Vermilion County Tournament Preview: Trojan girls look to continue recent hot run

ARMSTRONG — Projections for the second half of the season looked gloomy, at best, for Armstrong-Potomac girls basketball.

That was the consensus opinion following a dismal 46-16 loss to Salt Fork on Dec. 6 in the Trojans’ home building.

Morale was low, confidence even lower, and it looked like some wholesale rotation changes might be in the cards.

One month later, things could not look any different for the Trojans. They made some lineup changes, won back-to-back games to close out 2018 and won two straight to start 2019 before a 55-45 loss to Westville last Monday.

The Trojans (9-12) now set their sights on the Vermilion County tournament, where they earned the No. 5 seed in the pool-play format and face No. 3 Salt Fork on Saturday in the first game of the tournament at David S. Palmer Arena in Danville.

“I expect us to come out and compete each of our three pool games,” Trojans coach Nick Hipsher said. “We have played two of the three teams already and have a good idea of what we are going to see.”

Despite the recent run of success and a turnaround to the season, Hipsher says expectations have not changed heading into the tournament, where they face No. 3 Bismarck-Henning/Rossville-Alvin at 6:30 p.m. on Monday night and play No. 7 Georgetown-Ridge Farm at 5 p.m. Wednesday. Win one of those, and the Trojans will play a fourth game Saturday.

“No, I don't think (winning four of the last five) changes anything,” Hipsher said of pre-tournament expectations. “We talked about what we expected at the beginning of the year, and I still stand by that. We have five seniors who are going to determine how this tournament goes for us.

“We have changed our starting lineup, and I think that has given some flexibility with some different girls coming in off the bench.”

If the Trojans make a strong run in the tournament, Hipsher says, they will need to buckle down on defense and secure the ball. When A-P has lost this season, it “can pretty much count on those two things being a main reason why. When we've won, we have been solid in both those areas,” he said.

Leading the Trojans into the tournament are Hope Hambleton, who continues setting new career highs in points that include a 25-point outburst against Chrisman on Jan. 3, Maddie Buhr, Denley Heller and Kayla Roe.

“(Hope) is our main scorer and needs to continue in that role. She has shot the ball really well lately so hopefully that continues,” Hipsher said. “Maddie Buhr is a very capable offensive player. When she is aggressive, we are a much better team. Denley and Kayla down low have given us more of a presence lately. Both of them are good rebounders and are capable of being double-digit scorers.”

Contact Zack Carpenter at zcarpenter@rantoulpress.com and on Twitter @ZackCarpenter11.

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