Schletzbaum Nitz

Addison Schletzbaum, left, and Natalie Nitz practice defensive drills on Nov. 20 at the ACCHS Gym. The two freshmen represent the overwhelming majority of the players available to veteran girls basketball Head Coach Mike Eckert this season. 

There’s always a lot of questions to be asked when a KSHSAA basketball team, recently dominated by seniors, which had marked success in the previous postseason, now has to turn to new

leaders.

Coach Mike Eckert has decades of experience, and he’s used to that. There’s a real challenge on this particular turnover, however, as the Atchison County Community High School girls are starting over almost from scratch.

Eckert expects he will start at least three freshmen on the varsity squad this year. There is no option. The 2018 Tigers, led by the likes of Jaycee Ernzen, the No. 3 top scorer in school history, the sisters Appel (Madison, Ashton and Georgia), Sara Johnson, Katie Beien, all of them are gone. Eckert spoke frankly about the situation after the Jackson Heights Cobras defeated the Tigers back in March at the substate championship game in Blue

Rapids.

“We just lost about 90 percent of our offense,” he

said.

Senior Sarah Kimmi and junior Meagan Pitts (who appears on the back cover of the 2019-20 Winter Sports Edition) must now take on the complex, multi-faceted burdens of offensive production and defensive cohesion that experience is required to sustain. Almost every other player on the team will attend their first high school basketball game as a competitor on Friday, Dec. 6, in a road matchup against the Oskaloosa

Bears.

“Well, it’s going to be tough,” Eckert said. “We’re counting on both of these girls to step up and provide some leadership. I know they can do it ... There’s a lot of unknowns. The transition from junior high ball to high school varsity is a big

step.”

Eckert, who is able to turn all of his attention to his work with the girls basketball team, knows that the Tiger rebuild will have to develop naturally.

“I just want them to come out and play hard, play the game they know, build confidence in themselves, and we’ll be OK,” he said. “We’re going to be good, I just don’t know how long it will

take.”

Marcus Clem can be reached via

marcus.clem@atchisonglobenow.com.

Follow him on Twitter: @AdAstraGorilla

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