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Cathie Rowand | The Journal Gazette
Garrett has one of the most dominant players in the area in Brandi Dawson, who is about to surpass 1,000 points for her career.

Railroaders favored; Lions rebuild

Garrett changing mindset, returns majority of talent

– Leo girls coach Carrie Shappell has navigated this situation before.

In 2008, her Lions were coming off a regional berth but lost their top four players and the bulk of their scoring.

They rebuilt, though, and matched the previous season’s wins total with 17. .

The Lions will try to repeat that feat this season.

“It’s kind of fun to restart,” Shappell said. “I will miss Taylor Seiss and Keanna Gary like crazy, but the younger kids are excited to rebuild and I’m excited to see what happens.”

Seiss and Gary accounted for 31 points per game last season, when the Lions went 17-5 and tied for the ACAC title with Garrett at 6-1.

“I’m actually really excited about our group,” Shappell said, referencing Jenna Beer (7.2 points per game), Tia Lindsey (4.0 points, 5.2 rebounds), Toby Carman and Millie Adams.

“We lost 80 percent of our scoring, so we’re going to look a lot different this year, but I’m excited to see what these younger kids can step up and do. They’re excited about the opportunity. We may look a little different with the pace of the game – we may be a little quicker – but I’m excited to remold.”

It will take time for the Lions to find out if speed is their best assest or if it is something else.

“You never know for sure until you get in the gym and practice and get a few weeks into the season,” Shappell said.

Garrett should have no such growing pains.

The Railroaders, who were 16-7 last season, return Brandi Dawson (17 points, 10 rebounds), Katie Wisel (9 points, 4 assists), Taylor Smith (9 points, 6.5 rebounds), Emily Somers and Rachel DePew. Dawson is about to surpass 1,000 points for her career.

“We’re way ahead of where we were the last two years, when you factor in all the experience,” coach Bob Lapadot said.

The Railroaders’ biggest challenge may be a mental one. Garrett has viewed itself as an underdog since Dan Feagler left as coach in 2011 after a 22-3 season.

Now the Railroaders are the favorites.

“We’re cleaning things up and there’s a little bit of a change of expectations,” Lapadot said. “People counted us out the last two years with Dan retiring, but now we’ve got to change our mindset of being on the attack instead of the defensive.”

It helps that the Railroaders have one of the most dominant players in the area in Dawson, but she can only be effective if the Railroaders can get into their half-court offense, something Angola prevented in a 50-27 victory last season in the second round of sectionals.

“If we can’t get the ball into our half-court offense, it won’t matter if we have Brandi or Michael Jordan. So we count on Katie Wisel a lot (to make that happen),” Lapadot said.

If Garrett should falter, there are plenty of teams who could capitalize: South Adams, led by Dzejna Ahmetovic and Alyssa Bluhm; Brooke Gerbers-led Woodlan and Southern Wells.

“It’s kind of wide open. There are a lot of different faces because there’s been a lot of graduation of really good players,” Lapadot said.

jcohn@jg.net

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