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Girls Basketball: Sandwich hopes realizing small goals sparks big turnaround

Indians seek first winning season since 1991-92

Chris Johnson sets small goals for his Sandwich girls basketball team.

He hopes it adds up to big things.

He'd like the Indians to attempt a minimum 20 free throws per game.

He hopes to see Sandwich cut down on its turnovers.

He thinks his team could flip its conference record from a year ago.

Put it all together, and Sandwich could be poised for a breakthrough from last season's 6-22 finish. Three starters return, led by all-conference guard Sarah Ness.

Could it mean Sandwich's first winning season since 1991-92? Johnson hopes so.

"Even if we got to .500, that would be huge for positive motivation," Johnson said. "We have these little goals that we set. You have to get them to think that they can win first."

Sandwich may have not won much last year, but the Indians were competitive. They twice gave conference co-champion Plano all it could handle. Nearly all their losses were by single digits.

Sandwich built on that with a strong summer.

Ness is a good base to start.

As a sophomore she led Sandwich in rebounds (5.7), assists (2.5) and steals (3.0) and was second in points (8.4).

"Teams are going to key on her now," Johnson said. "We've talked to her about not trying to do everything."

Ezbeydy Rivera (6.0 points, 2.3 rebounds per game) started several games at point guard last year, and Nicole Shipman is Sandwich's defensive stopper. Maddie Dawson (5.0 points, 3.1 rebounds) also returns.

"I have a group of three seniors and one junior that basically played in every game last year," Johnson said. "Between them we should be in good shape."

Added to that mix are juniors Brookelyn Johnson and Cheyan Mitchell, and sophomore forward Jaylynn Vana. Vana got into eight varsity games last year. Senior Lixy Lopez, who started at point guard last year before a torn ACL, could possibly return at some point this season.

"We're not very tall this year, but pretty much everyone can do everything," Johnson said. "A majority of them can bring up the ball. They're very interchangeable."

Sandwich only averaged about 35 points per game as a team last year, but Johnson is encouraged that that number will go up. A key is cutting the turnovers from 24 per game to around 17, and getting those 20 free throws per game.

"We track how many shots we take," Johnson said. "We are so far ahead of last year. We want to get more shots up and have less turnovers."

Johnson knows this group well.

He coached the seniors in seventh and eighth grade back in middle school, and it's a very coachable group.

Sandwich opens its season this week at the Somonauk Tournament, starting with Newark.

"I've got to see these seniors progress," Johnson said. "We all know each other. We think this will be a good year."

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