In league characterized by change, Pacers’ core returns largely intact

Ben Stroup Sports Editor

November 22, 2013

In a league amidst a serious state of change, the Delaware Hayes girls basketball team will have a fairly familiar feel this season.

Sure the Pacers have a new coach in Peter Minardi, but unlike the OCC-Capital Division’s top teams — Orange lost all five of its starters, Olentangy lost seven seniors who won nearly 80 games in their four years with the program and New Albany lost a pair of standouts to Division I collegiate programs — Hayes has four returners with starting experience and a core group of five seniors back in the fold.

Even Minardi is familiar with the program, having spent each of the past two seasons as an assistant under Erin Margraf, who stepped down at the end of last year.

“One of our strengths is we have a group of girls who have played together for four years,” Minardi said. “All five of our seniors are good leaders.”

One of those seniors, guard Kristen McMillen, will be the engine that makes the team go this season.

“Kristen is a four-year varsity player who returns as our leading scorer,” the coach said. “She will pass 1,000 points this season, which I think is a pretty big deal. We feed off of her. She gets us in our sets, is a smart basketball player and I trust her with the ball.”

The other four returning seniors are four-year letterwinner Julie Bauer, Maranda Merriman, Miriam Aburmaieleh and Kate Ellis.

“Julie is very energetic and hustles on every play,” Minardi said. “She is a good outside shooter and another one of our leaders. Maranda brings a lot of energy on the defensive end and gets on the other girls when it’s necessary, Miriam gives us all she has and Kate is an offensive option down low.”

Junior Abbie Gore — the team’s second-leading rebounder and a post presence who can open a lot of things up for the offense — sophomore post Brandy Bauer and junior Sirya Banks will smooth out what Minardi feels is a solid top eight.

The faces will be largely familiar, as will the offensive sets and defensive style of play incorporated into the game plan … with a few exceptions.

“We will do a lot of the same things Erin did with the girls last year,” he said. “I want to be a little more aggressive, though, when it comes to pressuring the basketball. We want to give teams different looks on that end of the floor.

“Offensively, we want to push when we can and get the low post players involved early - something that will help open up a lot of other things for us.”