Fisher’s veteran frontcourt, young backcourt hope to mesh

FISHER — Fisher head coach Ken Ingold has built his teams on defense.

Under the premise of, “If we hold our opponent to under 40 points, we’ve got a pretty good chance to win,” during the 2016-17 season, the Bunnies girls basketball team went 5-5 in those games. A rundown of the margin of defeat in those games: nine, three, one, three, three for a total of 19 points.

Suffice it is to say, Ingold’s ideal typically held true last season. The Bunnies often gave themselves a chance to win, backed by a defense-first approach.

But Ingold, who is 142-127 with three regional championships under his belt in nine seasons as the girls head coach, wants to kick things up a notch in 2017-18 — albeit not dramatically.

“We’re going to have to run more and score more,” Ingold said. “I’m planning on pressing a little bit more. We do have some guards that are athletic. Becca (Clanton) is really athletic in the open court. Alivia (Spenard) is really athletic in the post. We need to find a way to get some transition baskets and fast-break baskets. We’re a lot faster team than we were last year. I think that will work to our advantage.”

For a team that struggled to put the ball in the basket (39.0 points per game on 26.3 shooting from the floor), an uptick in tempo could be the solution to the offensive woes.

“In girls basketball, it’s a matter of making the shots you’re supposed to make,” Ingold said. “When we make our inside shots, get to the free throw line and make our free throws and make our layups, we’re going to be in pretty good shape. We had some really bad shooting games last year, and we’re going to be pretty good defensively, but we’re not going to win many games if we can’t score 40 points. I think that needs to be our benchmark is finding ways to score 40, 50, or I would love to score 60 points.”

Because of his hopes to get up and down more often this season, Ingold will try implementing a 10-girl rotation starting with sophomore guards Sidney Hood and Daneigh Burk and senior forwards Alivia Spenard, Becca Clanton and Karissa Fredrickson.

Ashley Smith, Leah McCoy, Ashlyn Carpenter and Brianna Keeton also figure to log minutes.

And a key youngster who will certainly see important time on the court is Kyesha Siggers. The 5-4 freshman point guard could serve the same role that Hood did last season — not a starter but one of the first players off the bench. And Hood would be just fine with that, as it would allow her to slide over from the point guard slot to the shooting guard position, where she will be more comfortable and get more scoring opportunities.

“I enjoy shooting guard a lot more. I just think I’m better at it. I mean, I like both, but I just enjoy shooting guard more,” Hood said. “I like not being pressured to bring the ball up the court every time, and I love shooting threes. It’s the rush I guess.”

“Sidney’s going to really have to perform for us on both ends,” Ingold said. “She’s a good shooter and can really drive to the basket. She can defend pretty well, and she’s going to be really good in the fast break if we can get the ball out and get it going. I don’t want to put pressure on her, but she’s got to be a key for us. She’s got to get points for us somehow, whether it be from the wing or from the point.”

Most of the touches on the offensive end of the floor, though, will go to Spenard on the low blocks. At 5-10, the three-year starter — who also started some games as a freshman — is a solid presence in the paint and does a great job at getting to the free throw line and converting.

“I’m hoping it’s a little different this year. We do work on getting the ball into us (in the post) a lot during practice, but, also, we’re trying to shoot more threes this year, too,” Spenard said. “I’d really love to score more, and I’d really love to score 1,000 (career) points, but that’s going to be really hard.”

Both Spenard and Ingold agree it may take some time for the Bunnies to get some momentum and start stringing wins together with a youth-filled roster.

“We probably will (have some growing pains) adjusting to everything, but I think that if we just stay together as a team, run, rebound and shoot we’ll be fine,” Spenard said.

“We’re going to be a work in progress,” Ingold said. “I have a lot of confidence in my two senior posts, Alivia and Becca. They’ve been through a lot of varsity games, and they even played some varsity their freshman year. They know what it’s all about, and they know what it takes. It’s a matter of how quickly can our young kids catch up to fit in and work with Becca, Alivia and Karissa.”

One of the main benefits of the season-opening tournament co-hosted by Fisher and Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley is packing four games into five days and then having a week off to evaluate.

After the Bunnies, who squared off with Unity on Monday and Villa Grove-Heritage on Tuesday, finish up the tourney on Friday, they don’t play again until Nov. 27. Essentially, Ingold gets to use the tournament games as extended practices.

“The reason I love this tournament is we get to play four games, and then the week of Thanksgiving we don’t have any games before we get into our conference season,” Ingold said. “So I’ll be able to have five practices after the tournament before we have a conference game, and I think we’ll learn a lot from the tournament.

“I always want to win, and we’ll play to win — that’s why we work hard in practice, the goal is to win games — but I’m kind of more interested in how this team’s going to look in the tournament so we can see what we need to work on the week after the tournament.”

Three storylines

Will the offense score enough?

The Bunnies held teams to less than 40 points in 10 games last season and went 5-5 in those contests. But can they spice things up and light the scoreboards up a bit more this year?

Can the vets mesh with the rooks?

Alivia Spenard, Becca Clanton and Karissa Fredrickson are Fisher’s lone seniors, with Clanton (high post) and Spenard (low post) seeing the bulk of the scoring load. But equally important is the guard play from sophomores Sidney Hood and Daneigh Burk.

December stride

Last season, the Bunnies were 5-8 heading into the Bismarck-Henning holiday tournament. They finished 2-3 but got a big win over Watseka and suffered close losses to Bismarck-Henning (29-26) and Cissna Park (24-23). Fisher looked much better after that tournament, including notching a win over state-ranked Ridgeview and reaching a regional title game.

Four players to watch

Becca Clanton

The 5-7 senior is going to put up a lot of shots, probably the most on the team. She may not finish with the prettiest shooting percentage, but the aggressiveness is something Ingold will like to see. Most of her offense will come in the paint (mainly at the high post) and from the free throw line. She’s also a strong defender.

Sidney Hood

Hood is probably the team’s best shooter and slasher to the rim. She wasn’t a starter but logged a lot of minutes as a freshman. Despite notching just 5.6 PPG, it was obvious to see her abilities as a future playmaker. Much to her delight, Hood will be able to play off the ball more as a shooting guard this year where she said she is more comfortable. 

Kyesha Siggers

Siggers was the common denominator discussed among Ingold, Hood and Spenard. Each of them said the 5-foot-4 freshman point guard has impressed and can handle varsity playing time. It may take some time to adjust to the varsity level, but Siggers’ improvement throughout the year could go a long way in helping the Bunnies improve from a 12-18 record and 18.7 turnovers per game.

Alivia Spenard

Clanton was the Bunnies leading scorer at 10.3 points per game, and Spenard trailed her at 9.0 PPG. It will fall on their shoulders to increase those totals up a bit and continue to improve their chemistry in the paint. Spenard was also the team’s second-best free throw shooter, with a 67.4 percent clip and shot 30 percent on field goals.

Roster

Daneigh Burk, 5-4, So.

Ashlyn Carpenter, 6-0, So.

Becca Clanton, 5-7, Sr.

Karissa Fredrickson, 5-4, Sr.

Sidney Hood, 5-7, So.

Brianna Keeton, 5-10, So.

Leah McCoy, 5-6, Fr.

Kyesha Siggers, 5-4, Fr.

Ashley Smith, 5-10, So.

Alivia Spenard, 5-10, Sr.

Natalie Stipp, 5-4, So.

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

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