A buzzer-beating, one-point loss to Avon in last year’s district semifinal is still fresh in the mind of Amherst Comets fifth-year girls basketball coach Kevin Collins.
After finishing 19-5 and second in the Southwestern Conference last year, the coach said he knows his returning players are capable of besting those results.
An attempt at retribution won’t have to wait long as the team hosts Avon at 2 p.m. Saturday. The Comets will attempt to keep momentum rolling after a decisive 74-36 season-opening win against North Royalton.
“We’ve lost quite a bit of scoring from last year’s team,” said Collins. “However, we played Friday night and put up a lot of offense. Kamryn Dziak is going to be one of the best players in the area. I don’t know if people quite know her yet but that’s going to change quickly.
Dziak and senior Kate Iliff have both started since they were freshman.
In 2016, Dziak averaged 9.5 points per game en route to earning second team recognition in the county and SWC as well as an honorable mention in the district.
Iliff notched 10.5 points and 5.1 rebounds per contest and shot 40 percent from three-point range. Like Dziak, her season secured her second team recognition in the conference and county with a district honorable mention.
“Kate is a flat-out shooter,” said Bray. “She can also attack and get to the rim. We’re a much more balanced team this year. We had Sydney Roule last year, who did a lot for us, but now it’s going to be more of a well-rounded effort.”
The loss of Roule and Jayla Hall will be tough holes to fill.
Roule averaged 20 points, seven rebounds, and three steals per game as a senior, which earned a share of the Miss Basketball title in Lorain County along with Keystone’s McKenah Peters.
Collins said the addition of sophomore forward Amaya Staton, a transfer from Lake Ridge Academy, will help out.
“Amaya is an Amherst kid and is going to be one of the best post presences we’ve had since I’ve been here,” said Collins. “She’s going to be tough to stop. We just want to be balanced. If we can do that it will more than make up for the individual scoring we lost.”
Other returning letter-winners include senior Marisa Gillam, junior Audrey McConihe, and sophomore Faith Lewis.
“We want to be tough to defend one though five this year,” said Collins. “But we’re in a tough conference. Every team has the ability to defeat another one. Whoever is giving the most consistent effort is going to come out on top. It’s going to be a heck of a year just to see who can run this gauntlet and come out on top.”
Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.