceptional size. The other has plenty of speed. Both have a division title as their goal.
The girls basketball teams at Redbank Valley and Karns City have plenty of talent and varsity experience on their rosters, and despite their differing styles, both aim to contend for the Keystone Shortway Athletic Conference's South Division title.
The Bulldogs and Gremlins started their seasons 2-0 with tipoff tournament titles — Redbank Valley at Brockway and Karns City at Freeport — and a returning star was the leader in each instance.
Redbank Valley again will be led by sophomore guard Brooke Hinderliter, who scored 20.4 points per game and was named first-team all-district and third-team all-state last year.
Hinderliter stayed true to form by scoring 22 and 21 points in her team's first two wins.
“She was an all-state selection as a freshman, and obviously she's only going to get better,” first-year Redbank Valley coach Jason Kerr said. “I think she caught a lot of people by surprise. I coached the junior high team and knew she would be good, but maybe I didn't realize how good she would be on varsity right away.”
Hinderliter isn't alone for the Bulldogs. Guard/forward Madison McClaine and forward Emma Kennemuth also return to the starting lineup from a team that went 14-10 last year.
McClaine and Kennemuth are two of four 6-footers in the Redbank Valley rotation along with junior Kaelyn Gruver and sophomore Becca Dougherty.
Junior Cassie Fink, junior Megan Bain and senior Sarah Gourley also will see time at the guard spots for Redbank Valley, which is looking for a collective effort.
“We're really big for a double-A team, and that should help us. But we have to work on being better as a team,” Kerr said. “We can't depend on Brooke to do everything, and I think in the first couple of games we got some nice contributions from other people.
“Our expectation is to win the district, and I think we have the personnel to do it.”
On the flip side of the Bulldogs' height is the athleticism of Karns City, which went 15-7 and finished as the KSAC-South runner-up behind Keystone last year.
The Gremlins lost just one senior from a year ago, and they return junior guard Shanel Preston, who missed most of last season with a knee injury. Preston is back in good form, scoring 21 and 14 points in Karns City's first two wins.
Karns City again has only one senior, guard Emily Schumacher, while a full backcourt also has returning starters Annie Hegedus at the point and top 3-point shooter Emily LoPresti.
“I think our athleticism is big for us. Our strength is probably our transition game turning defense into offense,” Karns City coach Dave Kerschbaumer said. “I think (athleticism) was the biggest difference for us in our first two games this year.”
The team is also athletic in the post, where sophomore forward LeeAnn Gibson returns after scoring 10.5 points per game as a freshman. That was the team's second-best total behind LoPresti (10.9 ppg). Gibson's sister, freshman Alyssa Gibson, is the Gremlins' biggest newcomer to the rotation.
“These kids had been through a couple of losing seasons, and making the playoffs like we did (as the No. 2 seed) last year was step one,” Kershbaumer said. “The kids have worked hard to get where they are, and hopefully they can take that next step, but Double-A is very strong in our district.”
Redbank and Karns City will face some stiff challenges within its conference. Moniteau lost just one senior from a solid team, and Class A Keystone brings back the division's other first-team all-district player, junior guard Madison Johnston.
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