2018-02-10 / Sports

Young Lakers Girls Improve as Team

By Jacob A. Ball


Freshman Ella Cowell passes the ball to senior Cheyla Shunk against the Grand Marais Polar Bears Friday night, January 19. The Lakers claimed victory 41-31, behind 20 points from Cowell. (Photograph courtesy of Heather May and the Mackinac Island Public School Photography Club) Freshman Ella Cowell passes the ball to senior Cheyla Shunk against the Grand Marais Polar Bears Friday night, January 19. The Lakers claimed victory 41-31, behind 20 points from Cowell. (Photograph courtesy of Heather May and the Mackinac Island Public School Photography Club) The Mackinac Island girls basketball team has gained a lot of experience during this season, and with a very young roster the group is primed to see further improvements in the years to come. After losing their first seven games in December, the Lakers began 2018 with renewed focus to win three straight, and five out of their next seven games. Contributions have come from practically every player on the team, as injuries and illness have limited their available players for much of the season. Coach Mary Patay said there is not one player to single out for their performance, but rather she commended the entire team’s improvements.

“They want to do their best every single game, and they have all improved greatly over the course of the season,” she said.

Certain techniques and strategies, including boxing-out and ball movement, had not been effective for the team in December, but an emphasis on them during practices has seen efficiency improve greatly. Coach Patay said that she thinks their passing and awareness of other players has gotten much better, and she is pleased to see the ball and players moving quicker on the court. Conditioning has motivated the team to work harder at practice, Coach Patay said.

The team has been led in scoring for much of the season by freshman Ella Cowell. Scoring contributions have also commonly come from senior Cheyla Shunk, sophomore Hannah Styburski, and freshman Brooke Dziobak. Eighth grader Mabel Styburski has been a consistent presence in the paint, snatching rebounds and covering defenders, while first-year players Nora Bailey, Makenna Horricks, and Megan Horricks have shown strong gains throughout the season.

The girls now enter their final weekend of regular season play against Hannahville with a record of 5-9. Coach Patay hopes her players can avenge two close early-season losses to the Soaring Eagles, and gain additional momentum as they head into the postseason. The Northern Lights League tournament starts Friday, February 16, and continues through Saturday, February 17. Hannahville will host the tournament, which takes place before the start of the official state playoffs. The Lakers will face Maplewood Baptist in the district playoffs Wednesday, February 28, at 6 p.m. after receiving a first-round bye. Cedarville High School will host the competition.

Season Recap

The Lakers lost both of their games the opening weekend of the season December 1 and December 2 to Maplewood Baptist. The team would continue to struggle throughout December, and would not record their first win of the season until after winter break.

Against Hannahville, the girls lost December 8 by a score of 22- 19, and December 9, the girls lost the lead on a last second buzzerbeater, 34-32. On December 12, the Lakers lost a hardfought game to Harbor Light Christian School 72-27, as only five players were available to play for the third game in a row. The Lakers scored the second-most points of any game so far this season, but their coach said repeated mistakes from earlier games would need to be corrected to keep opponents close. Bailey played well with four points and eight rebounds in the contest.

The Lakers lost against Ojibwe Charter December 15 and December 16. Coach Mary Patay said at the time that miscommunication and poor execution was hurting the team’s performances, and this was partially due to a lack of substitutes. Friday night they fell 40-21, while the next morning, they lost 43-30 in a game that went much better, according to Coach Patay

Cowell led her team in points both days. On Friday night, she scored seven points and grabbed eight rebounds, while the next day, she scored 11 points with five rebounds and three steals. Coach Patay also commended the effort put in by Dziobak. Friday night she contributed with seven rebounds, one block, and two pass deflections. The next day she recorded another five rebounds. The coach said she did much better than her numbers would indicate, including taking care of the ball. Hannah Styburski recorded 10 points and 18 rebounds for a double-double Saturday morning.

With winter break and the cancellation of two games against Munising Baptist, the Lakers would not play a competitive game until January 12, against the Paradise Rockets. Due to a limited roster for the Rockets, the game did not count for the Lakers record, but was recorded as a scrimmage. The Lakers won the matchup 36-8, as Cowell scored 17 points, and Mabel Styburski added another seven points.

The Lakers teams played a coed scrimmage against the Paradise Rockets January 13, winning 47-37.

The team from Whitefish Township Community Schools did not have enough players available and played with girls and boys on the same team. The starting lineup for the Lakers featured three boys and two girls, and their coaches said they performed well as a unit.

“The girls play a completely different style on both defense and offense,” boys Coach Justin Gallagher said, “but they seemed to fit right in and were involved in everything.”

The team’s first official wins came the next weekend with a two-game sweep of the Grand Marais Polar Bears. January 19, the Lakers defeated Grand Marais 41-31 and January 20, they came from behind to capture another win 43-36. The Lakers played both contests with only four players to match the numbers for Grand Marais.

Cowell led the Lakers in both games, scoring 20 points Friday and 26 points Saturday. Coach Mary Patay said these were the best games Cowell has played all season.

Coach Patay also commended the effort Friday night from sophomore Makenna Horricks, who finished the game with four points, five rebounds, and four steals. Coach Patay said Horricks can see the whole court, which puts her in position for steals and rebounds. The coach said Horricks has made impressive gains in her first year of competitive basketball.

Friday night, senior Cheyla Shunk had 10 points, seven rebounds, three assists, and five steals, and Saturday morning, she played a complete game with eight points, eight rebounds, seven assists, and eight steals. Sophomore Hannah Styburski added 15 rebounds.

During the first weekend in February, the Lakers had a matchup with their rivals from Beaver Island, but could not continue their momentum against the talented Islanders. They played a solid game February 2, but were behind for most of the contest. After entering halftime down six points, the Lakers took the lead at the end of the third quarter, 23-22. The Islanders took back the lead in the final period, sealing a ninepoint victory, 42-33.

Sophomore Hannah Styburski led the team with 11 points, including completing three of four free throws on the night. Cowell and Dziobak combined for another 14 points. Cowell also recorded five rebounds and five assists in the contest.

February 3, the girls were tied with Beaver Island at 12 points after the first quarter, and the Lakers trailed by only two possessions, 26-21, at halftime. The Islanders opened up the game in the second half, stretching their lead to 12 points going into the fourth quarter to eventually defeat Mackinac Island 57-29.

Coach Mary Patay said senior Cheyla Shunk had the best game of her career that Saturday morning. She finished the contest with nine points and 12 rebounds, just shy of a double double, and added five assists.

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