Eastside girls basketball

Eastside’s girls basketball team includes senior Paige Graber, left, new head coach Mike Lortie and junior Sullivan Kessler.

BUTLER — New girls basketball coach Mike Lortie is no stranger to Eastside basketball.

After seven seasons as an assistant coach with the boys team, he steps over to the girls program this fall, and hopes to lead the Blazers to success.

“We started off by talking about being really good teammates,” Lortie said. “Teamwork is important, and when you have to fight through adversity, teammates become really important.

“I’m trying to get them acclimated to what I expect on a daily basis and go from there,” he said. “They’ve had three head coaches in three years. There’s a lot of changes coming their way, but they’ve done a great job with it so far.”

Lortie said he and the players have talked about the importance of going about their business every day in practice.

“I feel if you go about your business the right way in practice, that makes the game nights a little bit more fun,” he said. “Preparation’s going to be real important. We scout a lot and we want to make sure we’re prepared for our opponents.”

Last team’s team was relatively young when it came to varsity experience in compiling a 6-16 record. Four of those losses were by three points or less.

Lortie inherits a team with two seniors plus some juniors and sophomores who gained experience last year for former coach Nate Young.

Junior Sullivan Kessler was the team’s leading scorer a year ago with 212 points. She’s looking to improve her overall game this season.

“Personally, I’ve been in the gym a lot and getting a lot of shots up. I definitely think my shot’s gotten a lot better, and I’ve gotten a lot stronger going to the rim,” Kessler said.

“We’ve got a great group of girls, and coach Lortie has brought a whole lot of energy. The whole team really feeds off his energy,” she added. “We’ve got a great group of girls who are willing to work and are very dedicated. We have a winning mindset this year.”

“I’m looking forward to playing with the great group of girls we have,” said senior Paige Graber. “I think we definitely have a lot of potential to be good this year, so I’m looking forward to that.”

Graber missed some time last season, including the final four games of the season plus sectionals with injury, but is ready for a solid senior season.

“I’ve been working a lot on my shot and trying to work on my defense,” she said. “Our energy has been really good. The girls are really fun to play with and they’re all really good teammates. It makes it really enjoyable to play with them.”

“I want to be a little bit more up-tempo on offense,” Lortie said. “I want to get up and down the floor a little more, and we’re going to defend.

“Offensively, I’d like to get up and down the floor a little quicker than we have in the past and try to generate some more offense that way.”

In addition to Kessler and Graber, among Eastside’s returnees are senior MacKensie Rieke (7.1 points per game, 29 three-point field goals) and junior Allyson King.

“Everybody I’ve had through fall workouts and conditioning has been working their tails off,” Lortie said of his players. “I can work with anybody that wants to work as hard as they have. I’m very proud of them.”

The Blazers’ first home game of the 2019-2020 season is Nov. 9 against Adams Central.

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