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NTL GIRLS' BASKETBALL: CANTON LOOKS TO KEEP IMPROVING THIS SEASON (2021-01-09)

BY CHRIS MANNING
Northern Tier Sports Report
Things are looking up for Canton girls’ basketball.

They return four starters from a team that qualified for districts a year ago, two of which are going to be sophomores this year.


They have the league leader in rebounding, Molly Ward, coming back.


But in a league like the NTL coach Casey Aylesworth knows that nothing can be taken for granted.


“You never know what to expect,” he said. “The league could be up and down. We have four returning starters but we have eight, nine girls who have been with the program for a couple years. The expectations are there. As long as we take care of the ball, take care of each possession we should be OK.”


One player that will be tough to replace is point guard Elle Binford. She was a double digit scorer who could handle defensive pressure.


It looks like 10th grader Aislyn Williams is going to take Binford’s place as the primary ball handler this year.


“I have to be more confident with the ball because last year it was nerve racking,” she said. 


She already has a lot more confidence this year just by having that year under her belt and was second on the team in scoring at 5.8 points per game


“I know the game better and know the pace,” she remarked.


Fellow guard Courteney Weiskopff will be there to lend a helping hand.


“My focus this year is just coming together as a team and try and get the wins this year,” said the senior.


She sees herself as the glue that holds the team together.


“I just like to try to get everybody involved and do what I can do,” remarked Weiskopff.


Down low Reagan Kelley returns to solidify their paint presence. 


‘“I need to be strong under the basket,” she said about her role. “Rebound and get some baskets. We’ve got a small team, I’m one of the taller ones.”


Kelley, who averaged 5.5 points per game a year ago, is a little undersized as centers go but, being a senior and 3-year starter, she’s used to it.


“It’s intimidating at times, they definitely have height and strength against me,” she said. “There’s always ways around that, you have to learn or you won’t get anywhere.”


And then there’s Ward, who averaged more rebounds than points for the Warriors as a freshman. She grabbed 232 boards a year ago with Kelley’s 98 coming in second on the team.


“It was crazy,” she said. “I didn’t expect that to happen. It felt good.”


This year she plans on keeping the rebound but adding some more buckets.


“Hopefully, I’ll have more offense,” she said. “I want to be able to score a little more for my team.”


As they try to replace Binford’s dozen of points a game from last year Aylesworth is definitely looking towards Ward to be a big part of that.


“We definitely need her to step up on the offensive side,” he said.


Right now NEB are the heavy favorites to repeat at division champions, especially with North Penn-Mansfield moving to Division-I.


The Warriors, though, figure they are in the mix of teams looking to knock the Panthers off.


“We should be able to contend and that’s all we can hope for,” said Aylesworth.


With the Covid-19 Pandemic still ongoing the winter sports season will be start and stop, at best, and possibly even cancelled if things get bad enough. Regardless of what happens Aylesworth knows scouting will be difficult.


“We just have to take care of ourselves and work on player development,” he remarked. “We’ll be OK taking it play by play and game by game.”


The players also have high expectations for the 2020-2021 season.


“We definitely want to get to the district playoffs again,” said Williams.


Even though they’re realistic enough to know there’s no guarantees this winter they also feel they have the attributes to ride out the Covid storm.


“Over the summer we really grew together for our bond,” said Weiskopff. “The closer you are together the better you’ll do on the court.”



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