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November 11, 2013

VALLEY GIRLS HOOPS PREVIEW: Rookie coach takes helm of veteran Rockville squad

TERRE HAUTE — At 44, Clinton native Ron Alabaugh feels like he’s doing what he should be in life.

Having graduated from Indiana State University with a degree in social studies education this past May and earning his first teaching job at Rockville High School soon afterward, he convinced the school to hire him in September to replace Ryan Luce as its girls basketball coach. Luce had shifted over to guide the Rox boys basketball team.

The Rockville girls finished with an 8-13 record last season. But Alabaugh — who played basketball and baseball at South Vermillion in the 1980s and worked as an assistant baseball coach at Rockville in recent years — believes this squad is capable of improvement.

“We’re returning nine varsity players from last season,” he told the Tribune-Star. “They give great effort and this team will be well balanced.”

Alabaugh said the only senior is 5-foot-8 starting forward Meghan Bullington. Adding spark to the front line should be 5-10 sophomore Meagan White and 5-6 junior Paige Boardman.

The new coach also mentioned what he called three equally talented guards in 5-5 sophomore Morgan Black, 5-5 junior Alexia Lear and 5-6 sophomore Caylin Fellows.

“We’re going to try to find a new identity this year,” Alabaugh emphasized. “Meghan will be one of the leaders.”

He added that his biggest concern is how quickly the girls can pick up his new style of play. “I’m hoping they get used to it right off the bat,” he noted.

Alabaugh explained why he wanted this job.

“I’ve been involved in youth sports a lot and coaching is something that I’ve been wanting to do my entire life,” he said. “And so now I’m getting the opportunity, finally.”

Alabaugh admitted that he’s still becoming familiar with other teams in the Wabash River Conference, but he thinks Attica is likely to be a top contender for the title.

“I know North Vermillion and Riverton Parke lost some good players [to graduation],” he added, “but they’ll still be competitive.”

Rockville’s first game is tonight at South Putnam.

• • •

Other Indiana girls basketball teams from the Wabash Valley to keep an eye on:

• Sullivan — Now in her 11th season at the helm of the Golden Arrows, Julie Meeks has fond memories of her 2012-13 squad that finished 23-3 and won a Class 2A sectional championship a year ago.

She realizes, however, that repeating that success will be a tough task, considering her starting five has graduated.

“I have practically a new team this year,” Meeks said in a text message over the weekend. “Emily Cottom, a senior, has the most varsity experience and she tore her [anterior cruciate ligament] in the first practice. I was looking for her to score double figures and handle the ball quite a bit for us.

“Kaiti Basinger, a senior guard, got some playing time on the varsity last year. I look for senior leadership and scoring from Kaiti. Along with her are Kiersey Judson, Jenni Wilkes and Peyton Garrett, all seniors. I have a freshman in Ashley Durall who will start and help us out. Junior Skye Dillingham, coming off knee surgeries, hasn’t played since her freshman year [but] will help us. Sophomores Katie Day and Kyndall McDonald will get a lot of playing time.

“We also have another freshman, McKenzie Pirtle, that will get some varsity playing time. … I have told the team, ‘Let’s work hard, have great attitudes and play hard in games and see where it takes us.’ We will improve as the season goes on.”

Sullivan will play host to Riverton Parke tonight.

• Clay City — The Eels, who slumped to 7-14 in 2012-13 after enjoying plenty of success in previous season, are looking to make a comeback under the guidance of sixth-year coach Chris Ames.

“Returnees are [sophomore Alisha] Steward, [senior Alex] Wolfe, [senior Kylee] Truax, [junior Logan] Ellinger, [senior Claire] Miller and [senior Mahayle] Durga,” Ames explained in an email. “Expect a lot out of our core players returning this year. We also have several young kids coming in that we are looking to help us — such as [sophomore Alexis] Price, [sophomore Courtney] Brown and [sophomore Emily] Rogers. Keys for us are to be able to defend people and rebound the basketball in order to be competitive.”

Price is the Eels’ tallest player at 6-0.

Clay City will open its season Friday at home against Eminence.

• Linton — The Miners, who are coming off a 3-19 campaign, will open a new season tonight at Monrovia.

“We return seven of our top eight players from last year,” sixth-year coach Brad McKinney mentioned in an email over the weekend. “The four seniors have started since their sophomore season.

“Mercedes Shafford is our leading scorer and rebounder returning from last year. She is joined by point guard Brilee Parker, forward Courtney Johnson and guard Carlie Booe. Last year’s ‘sixth man’ Avaree Dunn also will be in the mix. Freshman Taylor Thuis will provide some size we have been not had the past few years. We have got to find a way to increase our offensive output over the past couple of years to make the step forward as a program.”

• Others — Shakamak captured a Class A sectional crown and ended up 12-12 in 2012-13. The Lakers, with sixth-year coach Troy Fougerousse in charge again, will tip off a new campaign tonight at Washington Catholic. … Riverton Parke, which finished 19-4 and battled eventual winner North Vermillion for a Class A sectional championship with Josh Douglass at the helm a year ago, will travel to Sullivan for its opener tonight. … With Tim Terry beginning his 34th season of coaching South Vermillion, the Wildcats will tangle with Western Indiana Conference foe West Vigo in the first round of the Terre Haute Savings Bank Tip-Off Tournament at 7:30 p.m. today in the Vikings’ gym. South Vermillion was 3-18 last season. … North Central, 7-15 last season, will face Owen Valley at 8 p.m. Wednesday in the THSB Tip-Off Tournament at West Vigo. The Thunderbirds are guided by second-year coach Jacob Cummings. … Union was 9-12 last season and eighth-year coach Benji Boyd will try to kick off a new season on a positive note Thursday at home against Cloverdale. … North Vermillion, coached by Terry Naylor, should have a difficult time duplicating its 24-3 mark with a Class A sectional title from a year ago. But the Falcons will try, starting tonight at Southmont. … Jeff Thompson is back to try to turn around the fortunes of Turkey Run, which ended up 2-19 in his first season there in 2012-13. The Warriors were slated to get started Monday night at Eminence.

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