When winning sectionals become the norm, the bar starts to get raised a little higher. Lincoln coach Travis Connor said he wasn’t exactly sure yet where the bar is being set for his team this season. If the past few years of success are any indication, a regional championship and beyond may be the goal by the time the postseason arrives.
“We’re optimistic. It’s an exciting bunch. We have a good blend of experience with kids who have played a lot of important games blended with younger kids who are eager to make an impact,” Connor said. “Ultimately we’ll have a successful season if we can achieve what we’re capable of. Right now I’m not sure what the capability is going to be with our youth, but I have a feeling the bar might be pretty high. Those expectations could be as high, if not higher in some aspects, as far as where we want to go in the postseason.”
The expectations have gradually been built over Connor’s past nine years in charge, especially over the last four as the Alices have gone 86-22 with four sectional championships. The .796 winning percentage over that stretch ranks 19th in the state among all classes, and only four schools have longer active win streaks in the sectional.
Connor’s uncertainty stems from the fact that the team lost four of its normal 10-player rotation from a year ago, including the graduation of the school’s third all-time leading scorer Alison Hein (1,273 points). The other three were expected back, but transferred or opted not to play.
That still leaves six experienced players returning for Lincoln, though two are only sophomores. Regardless, few teams in southern Indiana can boast two better to
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build around than 5-9 senior point guard Darrian Carmean and 6-0 junior post Maycee Lange. Carmean averaged 15.4 points to go with 6.3 assists, while Lange had 17.0 points and 12.0 rebounds, notching 21 double-doubles. Lange and Carmean were first- and third-team All-State selections by the ICGSA, and both were IBCA Underclass Large School All-State and first-team all-area picks.
“Darrian’s had a remarkable run thus far, and obviously we hope it’s not near being over,” Connor said. “She’s grown into a dynamic player who can shoot from the outside but can also penetrate to the rim and either score or become a playmaker. She’s a winner, as she’s proven in every sport she plays, and as a senior leader at point guard, she’s a great starting block.
“Whether it’s rebounding or getting in passing lanes for steals, Maycee just has the mentality to find the ball. She runs the floor well for a big, and she’s improving her 3-point shooting. I look for an even bigger year for Maycee as we continue to get her more touches and find her in the flow of the offense. She’s a super coachable kid, and she’s always asking questions, trying to get better.”
The other returners are 5-10 senior Victoria Jackson (2.9 ppg), 5-5 junior Marissa Carmean (1.6), and sophomores 5-7 Dani Kroeger (4.2) and 5-10 Chloe Cardinal (1.5).
Kroeger is a tenacious defender who started the bulk of last season. Jackson appeared in just 11 games due to injury, but she has the potential to be a force in the post as evidence by her 11 rebounds in the regional semifinal a season ago. Connor said Marissa Carmean, another tough defender, is likely missing at least the first month of the season while rehabbing from offseason foot surgery. Cardinal has a high basketball IQ with skills and length to play inside or out.
Gracie Kramer, a 5-3 freshman, has Connor excited with her high motor and 3-point shooting and the coach added that she’s vying with the returnees for a starting spot.
“The leadership thus far from Victoria and Darrian has been outstanding. They’re trying to hold our young kids accountable but also leading by example,” Connor said. “We take a lot of pride in our chemistry and family mentality, and when you have that with the senior leadership we’ve had to this point, you can build something special.
“One thing that has us excited is the effort and intensity we’re putting forth on defense, and I hope that continues throughout the year.”
Others competing for varsity minutes are 5-4 sophomore Jaclyn Sutton and freshmen 5-6 Morgan Leehy and 5-7 Faith Fleetwood. Connor also mentioned sophomores 5-9 McKinsie Halter and 5-2 Gracie Hartley along with 5-8 freshman Shaleigh Followell, but he noted that they were all currently sidelined with injuries and he was unsure how they might factor in.
Though the Alices may end up aiming higher than a sectional title, getting to that point is no easy task. Sullivan, Washington and Princeton — the three teams Lincoln had to defeat to win last year’s sectional — still stand in the way, and none were hit heavily by graduation. If the Alices get through that, the regional is a loaded field too. No. 2 Gibson Southern, No. 4 Salem and No. 9 Greensburg are the preseason favorites to get there along with No. 10 Lincoln, though Evansville Memorial, Silver Creek and North Harrison are preseason honorable mentions also in the mix.
But Connor’s not looking ahead to the regional.
“We felt the same way last year, that all three (sectional foes) on a given day could get us,” Connor said. “Those teams all have just about the same group of kids back, so it’s not an easy sectional by any means.”
Connor added that Jasper joins the Hatchets and Tigers as the biggest threats in the Big Eight Conference as the Alices try to finish with three of the last four titles with the league folding following this season.
Despite the potentially lofty expectations, Connor said he didn’t think his team was feeling any added pressure about postseason goals or extending the sectional win streak.
“I don’t hear any discussion like that, and I don’t see it,” he said. “One thing that’s always been true is that every year, each group is different. They’re different kids, and they have different leaders. I don’t think these kids take much stock in what we’ve won in the past. They just want to win this year.”
No. Name Pos. Ht. Yr.
1 Gracie Kramer G 5-3 9
2 Darrian Carmean G 5-9 12
4 McKinsie Halter F 5-9 10
5 Chloe Cardinal F 5-10 10
10 Faith Fleetwood G 5-7 9
13 Dani Kroeger G 5-7 10
15 Emma Connor F 5-9 10
20 Gracie Hartley G 5-2 10
21 Marissa Carmean G 5-5 11
22 Shaleigh Followell F 5-8 9
23 Jaclyn Sutton G 5-4 10
24 Johna Bottoms F 5-7 10
25 Victoria Jackson F 5-10 12
33 Morgan Leehy G 5-6 9
40 Ava Bochner F 5-8 9
42 Maycee Lange F 6-0 11
55 Madalynn Grube F 5-8 9
Coach: Travis Connor
Assistants: Kreg Battles, Megan Eck, Barry Clegg, Janis Hert.
DATE OPPONENT TIME
Nov. 9 EV. REITZ 8
Nov. 12 EV. NORTH 8
Nov. 16 Ev. Mater Dei 8
Nov. 19 Pike Central 8
Nov. 26 WASHINGTON 8
Dec. 3 GIBSON SOUTHERN 8
Dec. 4 Ev. Bosse 8
Dec. 7 Calloway Co. (Ky.) 10:30 a.m.
Dec. 7 Bullitt East (Ky.) 5:15
Dec. 12 JASPER 7:30
Dec. 14 BOONVILLE 12:30
Dec. 17 Ev. Memorial 8
Dec. 19 Lawrenceville (Ill.) 8
Dec. 23 Bloomfield 1:30
Dec. 30 Sullivan 7
Jan. 4 Highland (Ill.) 4:30
Jan. 8 Princeton 8
Jan. 11 MOUNT VERNON 1:30
Jan. 18 SOUTH KNOX 1:30
Jan. 25 NORTH KNOX 7:30
Jan. 28 Southridge 7:30
Jan. 30 MOUNT CARMEL (Ill.) 8
Home games in CAPS
All times p.m. unless noted