WELLSVILLE -The Golden Bears are looking to reload.
The Oak Glen girls' basketball team has qualified for the West Virginia Class AA State Basketball Tournament in three out of the last four years. During that streak, the Golden Bears were led by standout point guard Payden Eckleberry. Eckleberry, who surpassed the 1,000 point mark for her career this past season, graduated. Eckleberry's departure left a big hole the Golden Bears have to fill, but no matter who runs the show this upcoming season they will not be able to completely fill Eckleberry's shoes.
Oak Glen also lost starting post player Amy Webster to graduation leaving the Golden Bears with holes to fill on the inside as well as on the outside.
Oak Glen’s Karly?Wiley prepares to shoot the ball against Beaver Local June 27 at Wellsville. (Photo by Aaron Petchal)
The Golden Bears began the process of filling those holes as Oak Glen once again took part in the Wellsville Girls Basketball Boosters Bi-state Summer League at Wellsville High School.
The eight-session league ran from June 4 through June 27.
The Golden Bears had a good amount of players show up and participate in each session. The Golden Bears have some multiple-sport athletes on their roster. Oak Glen head coach Scott Wiley said it was important for the girls to show up and work on the game, but he also said it was important for the girls to enjoy the summer as all of the kids do.
"Being a summer kid is important to," he said. "To get them here, I appreciate all of the girls' time, and I tell them that all the time because you don't know if they are going to come back or not. It's been real beneficial because we don't know what we are going to have this year. We lose Payden, and our team is really going to be different this year."
Oak Glen was once again joined in the summer league by Beaver Local, East Liverpool, Wellsville and Toronto. This year, Weir, one of Oak Glen's main rivals, replaced Southern Local.
Wiley said it was important for his girls to be playing basketball in the summer, but he said the outcome of those games is not all that important.
"I don't think so," he said. "Yeah, you would like to beat your rival still, but getting the girls to play is the important thing. We haven't put our first team in."
During the regular season, Oak Glen has two games scheduled against Beaver Local, East Liverpool and Weir. The Golden Bears and Red Riders not only play twice during the regular season, but the two Hancock County schools are in the same sectional.
"You pretty know much already who is going to stand out for them, but it is interesting to see the progression from year to year," Wiley said.
The Golden Bears may have some big shoes to fill in the upcoming season, the Oak Glen girls are not alone in that regard. Teams throughout the area have been hard hit by graduation and coaching changes.
Wellsville lost multiple members from last year's team including Mikyla Tipton, who graduation as the program's all-time leading scorer. East Liverpool lost its top three players in Mallory Waggle, Whittni Davidson and Kelsie Wymer. The Potters are also under the guidance of a new head coach. Allan Dingey has replaced Emily Reed,w ho resigned after last season. Beaver Local lost seven seniors to graduation.
Also locally, Edison lost its top three players in Kayla Prokopakis, Kristin Prokopakis and Savannah Snyder. Kayla Prokopakis graduated as the program's all-time leading scorer. Like the Potters, the Wildcats will also be under the guidance of a new head coach. Jason Ensinger has replaced Tony Kovalesky, who retired with more than 500 victories as a basketball coach.
"It's got to be beneficial for everybody because you just don't know," Wiley said about the importance of playing in the summer. "It is really going to be a dynamic year this year. The Prokopakis girls are gone at Edison. They don't play in this league. Madonna, who we play, they lost a lot of seniors. It's going to be an interesting year. It's going to be see what kind of teams step up and what players step up."
There are plenty of questions surrounding the local teams as they head into the 2012-13 season. The only thing known for sure is that there is going to be plenty of new faces throughout the area.
"Yeah, so you really don't know what to expect from them," Wiley said. "It's interesting to watch them play. I don't know how much you can get out of it, but it is fun to watch them play."