By Dan Hardenbrook

It was a nearly perfect performance on night one of a new season for the Newberry Lady Indians Varsity Basketball team, as they took down EUP Conference opponent Pickford 46-29 last Friday. A large crowd came to see if the momentum from a historic volleyball season would carry over, and it did.

The Lady Indians controlled every major part of the contest, overwhelming the Panthers with a stifling defense while spreading the ball around and attacking from all angles on offense. After difficult recent seasons, there was hope and relief following the impressive win.

Last season’s Chris Nance award winner as Team MVP Allie Whalen led the way with 23 points. Whalen, who was forced into multiple roles last season, got to do what she does best: attack the basket and score. Whalen spaced the floor with her shooting, drove aggressively, and converted at the free throw line in an all-around showing that has her off to a hot start this season.

The biggest piece of help came from Lucie Rabochova, one of three international exchange students that have injected life and excitement into the local athletic programs. Rabochova showed that she will be a tough matchup to handle. She’s got the height needed to battle inside and control the boards, plus the offensive skill set of a combo guard who can handle the ball, pass, and shoot. Rabochova’s Newberry basketball debut was an all-around display of her skill: she finished with 9 points, 14 rebounds, and 6 assists. Defensively she was a dominant force, coming up with 5 steals and 7 blocked shots.

The early season improvement from other returning players was also apparent, and they, too, impacted the season opening win. Alazayah Depew played well on both ends of the floor, and formed a trio with Whalen and Rabochova that Pickford could not press. Depew handled much of the duties running the offense, often setting the lady Indians up for success. Her six points were vital in the team’s 17-point win.

Makennah Russell was also a strong contributor off the bench, adding four points and helping lock down the Lady Panthers, who didn’t score double digits in any of their four quarters on offense. Gracie Taylor and Elisa Rizzoli added their first scores of the season, and made big plays on defense.

The Newberry Girls team appears to be committed to controlling both ends of the floor under new Varsity Head Coach Sarah Johnson. Johnson broke her first pregame huddle with the word “Work!”, and kept her team, now deeper than they have been in years, fired up and focused. They controlled the game wire to wire.

At 1-0, the Lady Indians have two more home games this week, hosting Cheboygan in a Straits Area Conference game Wednesday before taking on Cedarville-DeTour at the J.L. DeCook Gymnasium on Friday.

The JV girls also had a thrilling opening night contest, almost securing their first win of the season. Tied at 27-27 in the final moments, Pickford hit a go-ahead three-point shot with 10 seconds remaining to escape with the win. Adrian Fossitt led the Lady Indians JV with 13 points. Freshman guard Abby Taylor had 7, and Matti Krupla scored 5 to help lead the way.