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North Marion’s Olivia Toland pulls up for a jumper in front of Spring Mills’ Taylor McIntyre during a game last season at North Marion High.

RACHEL — The last time North Marion High’s girls’ basketball team was together as an entire unit, the Lady Huskies sat on the sidelines as they watched a chance at the program’s fifth-ever state championship spoiled due to the COVID-10 pandemic.

North Marion was the top seed in the Class AA state tournament and had already nabbed a spot in the state semifinals after surviving No. 8 seed Bridgeport in a quarterfinal overtime nail-biter when the season was ultimately canceled, leaving the Huskies to ponder what could’ve been.

The start of the WVSSAC’s three-phase summer plan on June 8 to gradually bring back prep sports, however, marked a new beginning for prep programs across the state, including the Lady Huskies, who returned to the workout grind on June 9. On Thursday, NMHS girls’ basketball wrapped up Phase I of the WVSSAC’s phase-in plan, which limits teams to only conditioning, agility and strength training in only 10-person pods.

Throughout the two-weeks of Phase I, NMHS coach Mike Parrish said the team had 20-plus players regularly attending workouts, which ran for one hour, three days a week. The Lady Huskies had two pods over the two-week period, with Parrish overseeing the team’s varsity pod from 9-10 a.m. and second-year assistant coach Paige Tuttle leading the junior varsity pod from 11 a.m. to noon.

Several other NMHS basketball players who also play volleyball were participating in similar workouts in the volleyball pod from 10-11 a.m. under volleyball head coach and girls’ basketball assistant coach Dean Brown.

“I think they were just glad at the beginning to get back together with each other and get to talk and hangout some,” said Parrish, who’ll enter his 18th season as the Lady Huskies’ coach next winter. “I’m sure they don’t like the running part, but they like just being with each other, getting back at it and seeing light at the end of the tunnel where hopefully we can get some basketball stuff going during the three-week period in July.”

The three-week period, which is slated to begin in Marion County on July 6 and will run through the 25th, is the third phase of the WVSSAC’s plan, whereas Phases I and II, have been all about agility drills and cardio work for the Huskies, according to Parrish.

They’ve done various jumping exercises — from stair jumps to line hops — they’ve mixed in some hill work, and have hit up the school track for sprints and longer jogs. Parrish has also recommended his players do push-ups, sit-ups and body weight exercises at home.

“Whatever we can pinch in there in that hour time frame,” said Parrish.

Not much will change for the Lady Huskies, according to Parrish, as they enter Phase II of the WVSSAC’s plan next week. The biggest differences from Phase I to Phase II is it permits the use of indoor school facilities and allows for two-hour workout sessions as opposed to one hour, but Parrish said the team’s workouts will remain consistent with Phase I for the most part.

“Normally this time of year we’re in the three-week period for basketball and we’ll play about 25-30 games, so this has been different,” said Parrish, whose Huskies are projected to return four out of their five starters from last season in seniors Karlie Denham and Kiley Brown, junior Katlyn Carson and sophomore Olivia Toland.

“Normally when we do conditioning, we lift for a half hour or so and then go out and do running, but since we haven’t been allowed inside for now, we’re just doing everything outside and getting the cardiovascular part in. I think right now that’s the biggest part for them is getting them back in some kind of cardio shape because of the way we play.”

The majority of the participating players — about three quarters — came into workouts already in pretty good shape, Parrish said, as they’ve been working on their own. Ideally, that goes for actual basketball skills as well, Parrish said, although he’s expecting a bit of rust when and if the three-week period arrives.

“I always tell my kids, ‘You have to get out and do things on your own because you’re not always going to have someone who’s going to open up a gym for you and let you come in and do stuff,’ and then there are times like this where you can’t even get in the gym,” Parrish said. “So they just need to do what they can on their own. You can do things with a basketball without even having a basket, so there are general things like that they can work on on their own so we’ll be ready to go when it’s time.”

North Marion will enter next season on the heels of a 25-1 season and the majority of its core rotation projected to be back, with Class AA all-state first team guard Taylor Buonamici being the most notable graduation loss. Denham, as an all-state second team pick and Carson as an all-state third team selection, will lead the way.

Email Bradley Heltzel at bheltzel@timeswv.com or follow him on Twitter @bradheltzTWV.

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