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Looking for 20 in 2020

Golden Flashes hope to continue winning ways

The Champion High School girls basketball team returns four starters from last season when it captured a Division III district title and finished 20-6 overall.

But fifth-year coach Michael Cole knows the Golden Flashes will be tested as they attempt to match or improve on the 2018-19 campaign.

“We won the (All-American-Blue Tier) last year at 11-2 and I’m looking at our league and it’s going to present challenges,” Cole said. “Newton Falls returned five starters and they’re a very smart and strong team. Liberty should have beaten us twice last year. Both games they had us down in double digits and we responded. Crestview matches up with us pretty well. They were one of the few teams that outrebounded us. They’ve got some big, strong girls.”

Like last year, the Flashes have some bigger non-league schools on the schedule. They added a game against Struthers and also will play Warren G. Harding, Howland and Poland again.

“Playing those bigger schools and getting in some physical battles helped us when we got into the Division III tournament,” Cole said. “You always want to be challenged in the regular season.”

Returning starters are seniors Savannah Dodrill (5-6 guard) and Allison Smith (5-10, point guard), and juniors Emma Gumont (5-10, guard) and Brooke Whitt (5-8, forward).

Gumont averaged 14.8 points per game and shot 70.8 percent from the free-throw line. Whitt averaged 10.1 points and 10.8 rebounds and Smith averaged 10 points, 3.9 assists and shot 47.6 percent from the floor. Dodrill averaged 5.8 points and 4.2 steals.

“We’ve got two bigs, Emma and Allison, who are fast and that makes us unique,” Cole said. “Even Brooke is pretty fast for being a big, strong kid, so our big girls can run.

‘Our size helps with mismatches. We can use our big girls to post up. Most teams don’t have three bigs who can match our combination of size and speed. So we see a lot of zone defenses. Teams who are big usually don’t have our speed. Teams who are fast usually don’t have our size.”

Smith will miss a few early games due to an injury. The Flashes beat Struthers 48-30 in the opener Nov. 25, as Gumont scored 20 points to lead the way.

“Emma is more of a guard, a wing, who shoots the ball real well and attacks the basket well,” Cole said. “Defensively, when we press, our size is usually a factor there, too. Allison is hard to throw over and has the quickness to bother you, and Emma can run and cover, and both have good anticipation.

“But our best defender, without a doubt, is Savannah. She set a single-season school record in steals last year with 111 (4.3 average). She’s a complete scrapper. She’s just active and will get on the ground in a heartbeat. She’s our Energizer bunny. Sometimes we won’t even trap; we just let her run around and create havoc. I think her scoring will increase this year, too.”

Champion lost Abby White to graduation. She averaged 13.5 points, 3.5 steals and 3.4 assists.

Sophomore Ava Howell (5-5 guard) has stepped into the starting lineup and she scored 12 points in the opener. The bench has experience, as senior guards Jenna Deer (5-5), Syd Huffman (5-5) and Rylee Nyako (5-4) will provide depth. Also seeking time are juniors Lauren Fife (5-5, guard), Madison Stewart (5-5, guard) and Madyson Meyer (5-6, forward), and sophomores Lorinda Dodrill (5-4, guard) and Maddy Jones (5-8, forward).

“I love the makeup of this team,” Cole said. “We do a lot of sharing the ball. If you look at our scoring, we’ll usually go 15, 12, 10, 10 and 7. It’s spread out, so who are you going to focus on?

“But we have to be healthy. One injury by can certainly change who we are and how we’ll have to handle things. We want to play for a district championship again, but it would be incredible to reach a regional final. Our seniors also have a mini-goal. They’ve won exactly 20 games each of the past three years and they’re the class of 2020. They want to say that the class of 2020 had winning totals of 20, 20, 20 and 20-plus.”

Champion was 20-4 in 2017-18 and 20-6 in 2016-17.

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