New recruits bring ‘athleticism’

Ashley Birch - Guard

Ashley Birch – Guard

T.J. Gerlach

Joining the women’s basketball team on the court next year will be two new faces.

Both junior college transfers, Latoya Sexton, a 5-foot-9 forward, and Ashley Birch, a 5-foot-6 guard, were announced as the Lions’ newest additions on April 12.

“When we started our recruiting process this year, there were several needs that stuck out that we felt we needed to improve on for the upcoming year,” said Maryann Mitts, head women’s basketball coach. “It’s going to require that we bring a little more athleticism to our program, and we have done that.”

Mitts said she thinks these two players will help advance the program further next year, perhaps even into being one of the top three teams in the MIAA.

“Athletically, they are exactly what we are looking for, as far as their speed, their quickness and their leaping ability,” Mitts said.

Sexton will transfer from Allen County (Kan.) Community College where she played both soccer and basketball. She scored 1,011 point in two seasons at ACCC, leading the Red Devils both years. As a sophomore, Sexton averaged 15.6 points per game and 4.7 rebounds. She was also 12th in her conference in scoring.

“With Latoya, we are getting a scorer,” Mitts said.

She said she felt losing Dacie Reutlinger, senior forward, left the team needing someone in the post position.

“We felt like we had to bring in a scorer, and we really needed somebody who could play both with their back to the basket on the block and could also face at 15 feet and in that could score for us,” Mitts said. “Latoya is going to give us a very versatile style of scoring.”

Mitts said Sexton will give the Lions a go-to player. She said Sexton is a strong, athletic individual not unlike Vonny Wilson, former Lions’ forward.

“I kind of wanted to bring that power punch back into the post for us,” she said.

Mitts said Sexton will serve as a nice compliment to junior forward Dana-Mae Robbs.

“I think that one of the things that Dana-Mae is going to start to bring our program is her ability to be more finesse around the basket, where Latoya is more power,” she said.

Birch played one season at Iowa Western Community College and one at Kansas City Kansas Community College. This past season at IWCC, Birch averaged 11 ppg.

In her season at KCKCC, she was second in both scoring, with 11.2 ppg, and rebounds, with 5.4 rebounds per game.

Mitts said she has watched Ashley since high school and was always impressed with her midrange game and her defense.

She said the Lions are good from three-point range but needed some help inside.

“What we needed to bring into the program was the midrange game,” Mitts said. “The game that allows us to score 15-18 feet from the basket, off the dribble.”

Mitts said Birch has the ability of putting the ball on the floor and pulling up as well as the ability to finish all the way to the basket.

She said there are many similarities between Birch and Robin Kantin, sophomore guard.

“One of the reasons why we brought her in was we felt like she complimented Robin very well and her ability to run the floor and transition was a huge asset,” Mitts said.

Mitts said the Lions will look to sign two more players to help fill in the post for next season.

She said one of the great things about coaching college athletics is that every year it’s new and exciting.

“I’m excited for next year,” Mitts said. “I can see before anyone else where this program is heading, and all the hard work of the last five years is starting to pay off.”

She said the team is one the brink of becoming a top team in the nation.