Lady Falcons go up-tempo
Salisbury’s girls basketball team finished below .500 in the Colonial League last season for the first time in quite some time. And its seven conference wins were its lowest since the Lady Falcons went 9-7 back in 2013.
Head coach Joe Mladosich stepped down after spending six years with Salisbury. His team’s went 81-66 since he took over in 2013. But the Lady Falcons’ didn’t have to look far for their next coach.
Dan Reichenbach, who was named the coach back in June, led the Salisbury Middle School team for each of the past two years and is eager to make the leap to the varsity level.
“The biggest adjustment will be a new coach, new system and a completely different style of play,” Reichenbach said. “Getting the girls to turn the speed of the game up has been my focus. Playing up-tempo and playing 32 minutes of pressure defense will be key for us. We will press and look to run at every opportunity.”
Reichenbach has been coaching boys and girls teams at St. Thomas Moore for 19 years. And his biggest focus during practice thus far has been getting this unit to turn up the speed of the game on both sides of the ball.
Salisbury certainly has the athletes to do that despite graduating leading scorer Sarah McGee (13.2 points per game) and a number of other starters.
Guard Olivia Hoeing (5.7 points per game last year) and forward Erica Holben (4.0 ppg), both of whom are gifted jumpers for Reichenbach on the track and field scene, return to the starting lineup this fall. Both of them provide plenty of varsity experience on the floor, as will forward Madison Bettuccio (3.5 ppg), who saw plenty of time in 2018.
“Although basketball is not the girls number one sport, they are athletic and can run the floor,” Reichenbach said. “The girls have great attitudes and are giving me great hustle and effort. We will be able to run with most teams and we should be able to use pressure defense to create turnovers and points. We should be able to go eight or nine (players) deep without losing much.”
Alicia Burkhardt (5.3) was one of Salisbury’s top post players last season and is gone. And Kelly Gardus (4.8) was a starting guard who provided the ability to knock down open three-pointers.
Quinn Wittman, who is just a freshman, will get the start for Reichenbach at point guard. Sophomore guard Melena Koutch, who is also a standout jumper, will round out Reichenbach’s starting lineup. Despite a young starting lineup, he believes this group is up for the challenge.
“Freshman point guard Quinn Wittman will be one of the top point guards in the league,” Reichenbach said. “One of the biggest problems from last year was ball-handling, handling pressure and turnovers. Quinn will have a tremendous impact in this area along with the experience of Olivia Hoeing.
“Melena will be one of the best natural athletes in the league, but will have to learn to play aggressively and with confidence on both ends of the floor.”
The Lady Falcons earned a berth in the district playoffs in each of Mladosich’s six seasons, including last season when they fell to North Schuylkill in the opening round.
Despite the change in coach, Reichenbach doesn’t expect any change in the expectations for 2019.
“I’ve thrown a lot of new stuff at them, and I am asking them to trust me and play a different style,” Reichenbach said. “Good news is I have coached most of the girls before either at St. Thomas More, Salisbury Middle School or in track and field, so they know how I am and what I expect. Making districts and winning 14 games is not a stretch.”
Salisbury opens its schedule against Dieruff at home on Friday night. Game time is set for 7 p.m. League play begins Tuesday at Pen Argyl and continues Thursday, Dec. 13 when the Falcons host Catasauqua.