Bridgeport Hopes to Build Off Late-Season Surge

By KIM NORTH

BRIDGEPORT — With all but one starter returning from last year’s team that finished on an 8-3 run, big things are expected out of the Bridgeport girls this season.

The Bulldogs started 3-9 last year in their first season under coach Greg Harkness, who is looking forward to his second season on the bench.

“Obviously, last season didn’t get started the way we wanted it to, but the girls, especially the seniors, kept leading and everybody kept working hard,” he said. “You can see by what our record ended up that we improved as the season progressed. Each individual player also got better as the season went on.

“That’s really a credit to the girls and their hard work. They bought into the system we were installing. Sometimes when a new coach comes in, it takes the girls a while to catch on. We now have two summers and a full season together, so they know what to expect from me and I know what to expect from them.”

Leading the list of returnees are seniors Kamden Dulesky, Marissa Beal, Lauren Neer and Shelby Matheny, along with junior Angela Sommer and sophomore Jaren Tucker.

The 5-foot-11 Dulesky is coming off a solid volleyball season and hopes to carry that success over to the basketball court. She averaged 12 points and 10.8 rebounds a night last season while earning first-team status on the District 12 and OVAC Class 2A squads.

“Kamden is a double-double machine for us,” Harkness said. “We expect that from her every night. She’s capable of that. She’s an athlete that can face up to the basket and she’s quick enough to go by some people.”

The 5-6 Beal, a southpaw, turned into the team leader midway through last season when she averaged 12.2 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.6 steals per outing.

“I think she maybe averaged two points a game as a sophomore and she jumped up to 12 last year,” Harkness said. “Her dedication and hard work really paid off last year. Her improvement coincided with our improvement. In the beginning of the year she was still a little timid, but she really started being aggressive and asserted herself about 9-10 games in.

“She’s our go-to player when we need a bucket and she’s a good foul shooter. We’re asking her to improve her outside shot a little bit, and she’s probably one of the best slasher’s you’ll see around her for a girl her size.”

Neer, a 5-6 shooting guard, led the team in 3-pointers last season with 30.

“At the banquet last year I said I fully expect her to double that total,” he recalled. “She’s very streaky, but not to the point where she never makes any. When she hits one, you can expect her to hit two or three in succession. In a tight game, that could mean the difference between winning and losing.

“She also worked on her game where she’s just not a 3-point shooter anymore. She can put the ball on the floor and take it to the basket. Her defense has also improved.”

The 5-2 Matheny may not possess much size, but she will bang bodies down low with girls much taller.

“She’s kind of the glue that holds us together,” Harkness said. “She’s not our biggest girl, but she’s our most physical.”

Matheny missed most of last season due to a knee injury.

“Missing her really hurt us because she was a starter,” he said. “She’s not afraid to get in there and mix it up.”

The 5-5 Sommer returns as the Bulldogs’ floor general.

“I was her eighth grade coach. I was her freshman coach and now I’m her varsity coach. I’m spoiled,” Harkness said. “This will be her fourth year running my system. You can really see how her summer training has made her stronger and quicker. She’s our first- or second-best defender, so she’ll draw the tough assignments.”

She averaged 3.3 points and 4.2 assists last season.

The 5-7 Tucker, who transferred from Martins Ferry last season, led Bridgeport in scoring twice while averaging 3.5 points per game.

Juniors Briana Conaway (5-7) and Brooke Corrick (5-6) round out the Bulldogs’ bench. Conaway appeared in spot duty last winter.

Dressing for the varsity but playing primarily in junior varsity action will be juniors Lauren White (5-4 guard) and Aleathia Maher (5-8 forward); sophomores Jessa Stockwell (5-5 forward), Maura Tiber (5-0 guard and Kayleigh Roberts (5-4 guard); and freshman Meleah Tiber (5-3 guard).

Jason Hanson returns as Harkness’s top assistant. Jeff Herink will coach the 8th grade, with Justine Schell and Ivan coaching the 7th grade.

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