Katelynn Connell

Amanda-Clearcreek’s Katelynn Connell is a returning starter.

AMANDA — With the graduation of All-Ohio point guard Alyssa Evans, long-time coach Cary James knows Amanda-Clearcreek will have to develop a new identity this season.

“When you have the best player on the floor in a Division III basketball game and especially when that player is a guard, you can control the game, control the tempo and do a lot of different things,” James said. “Alyssa did that for us during the last few seasons, but this is obviously going to be a different team and have a different style than what we’ve had for the past couple of seasons.”

James cited the improvement of last year’s team and said, while the ingredients will be different this season, that they need to take a similar mindset this season.

“If you asked me at this time last year about our team, I would have said we weren’t very good,” he said. “That team worked hard, continued to get better and by the end of the season we won a district championship and got to the Sweet 16.

“Obviously, we have a few more questions this season compared to last season, but through 20 practices we are a better basketball team than when we started. We need to continue on that trajectory.”

While the Aces lose the 19.5 points and 5.5 assist per game production of Evans, they are led by the return of senior post player Katelynn Connell, who averaged 12.9 points and 5.4 rebounds a season ago.

The Aces (18-9, 10-4 in 2019) will also look to mix in seniors Emma Butterbaugh and Lexie Snider and junior Stephanie Bowers.

“We have some size, which is a plus,” James said. “One of the reasons why we had the success we did last season was everyone had a role, they accepted that role and they all played at an A+ in that role.

“No one player is going to replace Alyssa. What we are asking out of our kids is they each expand their role a little more, accept it, continue to work hard and give us their very best in that role.”

Seniors Kilynn Guiler and Gracie Hyme help lead the way at guard.

The Aces will look to freshmen Emily Buckley and Anna Johnson and sophomore Sara Sharp to help provide depth.

Amanda-Clearcreek opens the season on Saturday with an afternoon matinee against Utica.

“We’re still a work in progress, but we have five seniors, four of which played a ton of varsity minutes last season, which is a plus,” James said. “We’re going to lean on that experience and I know our girls will work hard everyday to continue and get better as a basketball team.”

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