Ashley Agee is ready to get back on the sidelines.
The Blair Oaks Lady Falcons are ready to get back on the court.
Both will get their wish tonight in the Lady Falcons’ season opener against Helias at Rackers Fieldhouse.
“They’re ready to play, we’re itching at the bit to get on the hardwood after three weeks of practice,” Agee said.
The Lady Falcons only graduated one starter from last season: point guard Emma Wolken, who is playing for the Lincoln Blue Tigers.
Finding someone who can bring the ball up the court has been priority No. 1 for Blair Oaks. This season, that duty will be split between senior guards Baley Rackers and Chesney Luebbering, who have been transitioning from shooting guards.
“They have stepped up to the role,” Agee said. “Depending on the night and the game, I think each of them are going to have their struggles with that.
“They’re going to take turns, they’re going to learn.”
Agee said for both players, it has been a balance of learning to handle the basketball while still taking shots.
“At times, when they’re handling it, they forget they are shooters, as a point guard should,” Agee said. “On kick-outs, those are your opportunities to make sure you’re getting your shots up.”
Bria Boessen, a junior, will take over the vacant guard position in the starting lineup.
“She can shoot the ball a little bit,” Agee said. “She also finishes at the rim and she can play defense.”
Senior Autumn Bax, a 6-foot-1 center, returns to the post for the Lady Falcons. She averaged a double-double of 10.6 points and 11.2 rebounds per game last season.
“She’s going to get everybody’s best post player,” Agee said.
However, Bax’s biggest attribute to this year’s team may be her ability to handle the basketball anywhere on the court.
“With her handling the ball and being a versatile player, she can get out there and she can even shoot (from outside),” Agee said. “Not a lot of people know that.”
Blair Oaks was anticipating having a strong 1-2 in the post with sophomore Belle Boessen complementing Bax at the forward position. However, in last Thursday’s Jamboree, Boessen suffered a right knee injury and will miss the start of the season.
“Our strong point was our inside game with Autumn and Belle,” Agee said. “Having her was really going to help, because teams weren’t going to be double-teaming Autumn.
“It’s a big hit for us, but it’s also an opportunity for other people to step up.”
Agee said the past few practices have been working on finding that fifth starter to fill in for Belle Boessen ahead of tonight’s opener.
Returning from an ACL injury is senior forward Dorothy Lackman, who played plenty of minutes in the Jamboree.
Molly Porter, a sophomore guard, came off the bench and made some 3-pointers in the Jamboree. Also on the varsity roster are junior guards Karen McCauley and Madison Vaughan.
With Belle Boessen’s injury, Agee said freshman guards Hattie Meldrum and Mia Antweiler will move up to the varsity roster to begin the season.
The Lady Falcons held opponents to 46.4 points per game last season. Given the team’s strength of schedule, that’s an ideal number for Agee, who describes herself as a defense-first coach.
“Your offense is always going to come, you’ve got to hold teams down,” she said.
But Agee has tinkered with the Blair Oaks defense this offseason, switching to a man-to-man defense.
“They played a lot of zone last year and I’m a ‘man’ guy,” she said. “I think we can play a better zone if we learn how to play man. Plus, I think late in the year last year, man was their best defense.”
Limiting foul trouble will be a point of emphasis in the early going of the season for the Lady Falcons, especially with a short bench.
“We have to do a good job of keeping our composure so players can stay on the floor,” Agee said.
Blair Oaks will host Hermann on Dec. 5 for its home opener and will start Tri-County Conference play Dec. 21 at Southern Boone.
The Lady Falcons play next week in the Fatima Comet Classic. Their other tournament is the Harrisburg Tournament in late January.
“We play St. James and Fatima (in the Comet Classic) and then we turn around and see those guys again (in December),” Agee said. “… It’s a tough schedule, but it’s good for us. You’re seeing the tougher teams at the beginning, you’re seeing the best of the best.”
Blair Oaks was assigned to Class 4 District 10 with Eldon, Owensville, School of the Osage and Southern Boone.