LAUREL HILL — The Laurel Hill girls basketball team is in a rebuilding mode in what was already a rebuilding season.
The young Hobo team — expected to be strong at the point guard — was looking to rely on the talented tandem of Tykierra DeAndrade and Rudy Williams. But things changed when DeAndrade had a season-ending knee injury and Williams was dismissed from the team.
Laurel Hill coach Scott Varnum said losing DeAndrade was especially tough on the team.
“It hurts losing a guard like that,” he said. “We were low on numbers anyway with the depth on the team, but Tykierra, she would have brought us a very, very good defensive player and she would have given us a spark in games.
“As far as the defensive side of the floor, we could do a lot more things than we can do now. Our whole outlook changed when we lost her.”
The varsity’s roster was low on players to start with: the Hoboes are down to seven players.
Three players — Grace Reese, Taleah Durm and Kaitlyn McLaney — are still in the eighth grade.
Sophomores Jhanea Griffin and Bridgett Zessin and seniors Brianna Owens and Caitlyn Clark join them.
Owens, a natural shooting guard, has been forced to take over point guard responsibilities with Zessin and McLaney’s help.
“Bridgett Zessin is playing pretty good ball for us,” Varnum said. “She’s looking to go inside or outside and she just has to get used to handling the ball. It’s a new role for her, her and Brianna.
“Brianna is in there and she’s as tough as nails and she will do anything you ask of her. She’s been playing the two for us and now we are asking her to bring (the ball down) and she’s just got to get used to it.”
Despite the Hoboes’ point guard setbacks, the tandem of Griffin and Reese, the younger sister of former Hobo stars Brad and Jeff Reese, on the inside presents numerous matchup problems for other Class 1A teams.
“They have dominated the boards so far this year,” Varnum said. “One game, Grace had 19 rebounds, and she is looking better every game. Jhanea has had some really nice games for us this year.
“She scored 26 one game and 21 in another. She has answered the call. What we have to do is build it around them and go from there.”
Varnum understands that the team is a work in progress, but he is optimistic about the season’s remainder.
“The main thing we are going to have to work on is beating the press,” he said. “The press has really been giving us problems.
“We asked a lot of these kids to play the whole game without coming out. They just have to make themselves stronger and tougher as a whole and they are doing fine.
“By the time district gets here, we should be improved. They are going to continue to get better every game and every practice.”