For the second straight year, graduation wasn’t kind to Ada girls coach Michelle Shannon. Strangely enough, though, she doesn’t seem to mind.

Shannon, who took over for longtime Ada coach Jeff Maloy after the 2005-2006 season, lost sharpshooting guard Molly Maloy after her first year as head coach and, after taking her second team to the Class 5A state tournament last spring, she said goodbye to senior starters Lauren Whitworth (the team’s leading scorer the past two seasons), Jenni Bolin (a two-year starter at point guard) and Rachel Stinchcomb.

Despite those three huge losses, Shannon is pretty optimistic about the prospects for her new-look Lady Cougars heading into Friday’s season opener against Tecumseh at the Cougar Activity Center.

“We’re going to miss those seniors,” Shannon admitted. “We’re not going to find one player to replace Lauren Whitworth, but I have several who are capable of filling that gap. I think it could be somebody different every night.

“If somebody’s hot on a particular night, we’re going to get the ball to that person, but we don’t have just one go-to person,” she said. “I’m hoping we have seven or eight kids who can score for us every night.”

Shannon hopes to fill the void in the middle left by Whitworth’s graduation with 5-10 junior Catie Newport, who played only sparingly in her first two varsity seasons and was slowed by a concussion late last season.

“Catie brings mobility and strength,” Shannon said. “Lauren was such a finisher, and I’m hoping Catie can become a finisher. She’s one of the most athletic players on my team, and she’s strong as an ox. She didn’t get a lot of playing time last year, but I’m looking forward to seeing what she can do for us this year.”

Stinchcomb was one of Ada’s top rebounders and defensive players last season, and her spot will be manned by sophomore Erin Walling. One of the most highly touted players to come out of the Ada junior high program in years, Walling got a lot of playing time off the bench as a freshmen, and Shannon expects those valuable minutes last year to pay big dividends this season.

“Erin didn’t have to do a lot last year, but she got a lot of playing time, and that should help her this year,” Shannon explained. “I think athletically she’s capable, and I think letting her play last year without putting pressure on her enabled her to mature.

“She’s probably going to start in the post, but she can also pop out,” she added. “I’m also looking at playing a guard at (center) so I can bring Erin out on the perimeter. If she has a big kid guarding her, she can get by them, and she’s really good in transition. She’s a team player, and I think she’s going to come into her own this year.”

Taylor Steele, a 5-11 senior move-in from Wayne, and Andie Jewett, a 5-11 sophomore who is coming back from an ACL injury she suffered in a junior varsity game last year, also figure to help down low. But the strength of Shannon’s third Ada squad should be in the backcourt, where seniors Taylor Howard, Katelyn Carter and Shelbey Franz all return after solid junior campaigns.

Howard, entering her fourth year as a starter, has already been a member of two state tournament teams, and she was second on last year’s squad in scoring behind Whitworth.

“Taylor is capable of doing a lot, and I think she will,” Shannon said of Whitworth. “She brings experience to the table, and she’s such a coachable kid. Her outside shooting is her strength, but she’s every unselfish as the same time. If she’s not scoring, she’s creating things for other kids to score, and she’s going to play tough defense very night.”

With Bolin gone, Shannon said she doesn’t have a true point guard on her roster. She said the job could fall to Carter, who has made tremendous strides since last season.

“Katelyn is creating more, and she should be able to score more,” Shannon said. “I like the direction she’s headed. If I had to pick a point guard right now, it would probably be her, because she can drive and pull up and shoot.”

Franz, a part-time starter as a junior, could be the X-factor for the Lady Cougars. A streaky shooter who once hit eight 3-pointers in a game, Franz will be a full-time starter this season and will be asked to be more consistent as a senior.

“When you’re a guard, your outside shot isn’t going to fall every night,” Shannon said. “We’re going to have to create shots when the outside shots aren’t falling. What Shelbey is able to do that she hasn’t done in the past is to create for other people, and she’s going to get more playing time this year than she has in the past.

“There’s not a whole little of difference in those three guards,” she said. “Our outside shooting should be solid, but my kids know we’re not going to be able to rely on outside shooting every night.”

The Lady Cougars were hurt by a lack of depth last season, but the addition of Steele and Jewett and the emergence of junior Newakis Girdley as a viable option off the bench should help solve that problem.

“I would like to play eight or nine kids, but right now I have seven I’m sure about and a couple of sophomores I’m looking at,” Shannon noted. “As the year goes along, we’ll make changes, and hopefully by spring we’ll have some kids who can help us out.”

Although Whitworth, Bolin and Stinchcomb were three of the most physical players to come through the Ada girls program in this decade, Shannon said she doesn’t expect her current group of Lady Cougars to back down from a fight.

“We’re going to play as physical as we’re capable of playing,” she said. “I think Erin is as physical and as capable of getting rebounds as Rachel was. Erin should get us more points, where Rachel got a lot of her points off of offensive rebounds.

“Catie Newport is as strong as Lauren, and she is more mobile,” Shannon added. “Lauren was so good because she worked so hard, and I’m hoping all my kids will work that hard. I don’t have one selfish person in this whole group. It’s been a very pleasant experience with these kids, because they work so hard and do everything you ask them to do.”

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