Clay cagers combine to go on five-game win streak

J. Patrick Eaken

Combined, the Clay boys and girls basketball teams are on a five-game win streak. The girls have won three in a row, and the boys won two in a row against non-league teams over the holidays.
        Clay girls basketball had a little trouble getting started, but in non-league action things started going their way.
        “This season has definitely been a struggle so far.  We started out the season 0-8 after losing three close winnable games right off the bat,” said eighth-year coach Corey Slovak. “We are on a little bit of a win streak though, having won our last three games going into (the Oak Harbor game Tuesday).”
        Clay got wins over Sandusky Perkins, Scott and Maumee, but lost at Oak Harbor Tuesday, 44-38, to fall to a 3-9 on the season.
        The Eagles have height, boasting two starters who stand taller than six feet. They are led by 6-foot-1 senior forward Olivia Henneman-Dallape, who is averaging 13.3 points and 9.2 rebounds. Alivia Rew, another 6-1 senior center, is averaging 8.2 points and 6.5 rebounds, and three-sport athlete Kennedy Slovak, a 5-8 senior guard, is averaging seven points, five rebounds, four assists and four steals.
        In the loss to Oak Harbor, Henneman-Dallape scored 16 and Rew scored 10. Freshman Camryn Reiter came off the bench to hit two fourth quarter treys to keep the Eagles close. Clay led most of the first half, including 20-17 at halftime, but outscored 27-18 in the second half.
        Henneman-Dallape, Rew and Kennedy Slovak are among five letter winners who returned, which includes 5-5 senior Faith Johnson. At point guard is 5-2 freshman Lexi Huntermark.
        Slovak, who was an assistant under Jim Welling at Central Catholic when the boys team reached the Division I state final four in 2011, believes ultimately it will be defensive play that decides if his team wins or loses games.
        “For us it’s all about team defense. Lexi Huntermark and Faith Johnson are our top defenders on our opponents guards, and Olivia and Alivia Rew are needed to guard the rim with their size.  Kennedy is probably our smartest defender who also has great instincts. We need to her to create turnovers.”
        Slovak has depth, too, including many players who are finding roles to fill as the season continues.
        “We have a whole host of players who are stepping up and are able to give us great minutes,” Slovak said. “Emily Brown, Katelynn Takacs, Mariah Cathers, and Lauren Mahler are all juniors who saw varsity action last season.  Sophomores Meah Przybylski, and Kylee Tabler are also in the mix to help contribute.”
        While this team has no players who are committed to playing basketball collegiately, the team is filled with athletes who have committed in other sports. Slovak says Rew is being recruited for volleyball and Johnson for track and field. Henneman-Dallape has signed with Ferris State for volleyball and Kennedy Slovak, a goalkeeper, has signed with the University of Findlay for soccer.
        Coach Slovak hoped this year’s team could do better than the three-win season last year and they’ve gotten to that point already. The problem is competing in the always-tough Three Rivers Athletic Conference, where they still have not gotten a win yet.
        “I’m hoping we can compete to be in the top half of the TRAC. That’s a big mountain to climb considering our season last year, but we are putting in the work to try and make it happen,” Slovak said.
        “Once again the TRAC is pretty loaded at the top. Notre Dame, Central Catholic and Whitmer are all very solid and very skilled.  St. Ursula has really good returning players and Lima Senior might have the most dynamic point guard in the league,” Slovak continued.
        “Right now our biggest strength is that we have size and experience coming back. We definitely will not be the most skilled team on most nights.  Basketball is not the primary sport for most of our girls, so that offseason skill work is lacking for us.  On a nightly basis we need to be better with turnovers — that was the No. 1 area that killed us last season.”


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