It’s an experienced group of Helias Lady Crusaders.
And they are going to try to use that experience to their advantage.
“We are adding new stuff, bringing back some old stuff,” Helias coach Garrett Wiggans said as the Lady Crusaders prepare for tonight’s season opener against the Blair Oaks Lady Falcons at Rackers Fieldhouse. “We are evolving our game.”
Adalyn Koelling, a 6-foot-1 senior, has started since she was a freshman. The Murray State signee, a two-time all-state selection by the Missouri Basketball Coaches Association, averaged nearly 16 points last season to go along with seven rebounds and two assists.
“We’re blessed that she’s on her team,” Wiggans said. “The great thing is she is still evolving as a player, she’s really turning into a force on the defensive end. When you add that to her offensive game, it’s going to make her an outstanding player for us.”
Ava Morris, a 5-10 senior forward, totaled eight points and eight rebounds per game last season. She also averaged 2.3 assists and 1.5 steals in her second season as a starter.
“She’s around the ball all the time,” Wiggans said. “She’s a ball hawk. She puts so many points on the board for us on the offensive end with her rebounding ability.
“She’s also developing a pretty good outside shot.”
Claire Galbraith, a 5-8 senior, also has started the past two seasons. She has developed into a force on both ends of the floor.
Galbraith totaled nearly 12 points per game as a junior, shooting better than 40 percent on 3-pointers, to go along with three rebounds, three assists and two steals.
“She’s quick, she can get to the rim and finish or she can shoot from the perimeter,” Wiggans said. “I’ve always said one thing that gets overlooked is her offense often comes from what she does on the defensive end.”
The trio are expected to be the leaders on a team that finished 21-7 last season in Class 5 after taking third in Class 4 in 2022.
“I’m going to rely on them a lot, I need them to be a force verbally on on the floor,” Wiggans said.
Kenadi Harrison, a 5-5 junior, is the fourth returning starter. She averaged 7.6 points, three rebounds, two assists and one steal last season.
“She’s one of the players who we know will play hard all the time,” Wiggans said. “Not only is she a great threat as a shooter, she can handle the rock. And her defense is strong as well.”
“She had a breakout season last year.”
Alaina Meyer, a 5-7 junior, will hold down the fifth starting spot to start the season.
“She saw a lot of quality minutes for us last season,” Wiggans said. “She’s going to be able to step right into a role that we need filled.
“When she’s out there, she makes plays. She’s a great passer with a high basketball IQ. In practice, she’s one of our toughest players to guard because she’s constantly moving.”
The experience carries over to the reserves as well. Four juniors — Maddy Larkin, Lauren Verslues, Lydia Moellers and Abby Verslues — will be joined by sophomores Jayli Howell and Claire Morris.
“They are all going to have to play, they are going to get minutes because of the style we play,” Wiggans said. “They are all competing in practice to earn those minutes.”
Larkin and Abby Verslues will miss the start of the season with injuries.
After tonight’s opener, Helias will not have a home game until hosting Hickman in a Central Missouri Activities Conference contest Jan. 11.
The Lady Crusaders will play two games next week in the Fatima Tournament, as well as playing Holiday Hoops Classic from Dec. 27-29 at Capital City High School. Helias is also scheduled to play Jan. 18-20 at the Nixa Tournament.
Action will begin tonight with the junior varsity game at 6 p.m., followed by the varsity contest around 7:30 p.m.