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Step into the gym at Annville-Cleona for a girls basketball practice, and the first thing you will notice is the number of bodies on the court practicing. While numbers don’t mean everything in high school sports, they certainly are helpful, according to A-C coach Roger Hayes.

“We’re fortunate that we do have a gym full of athletes and can push each other every day in practice,” he said. “We can simulate game conditions and just really work to make each other better, every drill that we do.”

As Hayes also noted, the athletes are just that, athletic.

“We’re fortunate to have multi-sport athletes who are very good athletes; it’s just a matter of gelling as a basketball team,” he said.

A-C will have to do so quickly if it wants to return to postseason play - the Little Dutchmen find themselves in the newly reformatted Section 3 of the Lancaster-Lebanon League with powerhouse teams such as Northern Lebanon, Lancaster Catholic and Lancaster Mennonite to name a few. They’ll play each team twice, along with backyard rivals Elco and Lebanon Catholic.

“Stuff like that is out of our control,” Hayes said. “We have to address it one game at a time and just get better every day.”

Hayes will have returning contributors Chloe Inman, Michaela Singer and Morgan Zimmerman back. The team will look to Inman, a junior center/power forward, to have a strong year in the post. Zimmerman, a versatile inside/outside player, and Singer will need to increase their offensive production with the graduation of four players, including Hayes' daughter Addison, who on an early Saturday morning was in the gym helping to run drills in practice.

“I think we have a really good mix of returning major contributors, with an infusion of youth that is going to play a big role for us,” Hayes said.

Additionally, A-C has transfer Arianna Clay, a sophomore who attended Lebanon Catholic last season.

While it’s still early on, the work ethic of the team is something that has expectations on the rise in Annville.

Hayes said, “I like the chemistry of this team. We’ve only practiced a couple of days, but the energy has been high, the enthusiasm has been high, and the way that they support each other I think will be very exciting.”

Annville-Cleona will be tested right out of the gate with a matchup against perennial District 11 powerhouse Tri-Valley in the Hamburg Area Tip-Off Tournament. Last season, the Little Dutchmen put up a good fight before falling 49-35 to the Bulldogs.

“Our expectations are to get better every day,” Hayes said. “I told the girls today that one of the best things they can do is push each other every day in practice. Everything we do is done with intensity and focus.”

With numbers increasing and the individual players’ desires to improve, things are definitely heading in the right direction at Annville-Cleona.

Annville-Cleona girls

Coach: Roger Hayes

Last year: 6-16 (4-12)

Returning players: Chloe Inman (jr., C/PF), Michaela Singer (sr., G), Morgan Zimmerman (sr., G/F)

Other top players: Lauren Schrader (so.), Arianna Clay (so.), Harper Sellers (jr.)

Season opener: Friday, at Hamburg Tip-Off Tournament vs. Tri-Valley.

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