Erica Keeney, senior, C

The Houston girls’ basketball team may more closely resemble a hockey unit early in the season.

With many of his players playing at about the same level, veteran Lady Tigers coach Brent Kell is considering make 5-for-5 substitutions to get each of his players on the court. He used the strategy during the summer by keeping his five upperclassmen and five sophomores together.

Kell said he may use the same substitution pattern when Houston opens its season on the road Monday against Eminence.

“The cool thing about our team is everyone has different roles and have different parts that fit in,” Kell said. “Some hit the 15-footer well, some play better defense, some rebound better, some are quicker, some hustle more. Now as a coach, I’ve got to try to figure out who to play with who.”

Any rotation wil begin with center Erica Keeney, a three-year starter who returns for her senior season. Tory Burgess also returns as a starting guard.

Haylee Kell assumes point guard duties from graduated senior Danielle Pounds. Kaitlyn Kell will start alongside Burgess at the other guard position. Emilee Reese, Kenzie Scheets, Amber Sillyman, Kayla Herndon and Caitlyn Neal will be part of the guard rotation off the bench.

Elizabeth Hayes and Alexa Ichord, who was part of the rotation as a freshman last year, will share time at power forward and backing up Keeney.

Keeney’s production will be important for the Lady Tigers to improve on last year’s 9-17 mark. Keeney, a 5-foot-6 center, had 22 double-doubles as the Lady Tigers’ leading scorer and rebounder. She averaged 12.5 points on 52-percent shooting, 9.7 rebounds and 2.1 steals.

“She means a lot to us,” Kell said. “I’d like to have a double-double from her every night. She’s capable. She’s a tremendous athlete and offensive rebounder.”

Defenses will know Keeney’s importance, too. That’s why Kell said improved perimeter shooting will be key. Burgess, who averaged about 6.5 points per game last year, is Houston’s top 3-point shooter. Freshman Alissa Bowlin, also a strong outside shooter, could eventually be moved up to the varsity.

The Lady Tigers will also need production from their five sophomores: Ichord, Sillyman, Scheets, Reese and Herndon.

“We’re pretty physical, especially those sophomores,” Kell said. “They don’t mind getting on the floor and getting after it.”

Kell said he would like to see his team’s decision making and passing improve. The team also doesn’t have much height. For now, he is focused on each player doing her best each day, beginning with practice.

“My philosophy right now is ‘Let’s win the day,'” Kell said. “If we can do that day in and day out, then we are ahead of the game.”

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