With Three Starters Back and Plenty of Depth, Hutson Hopes BHS Girls Hoops Team Can Return to States

By Jeff Toquinto on November 29, 2017 via Connect-Bridgeport.com

Bridgeport girls’ basketball Coach Dennis Hutson likes what he sees as he enters his third year as the head of the Indians program. He has veterans on his roster, he has starters, and he has some speed, talented youth and more. He’s hoping what he does have will cover up for the one thing he doesn’t have.
 
“We don’t have a true post player this year,” said Hutson. “By the end of last year, we were pounding the ball inside and we won’t have that this year. How that impact us we’re going to find out real soon.”
 
Soon is Thursday night (Nov. 30). The Indians open up the 2017-18 season with a home game against Braxton County at 7:30 p.m.
 
“We’re not going to be able to overpower people like we did with (all-stater) Quinn (Stalnaker),” said Hutson. “When she graduated, we lost a kid that shot 70 percent from the floor and 80 percent from the line and was a 1,000 point scorer. You’re going to miss that, but I also like what we’ve got coming back.”
 
What the Indians have heading into the season are three starters from last year’s 16-10 squad. Those players were part of the squad that made it to the Class AA state tournament before being upended in the opening round by Fairmont Senior.
 
“Hopefully, our three returning girls give us the nucleus we need to get off to a good start and have a good season,” said Hutson. “They know they’re being counted on.”
 
Senior Kaitlin Smith is the only senior returning to the team this year and only one of two on the roster. The four-year player will find herself in the starting lineup for the third-straight year.
 
“She’s a wing and can play the two or three for us depending who we have on the floor,” said Hutson. “She’s a great spot up shooter and a good help defender who understands our man to man rules. More important, she is providing the leadership we need from her and we expect that all year long.”
 
While Hutson doesn’t have a low post player, that doesn’t mean Bridgeport is without size. In fact, junior returning starter Rory Marple will man the five spot in the rotation and has the athletic ability to play any position on the floor.
 
“She’s 6’0 tall and very athletic. With the exception or our scrimmage Saturday, she’s had a really good preseason,” said Hutson. “She’s a shot blocker and gives us some size inside. Hopefully, she’ll get on the boards a bit more for us this year. That’s something we need.”
 
Fellow junior Emily Riggs is the final returning starter. And she’s a good one.
 
“She’s a natural athlete and a competitor that’s looked good early on because she’s gotten in better shape and she’s stronger than last year when she was already a handful,” said Huston. “She’s take it to the rim and isn’t afraid of contact. She’s unique in that she can hit the 3-point shot and post people up. Like Marple, she can play inside or outside.”
 
The backcourt will have something new and something familiar. The newness will come with a freshman at point guard, while the familiar will come in the form of sisters competing with one another. Bria and Bronlie Jacobs, whose family moved in from Grafton, both will get starting nods.
 
“Bria’s a freshman and she’s really been impressive,” said Hutson of the 5’6 frosh. “She’s a physical point guard, which is different than in recent years. We need her to get acclimated quickly and she’s shown the ability to do that.”
 
As for older sister Bronlie, Hutson has high hopes for her as well.
 
“She got a lot of time last year for Grafton and she knows how to play basketball and isn’t afraid to step in,” said Hutson. “We’re counting on her; both of them. We know there’s an adjustment in terms of getting our system and terminology down and adjusting to new teammates, but in the last week and a half I’ve really seen strides there from both of them.”
 
Paige Humble will be one of the first players off the bench. The freshman who is athletic, runs the floor well and uses her left hand to her advantage will see time at the forward spot. Hutson said she could see time as a starter.
 
Sophomore Emilee Henderson is coming off what Hutson described as a solid jayvee year. She will play small and power forward for the Tribe.
 
Juniors Hannah Spurlock and McKenzie Koon will also see plenty of time this year. Hutson is expecting both players to see minutes at the two or three, depending on the lineup the Tribe has on the floor.
 
Hutson also has praise for sophomore Madison “Maddie” Wilson. Wilson actually returned to play a pair of junior varsity games late last year after suffering a torn ACL during soccer season.
 
“That says a lot about her work ethic, her rehab and her surgeon to come back that quick,” said Hutson of the guard. “She just needs minutes to get to be a solid contributor.
If Bridgeport does opt to go to pounding the ball into the post, chances are good junior Lauren Riffle will be in the game. The 5’10 Riffle, said Hutson, is one of his team’s few true post players.
 
Backcourt depth will be provided by Arionna Liberati and Sarah Haynes. Liberati, a junior, will see minutes at the point, while Haynes, a freshman, can play at either the two or three positions.
 
“There are others that can work their way into the rotation,” said Hutson. “We’re not as strong inside, but we’re a little bit deeper than we were last year.
 
“We’re definitely going to pressure more full court because of the depth and look to be more up-tempo by attacking off the rim,” he continued. “We’re just not going to be able to overpower people this year so we’ll play to our strength.”
 
Hutson is hoping that strength will get the Indians back to Charleston, which he said is the goal every year. And to get there, they’ll have a heck of a gauntlet to run through on the schedule.
 
The Big 10 figures to be loaded again with North Marion, Fairmont Senior and Lincoln likely among the state’s top programs and several other schools strong as well. BHS will also play a talented Nicholas County squad and Winfield this year.
 
“No matter who we play, we’re going to have to play good pressure defense and shoot well from the perimeter,” said Hutson. “The one thing we should do well is handle the ball and not throw it all over the place. Everyone that should see substantial minutes, including Rory at 6’0, can handle the ball and we need to use that to our advantage.”
 
The rest of the roster includes Madison Chumley, Elizabeth Deniker, Alexandra Chumley, Macey Phillips, Annamarie Pinti, Emma Dotson, Julie Haynes and Olivia Kesling.
 
Editor's Note: Top photo shows senior Kaitlin Smith, while Rory Marple is shown in the middle. Bottom photo shows Emily Riggs taking the ball strong to the basket. Photos by www.benqueenphotography.com.


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