By Steve Raymond
News Report Staff
The Teutopolis Lady Shoes are coming off a 29-7 campaign that ended in Bloomington with a second place trophy in the Class 2A State Tournament.
But gone are three key seniors from that team that leave big “shoes” to fill.
So it’s not surprising when Coach Laurie Thompson says she’s “a little unsure” right now and that she “doesn’t have a good feel” for this team yet.
But this is Teutopolis. Basketball is not only a tradition. It’s a way of life.
Coach Thompson should just plug in the next set of talented players and start winning more games.
“Don’t get me wrong. Potentially, this could be a very good team,” Thompson admitted. “We just need to get some wrinkles worked out. We’re going to be a little inexperienced. But there’s most definitely talent here.”
Thompson said goodbye to Danielle Repking, Anna Hartke and Molly Smith. Repking was the starting point guard for the last four years, and Hartke and Smith were terrific players. Replacing players of that caliber is easier said than done.
“Replacing those three girls will be challenging, but we started working on that during the summer,” Thompson said. “We’re looking for a point guard and leadership. We don’t have everything figured out yet, but we’re moving in the right direction.”
Thompson is entering her 25th year at THS; 11th as head coach. Replacing good players is something she has had to do numerous times in her career.
“Sometimes it doesn’t sink in until you get in a game and realize those three girls aren’t there,” Thompson explained. “We’re working hard to get in shape and putting things together as a team. But we have tons of potential at every position. This team could be pretty good.”
The No. 1 challenge will be finding a point guard. Repking was like an extension of the coach on the floor. She directed the Lady Shoes on offense and played outstanding defense.
“Our biggest void is at point guard,” Thompson said. “We don’t have a true point guard and it takes time to develop that. Hopefully, we’ll be settled on a point guard by Christmas. Hopefully.”
She’s also concerned about her team’s defensive play.
“It’s definitely what our program was built on,” the coach added. “We need to be more physical. We’re not as strong as we need to be yet. But we’re working on it and I’ve seen progress from day one. That’s a huge positive.”
Leadership, rebounding and taking care of the basketball are also concerns as Thompson prepares for the 2016-17 season.
Team strengths include quickness, scoring ability and how coachable the girls are.
“They are eager and willing to learn, which is huge,” Thompson said. “If I want to change something, they’re willing. I like that.”
The coach also likes the team’s overall quickness. With certain lineups, that quickness should be able to really apply defensive pressure on opponents.
“And we can score,” Thompson added. “We’re going to need to see consistency night in and night out, but I believe we can do that. We have some kids that are offensive-minded.”
The three returning seniors – Raegan Drees, Shelby Thompson and Jamie Sandschafer – fit that description well.
“Raegan brings a lot of explosiveness,” Coach Thompson pointed out. “When she gets out and goes, she can really score. Early on, she will probably share some of the point guard duties, but her real strength is getting to the basket. She also plays very good defense. She will probably guard our opponents’ best player.”
Shelby Thompson, along with Smith, led the team in scoring last year, averaging 10.8 points per outing. She made 81 three-pointers.
“She’s our best outside shooter,” said Coach Thompson about her daughter. “She’s also been working on her mid-range shot and playing some point guard. She sees the floor very well.”
Sandschafer adds versatility. She can play both outside and inside at both ends of the court.
“She has a nice shot, but I also like to see her attack the basket,” Thompson said. “She also moves well without the ball and could be our post player at times. She can run the floor and play good defense, plus I need her to be a strong rebounder, too.”
Those three figure to start. The other two positions will be determined from three juniors and three sophomores.
The juniors include Jolene Bueker, Macy Michels and Marianna Hemmen.
Thompson said Bueker can score, but needs to improve on defense. Michels, at 6-foot tall, is the team’s only true post player that Thompson said needs to step up and be a strong rebounder. Hemmen brings quickness on defense and is improving her shooting.
Sadie Bueker, just a sophomore, has a shot at the starting lineup.
“She’s a guard and a good shooter,” Thompson noted. “She has a nice outside shot, plus she can drive to the basket. And she works hard on defense.”
Morgan Mette and Savannah Grimes, also sophomores, are quick and are both very good defenders.
Thompson also said there were a couple freshmen that continue to progress and improve and could see some minutes at the varsity level.
The coach said there were three keys to the Lady Shoes season.
“We have to play good team defense,” she emphasized. “Our press will be important to us.
“We have to be able to score,” Thompson added. “We can’t just have one or two players doing most of the scoring. I want a balanced scoring attack.
“And we have to take care of the basketball. If you don’t have someone that can run your offense and protect the ball, things can go from bad to worse in a hurry.”
As always, the Lady Shoes face a tough schedule. They will play in the Salem Thanksgiving Tournament and the Fairfield Christmas Tournament. They will also face opponents like St. Thomas More, St. Joseph-Ogden and Breese Mater Dei.
“I like having a tough schedule,” Thompson admitted. “I don’t how ready are girls are for that right now, but they’re going to need to get ready in a hurry.”
Because of the depth and talent on the roster, practices have been very competitive.
“We have 10-11 girls that can really play so they really go at it in practice,” Thompson said. “But that’s great. They need to challenge each other. That will make each one better.”
Despite the uncertainty as the season opens, Thompson is excited about this group.
“We’ve had a lot of success here and that definitely helps. This is a good group of talented players. We’re not clicking just yet, but I see improvement every day. I really like the potential this team has.”