The Constantine girls basketball team enters phase two of a rebuilding project under second-year head coach Joe Stacey. In hindsight, the adversity the injury-plagued Falcons faced during a 2-20 campaign last winter might have been a blessing.
With six senior letterwinners returning and a quartet of juniors that were brought up to varsity at various times in 2012-13 to plug some holes, Constantine has some experience on its side. The goal now is simply to put more points on the scoreboard.
Outscored 1,169-572 overall and 993-462 in the KVA, Constantine, which finished 1-17 in the KVA, struggled last winter to get the ball past midcourt in a league where seemingly ever team employs a daunting full-court press. By the end of the year, the team made significant strides in that crucial area.
“Hopefully those girls that gained that experience continue to break presses the way we did at the end of the season,” Stacey said. “It was excellent. They were patient and made good decisions. Now, when we get over that first layer of the press, it’s attacking and getting that layup or four- to six-foot jump shot and putting it in to make it hurt. That’s the part we have to overcome now. We did step one, now it’s moving on to step two.”
Michelle Smith (guard/forward), Emily Schrock (guard), DeShea Payton (guard/forward), Ashley Denaway (guard), Makayla Parsons (center) and Emily Bowers (center/forward) make up the senior group. Smith (5-foot-8), Schrock (5-5), Parsons (5-10) and Bowers (5-10) all have logged time as starters, with Parsons entering her third year on varsity.
Frontcourt player Amber Anderson (5-9), a junior, is the other returning letterwinner. Junior guards Kayla Loose (5-6) and Amber Chupp (5-7), along with classmate Kerrigan Harris, a 5-7 forward, round out the junior class. Sophomore point guard Bailey Potter (5-7) is expected to guide the offense after being pulled up for districts last year and helping the Falcons beat White Pigeon. Freshman Ashley Loose, a 5-10 forward/center, brings a collection of raw attributes that might make her an eventual starter, but at the very least a key contributor.
Locked into starting spots right now are Smith and Schrock for their hustle, grit and improvement. Potter adds the speed and athleticism that’s been missing at Constantine, and Bowers has put in a lot of time on her own to polish her game. Parsons and Patton (5-10) could split time in the paint.
Stacey said it will come down to desire and conditioning for all the starting spots, and nothing is set in stone.
“I’ve always been an old school, firm believer that you earn your playing time in a game by how hard and what you give me in practice,” he said. “Ashley Loose, as a freshman, she’s very hungry. She’s very subdued about it. She’s not arrogant, she’s not cocky; she just works. Part of me wants to send a message, and I’ve already mentioned it to my seniors. I don’t care what grade you are; I don’t care how old you are. You show me in practice you want to play in a game. That’s a girl that’s showing me in practice she wants to play in a game.”
Parsons missed a couple weeks last year due to a concussion but still scored 125 points for the year, which is by far the most production of any player back this season. Of the 572 points scored by the team last year, 222 went out the door with the graduating class.
Stacey believes this group can make up for that void with easier looks.
“What do we have to be able to do to even give ourselves an opportunity to compete with KVA teams? That’s break a press. Even with all the injuries we had last year, those juniors got plenty of experience at breaking presses. As the second half of the season went on, those juniors started to step up. Just using a basic press breaker, they started to believe in themselves, started to execute a press break and we were getting the ball down the floor and actually giving ourselves opportunities to get easy baskets. We improved very much on breaking the press, but now what’s the next step? It’s getting a bucket.”