Following a 16-8 regular season and narrow 53-51 district semifinal defeat to Avon last year, the Amherst Comets girls basketball team will return all five starters.
It will also look to fulfill a group vision that started all the way back in junior high, said fourth-year head coach Kevin Collins.
“We had three seniors last year who contributed off of our bench but we’re bringing back pretty much all of our key players this year,” he said. “When I took this job, one of the first things I did was head to the junior high because I wanted to get those girls bought in. The process of building a winner takes a few years. This is the group that we’ve really been waiting for.”
Senior guard Sydney Roule was named Southwestern Conference MVP, Lorain County Division I Player of the Year, First Team All-District, and Third Team All-Ohio in 2015-2016, averaging 14.7 points and 6.8 rebounds per game.
She recently committed to play college basketball at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. Roule is a four-year letter-winner and earned First Team All-Southwestern Conference and First Team All-Lorain County honors after her sophomore season.
Fellow senior Jayla Hall averaged a double-double last season — 12.4 points and 10.3 rebounds per game. She was named First Team All-Lorain County and Second Team All-Southwestern Conference and recorded multiple games of 20-plus rebounds.
Junior guard Kate Iliff has started for the Comets since her freshman year and averaged 9.7 points per game last season. She was named Second Team All-Lorain County and earned an honorable mention in the district last season.
Kamryn Dziak is entering her sophomore season and was also Second Team All-Lorain County in 2015-2016.
“This group’s hard work has given us good reason to be excited for four years now, but this year is when the most pieces are in the right place,” said Collins. “We definitely have the deepest team since I’ve been here, and probably the deepest for a number of years in Amherst. There are a number of players who will contribute valuable minutes this year besides those four.”
He said the experience of coming up two points short against Avon to end last season will only make his current team better and more prepared for the next big moment.
“Last year was kind of a learning experience for everyone and a way to get our feet wet,” he said. “Down by two points to Avon, we had a shot to win it in the closing seconds and that made our girls hungry. They felt that defeat and they look back on it.We’ll continue to play fast, pressure teams, and use our athleticism this year. Coupled with that playoff experience, I feel very good about competing in and winning a very tough conference.”
Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.