When Platte County takes the floor for this year’s season-opener, there will be a lot of new faces to learn. Pirates coach Becca Strobbe, who enters her second year at the helm, returns only two starters from a team that finished 9-16 overall and 3-9 in the Suburban Conference Blue Division a year ago.
A combination of graduation and departures have created the attrition that requires Platte County to replace three starters. The new-look lineup will feature returning sophomore starters Reese Pickett and Joslyn Hupp, who were part of a youthful Pirates team that featured only one key senior.
That will mean some returners will need to pick up that scoring void and do so with an expectation rotation of eight players.
“We thought last year would be a rebuilding year after losing a strong senior class in the 2018-2019 school year,” said Strobbe, who is 50-50 overall coach with a three-year stint at Lone Jack prior to coming to Platte County to serve one year as an assistant and then replace long-time coach Chris Stubbs. “However, after losing some key starters from last season, we return to a very young team. Our expectation is to compete this year, building up our knowledge of the game and focusing on scoring as a team. Our keys to success are to established a defensive presence, sharing the ball on offense, and competing.”
Pickett will be is the team’s top returning scorer at 4.3 points per game, and she added 2.4 rebounds and 1.1 assists per game, playing in all but one game last year. Hupp is a 5-foot-10 sophomore guard, who ranked second on last year’s team with 101 rebounds — 4.2 per game. Her16 blocks were also second for the Pirates, and she averaged 2.5 points per game.
A pair of key reserves will also be back as well for Strobbe, who will be assisted by Katlyn Donovan and Spencer Smith, and will assume larger roles.
Kylene Loy, a point guard and the only senior on this year’s roster, has been a two-year letterwinner and was one of four players to play in every game last year — but the only one of the quartet back. She averaged 2.0 points, 2.3 rebounds and 1.3 steals per game.
Also returning is Kiersten Robbins, a 5-foot-11 junior, who scored 2.5 points and 2.6 rebounds per game. She and sophomore Gracy Hammerschmidt are the tallest players on the roster.
Strobbe also expects junior Amaira Peterson and sophomores Morgan Stewart and Abby Reynolds to maintain a presence at the varsity level. With two years of junior varsity experience under her belt, Peterson will be a guard that will see time and has been filling in the leadership role. Strobbe also highlighted Stewart, a shooting guard, for her offseason work and despite her limited experience, she could provide an important scoring option.
Lydia Doole, a point guard, will be the lone freshman on the roster and also factors into the rotation.
Platte County lost two seniors from a year ago in starter Addi Long and reserve Hayden Walls. However, the Pirates will also be without transfers Amaya Blake and Peyton Akins. Blake stayed nearby, landing at Park Hill, while Akins is part of a military family and now attends Curtis High School in Fircrest, Washington.
Blake led the team in almost every category last year: points, rebounds, steals, assists and field goals. She was a first team all-conference and all-district pick as a sophomore.
Long averaged 5.3 points and 4.8 rebounds per game and earned honorable mention all-conference honors. Akins, a freshman last year, was second on the team in scoring (7.6 ppg), second in assists (1.2) and fourth in rebounds (3.5).
The trio of starters gone from the program accounted for 28.5 points per game for a team that averaged 42.3 points per contest last year.
Last year, Platte County experienced ups and downs, losing six of their first nine games but then improving down the stretch after a 2-1 showing at Kearney’s Bulldog Classic in January. The Pirates won four games in a row, the last against Raytown South in a Blue Division game improved the record to 8-8.
The rest of the month, Platte County won only one game and dropped seven of the final eight games, including a 62-28 loss to Savannah in the Class 4 District 16 opener.
“I want to see the girls focus on being a team of players that work together, rather than individuals focused on their own accomplishments,” Strobbe said. “And from everything I have seen in practice so far, we are getting there. Learning the game is a big part of becoming better as an organization, not just a team. My hope is that we can continue to grow the girls basketball program to what it was when Stubbs was here. We want more girls, more competition, and to honestly keep up with all the success of other sports here at Platte County.”
The 2020 season will start a little later than originally planned. The Pirates were set to play at Raytown on Tuesday, Nov. 24, but that game was canceled. Now, the first game of the year is scheduled to be against St. Joseph Benton in the first round of the Savannah Invitational on Monday.
Platte County last played in Savannah’s tournament in 2013 after opening the season in the Winnetonka Tournament in recent years. This will also be the Pirates first matchup with Benton since 2011. Platte County won the last meeting, 54-42 in a Class 4 district game. The last regular-season meeting between the two teams came in 2010 at the Basehor-Linwood Tournament.