With all five starters back from last season, Lakeside’s girls’ basketball team is as optimistic as ever about the upcoming season.
Add in the fact the Dragons will start three seniors and have two others coming off of the bench and third-year head coach Nicole Grimmett is confident her team can put together its first winning season since 2006.
“Each year, we look to build and improve upon the last,” Grimmett said. “We hope to finish higher in the Chagrin Valley Conference rankings this year as well as have an overall record above .500. I believe this hasn’t happened for Lakeside girls’ basketball since the 2006-07 season.”
The Dragons finished 14-6 overall that year but have struggled since.
A senior-led team in 2020-2021 could change that.
“These seniors have put in a tremendous amount of work to get this program to where it is and are not done yet,” Grimmett said. “They work extremely hard at practice and compete with each other every day to make themselves and the team better. Unfortunately, we have had to pause practices and have lost several days due to COVID, however, these girls continue to take advantage of each opportunity and play with tremendous heart. We are fortunate to have almost our entire team returning and also brought a few players up from JV who will contribute this season.”
Led by senior forward Hailee Aguinaga, the Dragons have a strong mix of experience and talent and are poised to put together their best season in years.
“All five starters are back and we have depth on the bench,” Grimmett said. “We have a good mixture of outside shooters, players that can penetrate and finish at the rim, and Hailee will be key for us inside the paint. Our goal this year, and every year, is to compete. We believe we can increase our standings in the CVC as well as our overall record and push for a long tournament run.”
Aguinaga is a load in the paint.
As a junior, she averaged 8.1 points, 9.2 rebounds and 3.8 blocks per game on the way to earning second-team All-CVC and honorable mention all-district. She also shot 50-percent from the free throw line and 36-percent from the floor.
“Hailee is one of the hardest working athletes I have seen,” Aguinaga said. “She is continuously looking to improve and has done so a great deal since her freshman year. She pushes herself extremely hard and does not settle for anything less than her absolute best. She is a leader on and off the court. We will count on her again this season to dominate inside the paint.”
Seniors Shayla Christian and Kalee Grimmett also return to the starting lineup.
Christian, a forward, scored 5.9 points with 8.3 rebounds and 1.6 steals per game. She was named honorable mention all-conference and all-district. Grimmett brings versatility to the lineup and can help the Dragons in a number of different ways.
“Shayla is a hustle player. “She rebounds on both ends of the floors, is always in the right spot defensively and is after every loose ball. Offensively, she can play anywhere we need her,” Coach Grimmett said. “Kalee is a well-rounded player. Defensively, she does well anticipating what the opponent is going to do and gets into the right position on the floor. Kalee can play anywhere on the floor and has great court vision on the offensive end as well. She has a strong work ethic and leaves it all on the floor.”
Junior guards Adrianna Hull and Damonique Derricoatte fill out the projected starting lineup.
Hull earned honorable mention honors.
“Adrianna has a lot of knowledge and an obvious love for the game. She has worked extremely hard in the offseason to improve her skills. She is an intense and aggressive player who will be key to our offensive success this season,” Grimmett said. “Damonique is a scrappy player who gets after it on the defensive end. She knows what her role is and we can count on her to apply pressure to the opposing point guard. She has a drive and desire to be the best player she can be and that shows in her effort.”
Seniors Kirsten Clason and Mandy Strong and junior DeAundra Severino will provide the Dragons with quality depth.
Clason and Strong are guards while Severino is a forward.
“Kirsten is one of our best defensive players. We can count on her to get after the ball and run the floor. She does a great job offensively moving the basketball and creating open looks,” Grimmett said. “Mandy is a true team player and will do whatever she can to see her team succeed. She has spent countless hours perfecting her shot and we will count on her on the offensive end this year. This will be DeAundra’s first full year with the varsity squad. She was able to get a few varsity minutes toward the end of last season. She will mostly stick inside the paint for us this year. She does a great job on the board.”
As optimistic as the Dragons are, they also know realizing their goals won’t come easily.
To win more than they lose and compete in the CVC Lake Division, the Dragons have to stay healthy and focused this season.
“Our biggest challenge will be staying healthy. The way we do things at practice have changed, we wear our masks, and make sure we have time to sanitize between drills. We have already missed several days due to the pandemic and have gotten creative in the ways we can still “practice” without actually being together in the gym.
On the court, Lakeside will rely on its defensive pressure to set the tone for each game and the season as a whole.
“Our intensity, defensively, will be key for us this year,” Grimmett said. “We look to apply constant ball pressure and have the ability to switch between several defenses that we run. The depth on the bench will allow us to rotate frequently and stay fresh on the court. In order to be successful, we need to play as one unit on the floor. We have a lot of individuals with great skills. When we play to each other’s strengths offensively and play each defensive possession with intensity, we will have a successful season.”