By Gregg A. Sims
Washington Times Herald
A quick look at the Barr-Reeve girls basketball record might tell you that all things are well with the Vikings.
Barr-Reeve is 11-2 overall, ranked No. 8 in the AP girls basketball poll, and sits on top of the Blue Chip Conference with a 5-0 mark.
And while matters have gone rather well again for a program accustomed to success, it hasn’t been quite as easy as it appears.
Barr-Reeve has suffered through a variety of injuries that started with the conclusion to volleyball this past fall.
Jenna Knepp has played through a shoulder problem that still bothers her as Barr-Reeve enters one of its toughest stretches of the season.
Hannah Bullock has missed the majority of the season with a back problem. She just returned for the Vikings after leaving the team after playing in its second game against Tecumseh, Dec. 20.
Cori Cummings injured a knee against Wood Memorial Dec. 4, and has since returned although she is still not 100 percent. Tiarra Kenney has played with pain while overcoming leg problems.
Knepp, Bullock and Kenney missed the first two weeks of practice after the volleyball season. Bullock and Cummings have been back the last two games.
As the Vikings prepare to travel to Class A No. 3 Northeast Dubois (12-1) today for an important Blue Chip battle, Barr-Reeve must also face usually tough Forest Park (6-6) in a Saturday road game before returning home to face conference rival Class A No. 5 Vincennes Rivet (11-4) Tuesday.
To say the least, there’s plenty for Viking coach Mark Holt to juggle between a week of very good competition and finding the right mix of players and playing time with the regular season ending Jan. 31.
“We have all of our players back, but although they’re back, not all of them are 100 percent,” Holt said. “The first half of our schedule this year was not as difficult as it has been in past years. Some teams were not as good as they have been. We’ve been able to limp and piece it together the first half.”
A bonus for the Vikings was extended playing time for Alexis Chestnut, Brionna Miller and Kayla Lengacher who figured to be coming off the bench as the season started. Instead, they turned into valuable starters who pleased their coach with their improvement.
“Losing the people we did gave us the opportunity to give our bench players more minutes to improve, and I trust them now anytime on the floor against any opponent,” Holt said. “If we had been healthy, we may not have had as many minutes to give to everyone. It has made us a deeper team.”
The upcoming games with Northeast Dubois and Vincennes Rivet will likely determine the conference champion. The Vikings will still have one conference game left with honorable mention Class 2A North Knox at home Jan. 24.
The game with Rivet will also be a potential preview game for the sectional. Holt likes having his team back together, although they may not be quite ready to play the usual Barr-Reeve style.
“We’re now able to come back with eight players that we had at the start of the year,” Holt said. “We have liked to be a pressing, trapping, type of team in the past. We haven’t really been able to go to that style yet. We’ve pulled the reigns back, and I’m not sure we are ready to go back. I will be happy if we can play at the end of January the way I envisioned ourselves playing this summer. We want to be playing our best at the end of the season.”
Holt must juggle the desire to win the Blue Chip with preparations for the end of the season and keeping his team as healthy as possible.
“We’re certainly entering the toughest part of our schedule,” Holt said. “We’re very happy to have everyone back, but we are in a stretch now where we play Thursday, have a day off, play Saturday, have Sunday off and then come back Tuesday. I’ve got to watch how I play some of the players we have back. With girls battling injuries, you have to be careful. We really want to be playing our best basketball at the end of the season.”