La Porte’s girls basketball summer team saved the best for last.
The Slicers culminated a constructive campaign by knocking off an elite Chicago AAU All-Star team, Lady Reign, finishing the summer with a 15-5 record.
“I really felt our best game was our last game of the summer when we went to Valparaiso University and we had the whole team intact,” La Porte coach Rob Walker said. “And we beat a team out of Chicago, an AAU All-Star team, and that was our most impressive win. We had some ups and downs during the summer, but we played two really good teams and beat that All-Star team. That showed us what we’re capable of.”
Walker added that experience could be a springboard for the future.
“This group, if they play together, they can go places,” he said. “And they really played together that last game. It was fun to watch. And it was a good way to end the summer.”
Besides that victory, the team captured the Northfield Tournament with a 3-0 mark on June 6, defeating Logansport, Fairfield and Southwood to take the crown.
Along with that tournament title this summer, the Slicers competed in the Chesterton Summer League for the first time, playing the entire month of June every Monday and Wednesday. They went 8-2, beating Michigan City, East Chicago twice, North Judson, Kouts, Boone Grove, Valparaiso and Lowell, falling to Chesterton and Valparaiso.
“I saw some improvement throughout the summer,” Walker added.
La Porte also hosted its own tournament on June 27, finishing 3-1, downing New Prairie, Hebron and Washington Township, and losing to Merrillville.
Primary players on the summer team were Ryin Ott, Lauren Pollock, Kayla Jones, Nyla Asad, Alanti Biggers, Mady Jones, Shelby Linn, Danielle Krontz and Aydin Shreves.
Walker said there were five players who kind of shined this summer and improved a tremendous amount.
“Lauren Pollock is starting to really come together,” he added. “She’s a 6-foot-2 center and not too many teams can boast that. She’s really starting to find a little bit of a post game and she alters a lot of shots. She’s going to be key this season.”
While Pollock impressed Walker, some other players thrived, too.
“Ryin Ott had a nice summer as well,” Walker said. “Our guard combo, argubably the best guard combo in the conference, Kayla Jones and Nyla Asad, both have been playing varsity since their freshman year. And they look good out there. They play well together. And then, Alanti Biggers, she’s been playing a little bit of guard, but she can also play forward. So we like what she can bring.”
Among its four graduated players, La Porte said goodbye to Indiana All-Star point guard Riley Ott, who’s now at Purdue Fort Wayne.
Walker understands the difficulty in replacing a premier player like the elder Ott sister, but he’s also optimistic.
“There’s going to be growing pains any time you lose one of the top 12 players in the state,” Walker said. “People now have new roles where they have to now look to score. And I saw some of that early on. The new players are hungry. She left such a legacy that they know what it takes, how hard you have to work, how hard you have to work every day.”
At the same time, Walker mentioned having players deliver in the clutch will be paramount.
“We’re going to have to find people to be there in high-leverage situations,” he added. “Because we could always go to Riley before in a high-leverage situation. Now we’ll see who fills that void and that challenge. We’ve got players up for the challenge.”
Last season, the Slicers went 16-8 overall and 4-3 in the Duneland Athletic Conference, losing in the sectional final to regional finalist Penn.
Walker believes the squad’s stingy defense and selfless nature from the summer can carry over to next season.
“Their defense got better as the summer progressed,” Walker said. “I just thought defensively collectively as a team we got better. And then, in that last game we just moved the ball really well and we were making the extra pass, which sometimes during the summer you maybe tend to play a little bit more one-on-one. But in the last game, to beat that really good team from Chicago, we had to work together as a team.”