WEST UNITY — Hilltop’s girls basketball team is coming off one of its most successful seasons in recent history.
After combining for just 12 wins in the previous four seasons, the Cadets surpassed that mark last year and went 13-7 (10-2 Buckeye Border Conference) to finish second in the BBC — the first time Hilltop didn’t finish last in the conference in three years.
“This senior class has really stuck with the program,” said coach Troy Grime, who’s entering his fourth season with Hilltop. “Obviously a couple years ago, we weren’t doing that well — and kudos to them. I love them for sticking with it.
“And it means a little bit more when you come from one win your freshman year — and some of them played as freshmen on varsity — up to 13 wins. It just shows what hard work and dedication does in any sport.”
Hilltop, which lost three players to graduation in Kodi Brenner (nine points per game, three rebounds), Sara Barnum (four, three) and Americus Maddox (three, three), brings back five players from last year’s team.
Fronting the returners are 6-foot senior sisters Leanna Baker (three-year letterwinner) and Lana Baker (two-year). Leanna dropped 10 points per game and seven rebounds to earn all-District 7 second-team and all-BBC first-team honors, while Lana averaged four points and three boards.
They’re also joined by younger sister and freshman Libbie Baker, who’s also 6-0.
“That gives us a little added dimension I think,” Grime said of the Baker sisters. “That’s something we have to figure out, to be honest. (Nov. 8) was our first practice (because of the volleyball team’s postseason run).
“... It could be a challenge to put all three of them on the floor at the same time and it could be a blessing, too. It’s going to depend on the opponent and how they’re playing us and stuff and how we throw kids out there on the floor.”
That’s not all the talent the Cadets have this season, either.
Hilltop brings back 5-foot-4 senior Kacy Connolly (one-year letterwinner, two points per game, two rebounds) and juniors Jayma Bailey (two-year, 5-6, five, three) and Mia Hancock (one-year, 5-7, four, two).
Grime also said seniors Kiera Wiley (5-4), Jozlyn Jones (5-6) and Alex Horton (5-7) — who’s a one-year letterwinner but missed last year due to recovering from a right knee injury — along with Libbie Baker are all promising newcomers to the program.
Grime thinks this group can keep the Hilltop girls basketball program on an upward trend.
“Last year was a huge step in the right direction for the program,” Grime said. “Hopefully we can build off that and continue that in the upcoming years.
“We have a lot of returning letterwinners, senior leadership and a couple more seniors joining the team. We look forward to hopefully doing pretty well this year.”