During her first three years in Brandenburg, Meade County coach Dina Hackert has viewed her roster as a puzzle.
She lays out the early season pieces, tinkering with what goes where in an attempt to see the entire picture by season’s end.
The Lady Wave, however, have been denied finishing the puzzle after discovering missing pieces in first-round defeats in the 3rd Region tournament.
But entering the 2019-20 campaign, Hackert may see that puzzle come to completion.
“When I look at these girls overall, we have the pieces to have a special season,” Hackert said. “I can honestly say this is the most talented group of players I’ve had coaching here.
“We have a good core group of players, and also girls who can come off the bench to support them.”
The Lady Wave lost four players to graduation, but return a talented nucleus, including four starters, that benefited greatly from a season of play.
The centerpiece is Kendall Wingler, the team’s lone senior, but a tremendous shooting guard who commands a great deal of attention.
Wingler, who has been on the varsity since eighth-grade, returns as the team’s leading scorer at 26 points a game. She has signed with Eastern Kentucky University and enters the season having scored 2,179 points at Meade County.
“Kendall is the piece we are building around,” Hackert said. “I think she has averaged 25 points a game since I’ve been here. She is a great shooter. A pure shooter.”
But it was an off-season dedication to the weight room that could take Wingler to new heights this year.
“She’s become more physical, much stronger and versatile,” Hackert said. “She can get to the rack. I believe she has all the attributes to be Miss Basketball this year. I would love to hear her name in the conversation.”
Wingler’s upside will get a boost from the teammates around her.
Jenna Gallimore, a junior point guard, returns to run the offense. She brings with her a deft ability to distribute the ball and score.
“She’s a knock-down shooter,” said Hackert, who added Gallimore is getting looks from college coaches. “She has improved tremendously as a player and a leader.”
Gallimore averaged 7.4 points a game last season.
Hackert said the development of sophomore guard Aubrey Hardesty also will benefit the team.
“Aubrey is much better with her on-ball defense,” Hackert said. “She is the heart and guts of our defense, and she can score as well.”
The guard dominant team also features juniors Molly Aebersold and Liz Martin, freshman Mattie Clayton, eighth-grader Anna Belle Babb and seventh-grader Peyton Bradley.
“Liz and Molly have really improved physically,” Hackert said. “Mattie is young, but I expect to get a lot of minutes out of her this year.”
The downside to Hackert’s puzzle could be the team’s inside presence, which features one center and two forwards, The latter position has been sidelined with injuries.
The post position is led by junior center D Griffen, who has developed into a tremendous defender. She was named the Area Sophomore of the Year last season.
“D plays a lot taller than someone who is 5-10,” Hackert said. “She’s quick and physical. She won’t back down from anybody.”
The forward position has Hackert concerned heading into the season.
The Lady Wave are without junior Emily Myers and freshman Katie Durbin.
Myers, who had ACL surgery two years ago, tweaked her knee. Hackert is not sure if the injury is as simple as a sprain or something worse.
Durbin broke her hand when she went up for a shot in practice and made contact with a defender.
“It’s wait and see right now,” Hackert said. “We hope to get Emily back soon. It might be as long as six weeks to get Katie back.”
While the two recover, Hackert will continue to work toward the season opener Thursday at home against DuPont Manual.
Hackert wants to implement an up-and-down tempo, using the improved defense to create offense.
“I think our quickness and dedication to the weight room will be important to how we play,” Hackert said. “We also have to buy into the things I have been teaching defensively.”
In district play, Hackert expects defending champion Breckinridge County will be the favorite again, and “O Cath (Owensboro Catholic, the defending region champion) is always one of the teams to beat in region.”
But this year, Meade County has the potential to break through, putting the right pieces in the right place at the right time to claim a coveted state tournament berth.