The women’s basketball team lost four players from the record-setting 2008-09 season, but the players who are coming back were successful as well.
One of the players lost was Skye Johnson, a guard who provided the team with close to 300 steals in her career.
“Skye’s absence opens a door for the others to step up and do their part,” coach Paula Buscher said.
Buscher led the Braves to a 21-10 record last season and said she hopes to build on that success this year.
“We can never sit back and rest,” she said. “The bitter taste is still lingering from last year, but we can’t second-guess ourselves now.”
Junior Sonya Harris may be one of the players looking to fill the big defensive hole left from Johnson’s departure, but even she realizes she can’t do it by herself.
“I have been working on watching my hands a lot this year, especially on blocks,” Harris said. “I need to try to cut out my fouls so I can be on the floor longer and be an impact player and a team leader.”
This year’s squad only returns two seniors, making the next few years for the program look very good.
Also, Buscher said she believes three freshmen will provide immediate impact.
“The three new girls bring a scoring ability to the table,” Buscher said. “So far they have been adjusting very well to the college game.”
One of the three new faces is freshman Brooke Bisping. She was a two-time all-state selection by the Associated Press out of Morton High School. She holds the state record for most consecutively made free throws and is the all-time leading scorer in Morton High School history.
Another freshman who earned two all-state selections is Katie Yohn. Yohn averaged more than 23 points and almost nine rebounds her senior year, and also earned the Suburban Catholic Conference Player of the Year award.
The third freshman joining this year is Olivia Allen from Kildeer, Ill. Allen, with nearly 1,000 career points, ranked fifth in her high school and also ranks among the top-10 rebounders in the history at Lake Zurich High School.
Three of the top five scorers on the Braves’ side will be returning this year. With a young core of players tasting the success from last season, the Braves will come out fighting from the very start.
The Braves made it to the second round of the MVC tournament, but their run came to an early end with a tough 3-point overtime loss to Evansville.
According to a preseason poll,the Braves are picked to finish sixth in the conference. Coach Buscher said she doesn’t buy much into preseason polls.
“I believe we are going to be finishing much higher than the preseason polls say,” Buscher said. “We just have to go out there and prove it to everyone else.”
The two exhibition games already played by the Braves seem to go along with Buscher’s plan for the team, as they won both games by a combined total score of 178-127.
In the exhibition opener, the Braves came out strong, beating Lewis 93-62. Five of the Braves’ players scored in the double digits, and seven Braves had more than eight points in the victory.
Harris and junior Raisa Taylor, led the team with 12 points each. Taylor also snagged a game-high seven rebounds, adding three steals and four assists.
The Braves came out and led early, holding a 35-28 lead with nearly three minutes remaining in the first half. Allen hit a jumper that sparked a 9-1 Bradley run to end the first half, leaving the Braves with a 44-29 lead at half-time. They shot just over 55 percent in the first half.
They wouldn’t look back from there, continuing to shoot the ball well into the second half. The Braves would come out and make six of their first seven shots to bring the lead to 56-37 early in the second half. They held on, and continued to be on target with nearly every shot to finish strong, winning by 31.
It was much of the same for the second exhibition game.
The Braves came out hot, scoring the first 11 points of the contest and never letting Quincy get on track.
Harris scored seven of the team’s first nine points, helping the defense hold Quincy to just 29 points in the first half while scoring 49 of their own.
Yohn gave a preview of what she could bring to the table in the second half by drilling two consecutive 3-pointers to start a 16-2 run, effectively making a comeback impossible for Quincy.
The keys to both games were points in the paint. The Braves scored 78 points by the frontcourt while holding Lewis and Quincy to 20 and 18 points respectively.
The Braves also out-rebounded the opponents in the exhibition games by a total of 107-62.
Buscher said execution will be the key to the success of the Braves this season.