Short bench? Doesn’t matter to Lady Tigers
summit daily news
FARMER’S KORNER ” There’s a reason the Summit High School girls basketball team’s five starters have grown extremely familiar with one another this season: The leaders of playoff-bound SHS rarely, if ever, get any rest.
Summit, which has become characterized by a short bench and small rotation for most of the season, will begin postseason play Friday against Steamboat Springs.
The Tigers (16-7) are seeded fifth in their bracket, while Steamboat (7-15) is a 12 seed. Tigers coach Jeff Neal said he hopes Friday’s contest against a lesser team will afford him with the rare opportunity to extend his bench.
“I’m a little nervous about playing back-to-back games,” Neal said. “We won two games we had to last week on Tuesday and Thursday, but I noticed that our legs were hurting (Thursday) in the Conifer game.”
Neal has employed a rare six-player rotation for much of this season. The Lady Tigers began their game schedule without senior center Amanda Neal, who missed December and part of January with a shoulder injury. Soon after she was fit to play, she was replaced on the injured list by Alyssa Tallmadge, a freshman post player who suffered a torn ACL just a handful of games into her young career. Summit’s injury woes then continued in late January when junior Whitney Degerberg injured her knee and missed the team’s final seven regular-season games.
Although Degerberg will return to the Summit lineup on Friday, her availability will be limited.
According to Amanda Neal, the Lady Tigers’ short bench has been a double-edged sword.
“It can be hard because there’s no one to rotate in when someone gets tired,” she said. “But it also gives each of us a lot of responsibility. We kind of have to play to our potential, there’s no other option.”
When Summit’s starters do get a spell, it is often from sophomore utility-player Katie Sodergren, coach Neal’s most frequently used substitute.
Senior point guard Cissy Daniels, who has logged countless minutes for Summit over her four years on varsity, says her team’s small margin for error is advantageous.
“Every player has different aspects to their game and we all work differently together,” Daniels said. “Having less players makes it easier to get people’s tendencies down.”
Daniels, along with Summit’s leading scorer, Samantha Neal (17.5 ppg.), make up one of the best backcourt combos in all of 4A, Jeff Neal said. Due to the quality of his guard play, a healthy Amanda Neal and a breakout season by junior Lynlee Holloway (10 ppg., 5 rpg.), coach Neal said he’s confident his team will return to the Sweet 16 for the second consecutive year.
Samantha Neal believes her team will even improve on last season’s impressive finish.
“Yeah, we made it to the playoffs last year,” Sam Neal said. “But this year we have a chance to go so much further, it’s just a bigger deal.”
Adam Boffey can be contacted at (970) 668-3998, ext. 13631, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Girls Basketball State Playoffs
– No. 5 SHS vs. No. 12 Steamboat
– at Moffat County
– Tonight, 7 p.m.
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