Work in progress
The bad news came early and often for this year’s Nevada Union girls basketball team.
The Lady Miners, who blew out eventual Sac-Joaquin Section Division I champ John F. Kennedy (Sacramento) at home the year before to earn a share of the Metro League title, saw their hopes to repeat grow a bit dimmer with the loss of all-league point guard Kayleigh Korrell for the season.
The 5-foot, 9-inch junior had proven to be a force on both sides of the ball as a sophomore, but was forced to the sidelines after a severe knee injury during an early-season scrimmage.
The news didn’t get any better when junior guard Emma Kite, who along with Korrell and seniors Ronnie Ellis and Andy Sexton were the NU’s sole returning letterwinners, was also lost for the season with a knee injury a few weeks later.
“We came in with three seniors, but one of them, Sarah Prout, had no varsity experience. She was a track star who made the team on the basis of her physical play,” NU head coach Craig Strohm said. “Ronnie (has had her share of injuries) too, so basically, we’ve been (a young team from the beginning).”
Folding up shop and waiting for next season wasn’t an option, so for the first time in his 19-year tenure as NU head coach, Strohm rolled the dice and started three sophomores and a freshman.
“This is the first time we’ve had a freshman on the team since 1988 when Kellie Cook made the squad,” he said. “And we think we have a good one this year in Heather Gore, but the nucleus of the team has turned out to be our super-sophomores.”
The trio of talented 10th graders – Tanya Noe, Tracy Malone and Ali Daley – have led the charge all season.
They’re one, two and three on the team among starters in scoring with a combined 25.8 points per game- just under half of the team’s league leading 54.0 ppg.
“Tanya’s a great all around player. She brings a lot of intensity to the court, on offense and defense,” Malone said. “On offense I often notice she’s willing to take the ball in her hands in tough situations and that’s nice to see.”
Noe, who’s third on the team in scoring with 7.8 points per game, is joined in the backcourt by Malone.
A 5-foot, 8-inch Forest Lake Christian transfer, Malone came into the year as a bona fide scorer, but shifted to the point when Korrell went down.
“She could probably be averaging anywhere from 16 to 20 points a game if she was at the shooting guard position, but she came to me and said she’d like to give point a try. Coupled with the fact that she’s new here, it made it even a bigger challenge for her having to pick up and learn a new system,” Strohm said.
Despite the move to the point, Malone hasn’t lost her scoring touch.
She1s put up 21 points twice this year ‹ the first time in a preseason win over Deer Valley (Antioch), then again in a three-point overtime loss to 2002 section Division I runner up Laguna Creek ‹ to move to the top spot on NU1s scoring sheet at 9.7 ppg.
Fans of NU volleyball are already familiar with Daley.
The six-footer dominated the nets in the Lady Miners1 section title run last fall and has now turned her attention to the backboards.
3You see her play volleyball and she1s way beyond her years, but in terms of basketball, she1s still a sophomore,² Strohm said. 3Last year she suffered a severe injury and missed most of the basketball season and much of the summer too, so she1s a rookie by most standards.²
3She1s still learning the game and discovering what she can do and how she can contribute, but she1s big and strong and she1s become a deft rebounder. She1s the team1s leading rebounder in both offensive and defensive categories. Once she learns how to (finish down low) she1s going to be even more deadly.²
NU opened the league season on a bright note with a win over Hiram Johnson (Sacramento), then lost four straight, including blowout losses to Kennedy and Yuba City. Since, Daley said, the stress level has been kicked up a notch or two.
3The pressure, especially after (the success of) last year1s team is pretty high. Everyone at this school has expectations for this team,² Daley said. 3They automatically think we1re supposed to be awesome. And when you play teams like Kennedy and all of the fans come, the pressure (is intense).²
3Every game we learn something new and playing (good teams) like Laguna Creek and Kennedy is enabling us to progress and get better, even though we do lose,² she said. 3I think we1re only going to get better.²
SCORING: 9.7 ppg
ASSISTS: 3.5 pg
STEALS: 4.2 pg
SCORING: 8.3 ppg
REBOUNDS: 10.0 pg
BLOCKS: 3.5 pg
SCORING: 7.8 ppg
STEALS: 4 pg
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Another week on the track and another win for Brad Sweet.