EVART — This will mark the first time in four seasons the Evart girls basketball team has not played with standout Mara VanOrder, who has graduated.

But coach Paul Higgins and his Wildcats, gearing up for three games to open the season next week, will rely on speed and quickness to get the job done.

“I would say things went fairly well,” Higgins said after the first week of practices. “We pretty much knew who was going to be there and didn’t really have to make any cuts.”

There’s 11 players on the varsity and 12 on the junior varsity.

Top players include Brooke Belleville, Cyana Dellar and Macey Wallace.

“Cyana Dellar will have to be a force inside,” Higgins said. “She’ll have to make up for Mara VanOrder’s (absence) inside on the defensive end and rebounding. Brooke will have to lead the team from the guard position. Hopefully we can get some scoring out of her. She showed she could do it last year, the scoring part.”

Wallace will be relied on for her defensive talents.

“She’s one of those girls that will give you 110 percent and will probably end up guarding the best player on the other team,” Higgins said.

McKenzie Kimball saw sone action on the varsity last season and could be a force again.

“She has really stepped her game up this year,” Higgins said. “Kaylee Ladd is a freshman, I’m looking for things from. There s a few other kids with some potential.”

The Wildcats will open with three games next week. They are home Nov. 29 with Farwell, home Dec. 1 with Forest Area and at Chippewa Hills on Dec. 2 in nonleague games. The first Highland game is Dec. 6 at McBain Northern Michigan Christian.

“Defense is what we’re really putting emphasis in and ball pressure, Higgins said. “We’re trying to cause turnovers. Offensively, we stress the half-court aspect of the game and are trying to get easy buckets in transition.”