There is a lot of excitement around the Middletown High School girls basketball program, and not all of it has to do with their new home.
The Middies will be the first team to play an official game at the new Wade E. Miller Arena on Dec. 9 against Colerain and hope to show the new digs aren’t the only upgrade.
“The countdown is on,” Middletown coach Kevin Aldridge said. “But this is probably the most balanced roster we have had here. Depth is something that can help us. The girls have been working extremely hard, and they are really excited to get going.”
Middletown was 5-18 a year ago, including a 2-14 mark in the Greater Miami Conference with one of the youngest teams in the area.
GIRLS BASKETBALL SEASON PREVIEWS
And it was a younger team that started to appreciate the history of Middletown basketball.
Aldridge, a former Middie standout, moved the girls games from the high school to Wade E. Miller Gym last year to show the path from the past to the future this year.
“I wanted them to have that feeling,” Aldridge said. “That is a historic gym, and to go from that to a new arena and be the first one to play on that floor, they understand that history will be made. They are really excited about the new beginning.”
It will be a new beginning coming from a seven-game losing streak to close 2016-17.
“Last year we had one of the youngest teams around, and now those girls have some experience,” Aldridge said. “We have some transfers that will give us leadership.
“I don’t get into projections because things always change, but we are going to be improved and put the Middie brand of basketball out there that is something people will appreciate.”
The Middies get the benefit of a pair of senior transfers in guard Aliyah Burks from Miamisburg and forward Aubriana Bellard from Middletown Christian.
Bellard averaged 24.7 points and 13 rebounds a game for MCS as a junior.
“They both have Middletown roots, so they know their way around and are adjusting well,” Aldridge said.
The returning group of Middies, while having some experience, is still young. Olivia Wells-Daniels paced Middletown in scoring (13.0) and grabbed eight boards per game last year as a freshman, but she has since transferred to Monroe.
The Middies return a pair of seniors in Ashli Wills and Dayla Blake, five juniors (Rachel Heidtman, Namia Looney, Breyon Wright, Makina Gibson and Shonae Middleton) and two sophomores (Sa’Mill Calhoun and Ari Layne).
Calhoun, a guard, tallied 6.7 points per game last year.
“We are undersized, but we have a lot of speed and athleticism, so our offense has to come from our defense,” Aldridge said. “The thing is, they are excited about playing defense.”
Aldridge knows finding ways to offset the lack of height is important in a conference with teams with length like Mason, Lakota West and Lakota East.
“We have to go and compete without fear,” Aldridge said. “We are going to have more nights where we are undersized than when we aren’t, and we just have to stick with what we do. We are going to go out and do the best that we can do, keep working and live with the results.”
And hopefully the new setting will also usher in a better run.
“It’s not easy when you are struggling and things aren’t going as planned,” Aldridge said. “But we have a lot of the same young players, but they have different experiences and have grown from that. They are much more calm and have more confidence. No one expects a lot from us and we like that, but I think we have found the light at the end of the tunnel.”
Middletown opens the season Nov. 25 with a 10:30 a.m. road game against Miamisburg.