Stritch girls basketball's ‘growing pains’ continue

J. Patrick Eaken

Cardinal Stritch girls basketball coach Brad Hohenberger has been hoping his guard play can push his team to the next level. 

Three of five of his top guards are freshmen and sophomores, with the exceptions being senior Samantha Turner and junior Keera Garmon. They just need a little height inside, and they are starting to get that from 6-foot freshman center Mariasia Brown.

The Cardinals opened the season 1-3, defeating Waite 55-31, but then losing to Fostoria 50-24, Evergreen, 56-20 and Rossford 54-29 Monday night. 

It gave the Bulldogs their first win in nine games, but the Cardinals were playing without their top rebounder, senior Allison Fellman, who was bringing in close to five per game. Other than that, Hohenberger had no one averaging more than three, and Rossford for the first time in weeks was playing with a full cast because players returned from a COVID protocol suspension.

Freshman guard Linnea Hughes has been Stritch’s big surprise, averaging 9.5 points per game, followed by Turner at 6.3 points. Last year, Turner averaged 11.7 points, 2.7 assists, 2.8 rebounds and 3.7 steals on her way to second team All-Toledo Area Athletic Conference honors.

After that sophomore forward Olivia Cronin averages 3.5 points and no one else averages more than two points. In assists, sophomore Sydney Payeff leads the team with 3.8. 

“We are very young and will have some growing pains as the freshmen and sophomores adjust to the varsity level,” Hohenberger said.

Stritch does have a presence in the paint this year — they just need to find a way to utilize it.

“This year’s team will look to a junior in Brooke Conley and a freshman in Mariasia Brown to play the post,” Hohenberger said. “Brooke, while undersized, uses her body well and puts herself in the right place at the right time for rebounds and put-backs. Mariasia has the potential to be really good. She has great size and finishes well around the basket. The key for her will be getting adjusted to the speed and intensity of the high school game as a freshman.”

Hohenberger says with eight solid athletes returning, his team hopes to get up and down the floor, and they showed the potential for doing that against the Bulldogs.

“We are going to look to push the tempo this year and be very up tempo much like we were last year. I think this year we will be more polished offensively and also look to go inside a bit more,” Hohenberger said.

“I expect the scoring load this year to be handled by Sam Turner again. She can score in a lot of different ways, both with her outside shooting and her ability to finish through traffic despite being undersized. I also feel like Keera Garmon, Samantha Boraggina, and Allison Fellman are all ready to step up and take on more of an offensive burden. 

“I will look to Sydney Payeff to lead the offense and be our key distributor and assist person. Lastly, do not be surprised to see freshman Linnea Hughes step up and put up big numbers from the guard position, she has tremendous talent and once she gets used to the high school game, look out.”

“Samantha Boraggina will lead the way on defense and always draw the toughest assignments in what looks to be an extremely talented TAAC this year.”

Garmon rejoins the team after overcoming adversity the past two years.

“Keera Garmon has grown a lot since last year. She has battled injuries as both a freshman and sophomore, but over the summer you can see the work she has put in. Her ball handling and outside shot are much improved and she is an extremely hard nosed gritty defender,” Hohenberger said.

“The biggest sleeper on this team is sophomore Olivia Cronin. She got the chance to play varsity towards the end of the season last year as a freshman and showed flashes of brilliance right away. Her length helps her finish well around the rim and her outside shot seems to be improving daily. She also uses that length to be an excellent defender and shot blocker. I think her development will be a key for not only this year’s team but the future of the program. She is a name to know and remember in the coming years.”

“We are very athletic this year and have lots of team speed. Our guard play and outside shooting should make us a threat night in and night out as it did last year. The biggest difference this year could be the emergence of our sophomores and freshmen who I think have a chance to be a very special group this year and moving forward,” Hohenberger continued. “Youth may also be our weakness. We are very young in the post positions and the development there will be a key barometer for our season. 

“This year’s team is a great mix of talented seniors and underclassmen. I think our ability to mix youth with experience will be the key to everything this year. The team got to know our style last year in my first season, but now I think we are ready to take it to another level. The mindset this year is all about getting better and winning and I think we are in store for something special.”




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