By TYLER HENRY
Salina Post contributor
After losing a majority of their big minutes from a 2022-23 campaign that saw Salina Central’s girls make an appearance in the 5A state championship game, many questions loomed about what this year’s team would look like both on and off the floor.
At the midway mark of the new season, it’s safe to say that most, if not all of those questions have been answered, as the Lady Mustangs head into the home stretch at 7-5, after taking third place at this year’s Salina Invitational Tournament.
“The best thing I’ve seen so far is how we have established an identity,” Central head coach Chris Fear said. “We are a solid defensive team that will battle hard each night. We have built confidence in how we need to practice and play.”
That confidence has translated to on-court success for a Lady Mustang team that prides itself in defense, holding all but two of their opponents south of 50 points, and holding six to 40 or fewer.
Offensively, Central continues to work on tightening things up on both ends in transition, looking to turn the ball over less and capitalize on the fast break more.
The Lady Stangs have been led in scoring this season by Tyler Vidricksen and Azbey Peckham, who combine to average over 20 points per game, and despite lacking a true post, Central has rebounded well by committee, with four different starters averaging three to five boards per contest.
“I think our rebounding has been a surprise,” Fear said. “That’s an area that I was very concerned with as we started the season. We do not have a great deal of size, yet we have been a very competitive rebounding team. We need to continue to battle and use our quickness there, that’s helped us win games and be competitive each night that we have played.”
With a mostly new group learning to play together on the floor, there’s no mistaking that the team that took the hardwood for the SIT last week is far superior to the one that took the court in game one, and much of that improvement has come with composure, and experience in big varsity minutes.
“Our biggest area of growth has been in our confidence,” he said. “There was so much uncertainty when the season started, we had to build confidence as individuals and as a team. It’s an ongoing process but we have made tremendous progress so far.”
While the Lady Mustangs have started to truly gel on the court, their chemistry off of it has had a massive impact on that as well, and an unselfish squad of players who have each other’s backs has made that transition much smoother.
“I am really pleased with how this team has come together,” Fear said. “They are extremely unselfish, they only care about how our team does and they enjoy being together. This team is very supportive of each other and that has helped to strengthen our culture. We have stayed together when tough moments have come our way on the floor.”
Central will resume action on Friday, January 31 when the Lady Mustangs travel to Ark City, looking to sweep the Lady Bulldogs on the season.
For continuing coverage of Central girl’s basketball all season long, stay tuned to the Salina Post.