The Salisbury girl’s basketball team has strung together a 59-16 record under fourth-year Head Coach Wade Billington, and last year’s 15-7 campaign featured a young roster that should grow with experience. “We had a solid season, falling in the District championship game,” Billington said. “We sustained a couple of injuries [in] the last regular season game that really hurt us down the stretch. We had a young team with one senior, three juniors and six freshmen. Our young girls got a lot of valuable varsity playing time, and we saw improvement from them over the season.”
The Panthers lost in the district title match against the Harrisburg Bulldogs, a team Salisbury had beaten twice earlier in the season. Now, a trio of seniors will take the lead, including forward Khloe Wyatt (5-11). Her 16 points per game and eight rebounds per game earned Lewis & Clark Conference MVP and All-State honors, and the versatile athlete who plays hard on both ends of the floor will shoulder a lot of the load for the Panthers.
Senior guard Rachel Fessler (5-4) is another tenacious defender, leading the Panthers with three steals per game last season. She can also score with strong outside range, and she is comfortable as a facilitator in the Salisbury offense. The final senior is Maddie White (5-7), a talented defender and rebounder. However, White is recovering from a torn ACL suffered in last season’s final regular season matchup, and coach Billington is hoping that she will be able to recoup her on-court athleticism.
Sophomore forward Micah Guilford (5-9) impressed as a freshman last year, shooting the ball well and handling the ball without fear. Coach Billlington expects growth from Guilford, who averaged 10 points and six rebounds per game. She will be a key piece in an offense that wants to get up the court quickly. “We want to push tempo as much as possible and get out and run,” Billington said. “We have girls who can and make the long pass for outlets so we try to use that as much as possible.” There are a lot of underclassmen on the roster who hope to make an impact at the varsity level. Sophomore forward Klaire Wyatt (5-11) can block shots and shoot from range, providing versatility on both ends of the floor as a strong transition player.
Two sophomore guards, Taylor Nolke (5-3) and Emersyn Hammons (5-4), specialize in different aspects of the game. Nolke is a strong defender, whereas Hammons can provide an offensive spark to get the Panthers going with good dribbling and scoring. Three freshman guards also look to provide significant minutes for the Panthers. Camri Wekenborg (5-5) will be handling the ball regularly, according to coach Billington, and she can effectively dribble, drive and shoot on the offensive end while providing some defense as well. Julia Sloan (5-5) and Tori Ricketts (5-1) both play with a ton of energy and play bigger than their size, attacking the glass and hustling as on-ball defenders.
“We should have more balance in our scoring and multiple girls who are able to contribute,” Billington said. “We should be a strong rebounding team here as well. We will need to shoot it with better consistency from the perimeter than we did last season as well as get some more points from transition buckets. I think our half-court offense will be smoother this season.”
Working with a young roster, the Panthers will need improvement in all facets to continue their winning ways. If they’re able to find an identity on both offense and defense, they’ve got the senior leadership and depth to do just that. “I think we are athletic and can really cause some havoc on the defensive end of the floor,” Billington said. “We need to see an improvement on containing the dribble and if we do that I think we can be really tough here.”