The post-LaRae Cruz/Katie Peters era has not started smoothly for the 3-6 Cougars. Without their two leading scorers from last season’s 13-8 squad, G-C has struggled to put the ball in the basket.
The Cougars are averaging 47.3 points, their worse offensive total in over 10 years.
“We’ve played hard every game,” Cougars coach Doug Laker said. “We just haven’t shot the ball well. We’re only averaging 14 turnovers, and that’s pretty good.
“But we’re shooting in the 30s (on field goal percentage) and in the 50s on free throws. We need to bump each of those by 10 percent, and it’s possible. It just takes practice and experience.”
On defense, the Cougars are allowing a respectable 49.2 points. They’ve been dominated only twice — by Pendleton Heights (67-48) and Chatard (77-55). G-C’s other four losses were by an average of 10.5 points.
Shelby Oldham — The 5-4 sophomore point guard has doubled her scoring average, from 4 to 9.2 points, from her freshman season, and increased her assist total from 3 to 5.2 per game.
“She’s done a great job,” Laker said. “She’s doing a lot for us, and she has a lot of responsibility as a sophomore, a leader on and off the floor.”
Savannah Girolami — Another of the Cougars’ youngsters — G-C has only two seniors — Girolami (4.2 ppg) has become a valuable part of the rotation as a 5-8 freshman.
“With Katie not playing, Savannah really had to step up quick, and she’s done a good job for us.”
Peters, who was expected to be the Cougars’ starting senior guard/forward, is an Indiana University soccer recruit who elected to not play basketball this winter.
Laker is also pleased with the contributions of 5-7 sophomore guard Regan Lewis and 5-8 senior guard/forward Shelby Davis. Lewis, like her sophomore teammate Oldham, has doubled her scoring average (from 3.2 ppg to 6.3), as well as her rebounding total (2.2 to 5.5, good for fourth best in the county).
Lewis was a state qualifier in the high jump in the spring track and field season as a freshman. She’s put just as much dedication into basketball.
“She’s really been working on her sport,” Laker noted. “She works hard in practice to get better every day.”
Cruz, who graduated, was an underrated rebounder. In addition to her 18.4 points per game, she grabbed 4.7 boards per night. Along with Peters, the duo accounted for over 11 rebounds per game.
That’s where Davis has come in, Laker said.
“Shelby has been playing a new role,” the fifth-year coach commented. “She was always on the perimeter a lot for us, but without Katie and a lot of size down low, she’s turned into one of our best post players.”
The 4A Cougars will be hard-pressed to avoid their second losing season since 2004-05, but an eight- or nine-win-total isn’t out of the question.
Winnable games remain against 2A Eastern Hancock (7-3), 3A Delta (2-8), 2A Knightstown (6-4), 3A Muncie Central (5-6), 3A Yorktown (6-4) and possibly 4A Whiteland (6-5).
As Laker noted, he’s pleased with the team’s attitude, ball handling and defense. It’s just a matter of making shots.
“It’s just continued practicing and getting over that hump,” he said. “Are we a terrific shooting team? No, not right now. Are we as bad as we’ve shown? No. Water will find its level.”