STRATTANVILLE, Pa. (EYT/D9) — The good news for Clarion-Limestone head coach Gus Simpson is that he returns eight players from last season’s 12-10 team that finished second in the District 9 Class AA playoffs.
The bad news is that his Lions will be without returning leading scorer Kendall Dunn, who will have knee surgery prior to the start of the season.
Sophomore Samantha Simpson, who is still sidelined with a broken finger for a few more weeks, leaves the team with 10 players to begin the 2022-23 campaign.
“Kendall’s presence is still going to be felt as she’s been to all the practices so far and the other girls look up to her,” said Gus Simpson. “For the young girls we have, it’s nice to have someone on the team that they can go to with questions.”
Dunn was the second leading scorer with 13 points per game last season. Frances Milliron who graduated, led the team with 14.8 ppg. After Dunn, the next highest scoring players were junior Alex Leadbetter (7.9 ppg), Lexi Coull (5.0 ppg.), and Alyssa Wiant (4.1 ppg.).
Junior Ketera Sebastian-Sims also returns.
“This group gained a lot of experience as sophomores last season and this season they’ll have to step up and be the leaders,” said Simpson. “Samantha (Simpson) will be out a few more weeks with a broken finger, so we’ll be expecting a lot of minutes from sophomore Jenna Dunn. Grace Shick, a junior, should also see an increased load of minutes. Alyssa, Alex, and Lexi are all very experienced so we’re hoping they’ll all take giant steps this season. Having to go against Frances in practice is obviously going to make you better.”
Simpson also has four freshmen on the team in Sydney Smith, Kaylee Smith, Audrey Aaron, and Riley Morris.
Simpson was never one to make lofty goals for his teams, and this season is no different, especially with the fear of the unknown due to the early season injuries.
“I told the girls at our first practice that with Kendall down, we will need to find someone to take that lead,” said Simpson. “We like the challenge though. We’ll just have to find a different way to find our success. If we can play good team defense, we can find success that way. If not and we get into foul trouble our depth will be a problem. We just don’t have the luxury of the Redbank’s, Moniteau’s, and North Clarion’s so to speak.”
Even with this season just about to get started, Simpson is excited for the future of C-L girls basketball.
“Our future looks bright with our Jr. High program and the numbers they have. Coaches don’t turn programs around, players do, and we’ve been lucky. We’ve been bringing up freshmen and next season we should be around 17 girls. It’s been a while since we’ve had that many so I’m anxious to find out how that goes. I’m still excited for this season as well. We still have the potential to see some girls surprise people and maybe even themselves.”
C-L will open against Clearfield at the Brookville Tip-Off Tournament on Friday.