Marlington girls basketball program has had it’s fair share of bad luck over the last several years. Every year seemed to bring a new bout with adversity. Katie Reid tore an ACL 3 years ago in the middle of competing for an NBC title. Ronn’Yeil Hogan transferred to McKinley two years ago and Chambers being removed from the team before her senior year last year. The list of unfortunate events helped to land Marlington in what could be considered rock bottom, however; it didn’t require luck to get the Dukes moving in the right direction!
Coach Rowe speaks of his teams character a lot, that character pushed them to get in the gym and improve instead of wait around for luck to somehow shine down on them. “From February 1st last year and February 1st this year we’ve gotten better, our girls have got in the gym.” Marlington’s second year coach points out, “Look at our weaknesses last year and they aren’t as much of a weakness this year. We have a group of six girls who I’m estimating took 50k-60k shots this offseason. Shooting form is a lot better, ball handling is a lot better and passing is a lot better.” That is where the list of unfortunate events turns to a list of reasons why the Dukes have quadrupled their win total from last year.
Maelee Hall shot 10,000 shots this offseason and now hits some timely shots to go with her 7.5 rebounds a game. Powers, who also got up 10k shots this summer is averaging 6 points and 4.5 rebounds a game. Ali Rodgers, who was a dead right hand dominant player last year, has transformed herself into a more versatile player who can now get by defenders with her left hand. All the hard work is paying off for Ali, who leads the team in steals and assists while scoring a hair under 10 a game.
Perhaps the biggest surprise after talking to coach is junior Alayna Kennedy. The very athletic soccer player just picked up basketball as a freshman, and after lots of work this summer, is contributing. “I look at Alayna Kennedy, who comes off the bench, if she would have been playing basketball in the 4th or 5th grade she would be very explosive, she’s done tremendous.” Coach remarks about Alayna, “She’s come a long way with her ball handling and her shot looks a lot better than last year.”
In describing the progress of the team Rowe mentions that last year they had trouble even reversing the ball with a left hand from the right side of the floor. That very team now has a trio of scorers averaging at or above 10 a game, led by sophomore Morgan Penird’s 13. “Our basketball IQ isn’t where it needs to be, but we are what we are. We have 6 or 7 girls who work extremely hard for us, and would run through a brink wall for us.” Rowe explains where some progress needs to be and where they have made some progress, “We’re not very deep. Early in the season we lost a couple of games because of foul trouble. Lately we’ve been able to maneuver players and stay out of trouble so that’s helped us be successful.”
It didn’t take long after diving into this Marlington team to figure out who the driving force was. The lone senior, Sierra Mayle. As the leading rebounder, double figure scorer and a very physical defender she takes her time in the court very seriously. But to completely understand the impact she has, you have to know more than just her stat line. Since I haven’t spent nearly enough time with her I’ll let the people who have do the talking…
“Sierra is a great role model, not only for me but for the rest of the team and the younger girls in the program. She has the best work ethic I’ve ever seen in a person and she motivates me to be a better athlete. I’ve played soccer with her for 5 years, and basketball for 3 and she has always been a leader way before her senior year. Our team will not be the same without her.” ~ Alayna Kennedy
Although the season has been an overall success there are some points that can be pointed to as not only turning points but also building blocks for the future. A mid-December win at Minerva gave the Dukes a lot of confidence. They had a winning record at the time but no wins over anyone substantial or a solid NBC win. That Minerva win confirmed that all the hard work was surfacing. In the last decade and a half Marlington is 2-32 against Louisville. A few weeks ago the Dukes were at home, down 40-29 to the Leopards they finished the final 2:30 minutes on a 15-2 run and overcame the deficit and any mental block they may have had. Regardless of their record Coach Rowe points to that game as a very big part of the season.
The Dukes sit in 3rd place in the NBC and I don’t think that I’m the only person who feels that’s a success. The great thing is that they seem to be doing it right, it feels real and sustainable. Only time will tell if these group of ladies makes this season even more unforgettable, but regardless, it sure wont be soon forgotten.
Categories: Northeast Ohio Girls Basketball