Lady Pacers 2005: ‘The Chase is on’

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As Switzerland County Lady Pacer varsity basketball coach Wayne Ellegood prepares to begin his 18th season tomorrow (Friday) night at Madison, he gets a big smile on his face when asked about keys to the upcoming campaign.

“I think it’s obvious that other teams are going to key on Ashley,” the coach says. “She’s definitely going to be the focus for other teams.”

“Ashley” is senior Ashley Chase, and coming off a summer in which she was a member of the Indiana Junior All Star team and accepted a full basketball scholarship to the University of Evansville, all of the teams on the Switzerland County schedule will be paying close attention to #40.

That said, Coach Ellegood is quick to point out that the 2005-2006 version of the Lady Pacers is by no means a one-dimensional team.

“We’re not very tall, but Ashley plays big, so that isn’t much of a factor,” the coach said. We’re very quick — probably the quickest team we’ve ever had here. We’ve got some sophomores who are very quick, but they need to get some experience. I think we’ll be fine.”

The Lady Pacers have experienced two key injuries before the season even gets underway, and how senior Kodi Driver and sophomore Courtney Cole bounce back from torn ACL surgeries may tell an important story as this team begins tournament play next February.

“It’s fair to say that they were two of our top four players,” Wayne Ellegood said. “Kodi got hurt early, so she’s a little ahead of schedule right now for her return. Courtney was probably our second leading scorer during summer play, so we’ll have to wait and see how this all plays out.”

Kodi Driver got hurt during an exhibition game that the Lady Pacers played during the summer at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis; and her outside shooting will be missed while she undergoes rehabilitation.

“Kodi’s probably one of the best pure outside shooters — if not the best — in the area,” Coach Ellegood said. “We hope to have her back by the middle of December, and that will really help our depth. We don’t know what level she’ll be able to play at, but hopefully by the sectional in February, she’ll be back to her old self. If she is, that would be great for this team.”

Courtney Cole just had her knee surgery last Thursday, and although the sophomore has committed herself to putting in hours of rehabilitation therapy, it is unknown when or if she’ll be able to play this season.

“The doctor told her that at a bare minimum, she’s looking at 2 1/2 months before even getting back on the court,” Wayne Ellegood said. “She’s got a big heart and there’s no question that she’ll probably try, but we’re not putting any pressure on her to return this season. Her health is too valuable to put her at risk, and she’s got more basketball to play. But, if the doctor clears her, she’ll be another big contributor at sectional time.”

Along with Ashley Chase, who recorded an 18-point per game scoring average last year; Switzerland County also returns junior starter Ashley Bright, who begins her second full season of running the Lady Pacer offense.

“She’s one of the premier point guards around,” her coach says. “We’re looking for her to have an outstanding season. She’s a good perimeter shooter, and we’re looking for her to step up and score more for us this year.”

Also being looked to for solid play this year is senior Natalie Daugherty. An important player off of the bench during last season, the coaching staff now looks for her to start and play quality minutes at both ends of the floor.

“Natalie’s a good, solid player,” Coach Ellegood says. “She’s got a nice jump shot from the outside, and she’s one of our better shooters. She’s also an outstanding defensive player, and she’s going to be a key player for us.”

But the focus of opponents is still going to be on Ashley Chase, and the coach staff is ready for nearly anything as the season approaches. Along with officially signing her National Letter of Intent on Wednesday (see page 1), Ashley Chase has also been nominated for the McDonald’s All American team — which consists of 500 high school players from all 50 states — quite an honor for a Switzerland County player.

“I think we’ve got the team ready for anything and everything,” the coach laughs. “We know that no one is going to play us man to man, because no one can guard Ashley one on one. That means we’re going to see every gimmick defense that there is. We have to make sure that Ashley stays involved in our offense when those happen, but the other kids have to stay focused, too. We can’t just stand and watch Ashley play.”

Switzerland County kicks off its regular season tomorrow (Friday) night at Madison; and then travel to South Dearborn on Saturday night.