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Basketball Preview: A few changes should not stop Lake Shore’s progress

LINSMAIR ON ATTACK — Versatile junior Melanie Linsmair enters her third season as a starter. Photo courtesy of Ron Larson.
There will be a change of philosophy, and even in the coaching staff come late-December, at Lake Shore, but that will not alter the girls basketball team’s goals.

Coming off an emotional overtime loss in a Class A-2 semifinal that Lake Shore looked to have won last season — ending a breakthrough 15-5 year for the program, the Eagles once again hope to make a run in sectional play.

It will just have to be without two starting guards that ran the team’s run-and-gun game from last season, and head coach Andrea Conrad, who will be taking a leave of absence to have her second child.

“The goal is to get where we were last year,” said Conrad, whose baby is due in late-December and from there, former North Collins girls varsity coach Vince Fininzio will take over heading the team. “This team could be good, if we stay healthy. I can see them making a run.”

Without Michaela Stepniak and Miranda Aikin leading a strong transition and defensive game, Lake Shore will look to pound the ball inside with more consistency, Conrad said.

Junior Darian Evans will be joined by freshman Shayla Scanlan to create a formidable front court, while do-it-all junior forward Melanie Linsmair will bring some dynamic play on both ends of the court to the Eagles. But with only three seniors, Conrad believes the team will need to do some growing, too.

“With me leaving and Miranda [a point guard], who was like a coach, gone, it will take some maturing, but I think they’ll get there,” said Conrad, whose team starts the season at the annual Hae Jude Tournament Friday-Saturday, Dec. 5-6 at Silver Creek.

Even with the transfer of 6-foot junior Lindsay Gearhart to Eden, Conrad still believes the team will be difficult to stop underneath the basket.

Evans, who’s in her third year with the varsity, was one of the top rebounders in ECIC last year. Conrad sees the junior being able to pound the ball inside using her strength and improved moves in the post. Scanlan, a standout lacrosse player, brings athleticism up front and is eager to play a bigger role.

“It will be more of a big girl game for us this year,” Conrad said. “I can’t see many teams being able to guard Darian and Shayla.”

Linsmair led the team with an 11-point scoring average and added 153 rebounds, 93 steals and 58 assists. Lake Shore’s prowess up front is strengthened by senior Allie Jimerson, another standout lacrosse player, who got some quality minutes last season. She will serve as captain along with Evans and Linsmair.

In the backcourt, Lake Shore will look to junior Karen Snow, a transfer from Gowanda, who’s got some length at 5-foot-8 and also can shoot the ball well, Conrad said. Speedy sophomore point guard Kelsey Eggleston will also take on a big role in her first varsity season. Conrad likes that Eggleston is not afraid to shoot. Freshman Ariel Smith also brings potential to the guard position. Junior Kayli Judson should see some time at forward, while first-year seniors Loni Stevens and Courtney Tallchief round out the roster.

Conrad, who expects Cheektowaga and Springville to be the biggest threats in ECIC Division III, feels some relief leaving the team in the hands of an experienced coach in Fininzio, who’s already been working with and getting to know players in the preseason.

“We couldn’t get a better person than Vince to step in,” said Conrad, who saw her team’s season ended last season at the hands of a feisty Cheektowaga team that came back from a large halftime deficit. “Vince is dedicated and will stick to the gameplan and continue to deliver our message.”


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