I went down to Conotton Valley with a motive, and that was to determine if they are for real or if their undefeated season is just a classic case of smoking mirrors. On the hour drive I thought about the tweets I got from Conotton Valley trying to guilt me about my comments about their schedule. I though about the people I have spoken to that say that it’s a joke that they are ranked 7th in the state. I considered everything I’ve heard and everything I believed and I was determined to decide if this was real or a facade.
It didn’t take me long after stepping foot in this gym to realize that I had lost perspective on things. I’ve coached in this very gym, like so many Conotton Valley teams I’ve been a part of teams where wins weren’t exactly at an abundance. Like Conotton Valley this year, I’ve lost a JV season due to lack of players. I realized I could relate to this team and there was absolutely no need to try to dispel or validate their season thus far. It’s obvious they’ve worked hard, changed the culture and attitude of the team. What gives me or anyone else the right to question whether they’re deserving of what they have?
It’s often said that a small town has one traffic light, well Sherrodsville has none! (At least none that I passed) That’s the place these kids grew up watching a Conotton Valley team that rarely won more games than you could count on one hand. It would have been real easy for these girls to be ok with being bad, it’s so much easier to not care anyway. In an age where top athletes are always relocating in the chase for success it would have been so easy for Olivia Bower to take her talents elsewhere. However she stayed with her friends, she joined them in lots of hard work and made this team a success.
One thing I know for sure is they are a team, they play well together, they have the personnel to be successful and keep winning. In a school with such a small enrollment it’s so easy to play people out of position just to fill a lineup, but this starting 5 isn’t forced. It’s also so easy for small schools to force feed a superstar or even let them run the point just so they can dominate the ball, that isn’t Conotton Valley either. Olivia Bower is the go to player, the top scorer, but I’m not so sure she’s what makes them actually go. That may be 5’2″ senior point guard Piper Edie.
Edie is so full of energy and brings a nice basketball IQ and awareness. She’s fearless. I think she pumps her teammates up just by being so hard-nosed, they know she will always give her all. The only other senior also makes this team click. Senior Brynlynn Belknap plays a very solid post, she has good moves in the paint, has great footwork and uses her strength and size very well. Chandice Cottis gives them a nice duel threat, the lefty has a nice jumpshot and I was very impressed with how well she gets to the basket and finishes strong. Throw in Taylor Russell who is a nice shooter and you have a very respectable lineup around Bower.
I was very impressed with how Bower all around. She is very smooth on the court, she scores very efficiently. Her jump shooting is very good and she finished with her left hand really well, that allows her to score big without jacking up a bunch of shots. Most impressive about Olivia is her ability to not act like a superstar. She is always smiling with her teammates, always giving fives and encouraging. Her approach to the team concept is extraordinary. That kind of demeanor always brings teammates up a level.
Coach Chandra Myers has done a tremendous job, its obvious in everything that they do, the fundamentals are much better, the shooting has improved a great deal, they’re actually playing basketball down there. One can rip the schedule all they want, but they are 3-0 in IVC games, and have a win against Timken that gets bigger and bigger everyday as the Trojans close in on a Pac-7 title. A February 6th matchup looming down in Zanesville against the Rosecrans will really show this team where they’re at.
In order to keep everything in perspective I do realize I’ve only seen them once. I would have really liked to see how they respond to a team that pushes them, Friday night they got absolutely zero resistance. I’m also concerned that they may rely on the shoebox sized gym a little and would be interested to see how things change against a decent team in a bigger gym. Depth will also challenge them in the tourney against Hiland and Rosecrans. Lastly I would be very curious how the team reacts if a bigger guard is able to hound Piper enough to cause some chaos.
I’m no longer interested in passing judgment on the Rockets, and will probably ignore any that I hear. When does the amount of improvement all the sudden become unreal and illegitimate? If the Rockets finished 15-7 everyone would agree that they have done a good job turning the program around, but since they are undefeated it couldn’t possibly be deserving? If you want a good ole success story, here it is! We all get tired of the showboating gloaters that play professional sports, the cheaters at every level that get lots of media attention, and even the high school transfers that chase a championship. We finally have a true small town success story and we want to justify it or make it less substantial. I’m not doing that, this is as real as it gets for this team and that community, if you can’t look at it and feel proud for these girls then you need to check yourself. Whether I think or any person thinks they are worthy of being #7 in the state isn’t even important, don’t count these girls out, they just might surprise you. These kids have done it right and that needs to he acknowledged and commended, whether you like it or not isn’t important…
Categories: Northeast Ohio Girls Basketball