With three returning starters and a drop down to Division II, Kenston’s girls’ basketball team opens the 2019-2020 season with high hopes and the talent to match.
“I feel that we have a ton of potential and I am looking forward to the start of the season,” said Kenston coach John Misenko, who is 38-16 in this third year at the school. “We have experience and talent and I am hopeful that will translate to wins. I also think that we are very athletic and play unselfishly, which will help.”
The Bombers, who finished 15-8 overall last season and 11-3 in the Western Reserve Conference, dropped their Division I sectional championship game last winter and have since moved down a division.
Kenston advanced to the regional tournament two years ago and if all goes well this season, the Bombers hope to make their first appearance in the Division II Sweet 16.
“We dropped to D2 this year and we don’t know what district we are in yet, so that will be interesting for us,” Misenko said. “Our goals are always the same. We want to keep getting better and to try and win as many games as possible. We want to compete to win the WRC and after that try and win as many games as we can in the playoffs.”
The Bombers expect to start four seniors this season but it’s sophomore Catara DeJarnette that could draw the most attention from opposing teams.
DeJarnette, a 5-foot-5 point guard, was named the Ohio Varsity Freshman of the Year, All-WRC and third-team all-district last winter after averaging 11.3 points, 3.4 assists, 3.5 rebounds and 1.7 steals in her high school debut. She also drained 41 3-pointers.
“I think Catara is a very special player and may be one of the best point guards and 10th graders in the area,” Misenko said. “She will be expected to take on more leadership and responsibility this year as well. I’m glad she is on my team.”
Senior Rachel Apshago, a 5-foot-10 forward who has committed to play volleyball at Clarion University, also earned All-WRC honors last winter. She finished the year with 10.6 points, 1.2 assists, 5.0 rebounds, 2.0 blocks, 2.0 steals and drained 29 3s.
“I believe Rachel is one of the most athletic and one of the best players on the floor on any given night,” Misenko said. “Rachel will be a major factor in the success of our season this year.”
Graci Skala, a 5-foot-11 forward, is the only other returning starter. She averaged five points, two assists and five rebounds per game.
“Graci is very athletic and does a little bit of everything for us,” Misenko said. “She came in last year and gave us a boost and is a joy to coach because she can play four positions and does whatever we ask her to do.”
Eden Kesler and Chloe Thomas round out the projected starting lineup.
Kesler is a 5-foot-7 guard and Thomas is a 5-foot-8 guard/forward.
“Eden is a hard worker and has improved every year. She is one of our best shooters and I am expecting her to play well this year,” Misenko said. “Chloe is a good all-around player. She can shoot, drive, play defense. We are going to need her this year to do a little bit of everything at the guard/forward position.”
Kenston is fortunate to have quality depth as well.
Senior guard/forward Marci Oglesbee returns after missing last season with an injury but she started for the Bombers as a sophomore. She averaged eight points and 3.5 rebounds per game as a sophomore and also hit 36 3s that season.
“I am so happy to have Marci back this year, we really missed her versatility because she can play guard and forward,” Misenko said. “Marci is a great defender, shooter, and leader and it will be good to have her back.”
Juniors Kate Haynes and Micayla Paglia and sophomore Maddie Blazey also will be counted on to contribute this winter.
Haynes is a 5-foot-10 guard/post, Paglia is a 5-foot-5 guard and Blazey is a 5-foot-6 guard.
“Kate has the ability to play every position on the floor, which is a luxury for us. She plays really hard and I am looking for her to have a breakout year this year,” Misenko said. “Micayla has put in a ton of work over the offseason to get better. I’m looking forward to seeing her hard work pay off. Maddie is an athletic wing player who can get out in transition, shoot the ball, and defend. I am expecting her to contribute this year and look forward to having her the next few years.”
Kenston isn’t short on talent, depth or experience but the Bombers do have a weakness.
“The challenge we need to overcome is that we aren’t very tall so we will have to use our athleticism to counter that,” Misenko said. “We also need to stay healthy.”