St. John’s versatility pays off for Flyers, Gray Wolves

J. Patrick Eaken

Lake 5-foot-11 senior forward Hayley St. John has taken on a different role this year, and she is welcoming it.

Last year, St. John led the Flyers in scoring, averaging 15.2 points, 7.6 rebounds, 2.6 steals and 2.1 assists. She was first team All-District 7, second team All-Northern Buckeye Conference, and third team Associated Press Northwest District.

This year she occasionally takes a back seat to her teammates, scoring wise only. Skill-wise, she is at the top of her game. This year, she is averaging 13 points, is shooting 45.1 percent from inside the arc, and is at about eight rebounds, two assists, two steals and two deflections per game. 

St. John has 791 career points through her first 10 games, so with 12 games remaining, whether or not she reaches the 1,000-career point mark remains to be seen. She has sacrificed some of her scoring this year for team play, which she is happy with.

“It is definitely different because in previous years it has not been like that,” St. John said. “But this year I have been a big help on defense and stuff, and we have some pretty good shooters and drivers. It is just passing more — that’s definitely been a big role for me this year — that does not usually happen.”

For anyone with basketball knowledge, that makes her an even better player. 

“She’s always adaptive, grown in her roles throughout her four years here,” Lake coach Joe Nowak said. “She’s becoming more of, I don’t want to say a utility player, but she’s definitely a player who can definitely score. She was our leading scorer last year, but at the same time she realized this year that we have a handful of other girls who are capable of scoring points, too, so she’s filling in at other places. 

“But she’s just so versatile, too. She can play all over the floor, she’s athletic, she’s quick and she’s got the size for that, too, so she poses some pretty tough matchups for everybody. But she’s consistently grown and developed over her four years, which obviously you hope to see out of your players. But I feel like she has stayed humble, too, to develop into a scorer throughout her junior year and then to kind of, I don’t want to say take a back seat to other players who are scoring, too, but to let them showcase their abilities and showcase their growth and she can fill in and step in where we need her to.”

It might be part of the reason she has committed to playing NAIA basketball at Lourdes University next year.

“I think one thing that makes her valuable to anybody, and I’m sure it was a factor in their coaching staff decision to go after her is her versatility. I would not say she’s a big girl like a post or anything like that, but she’s got size and she’s mobile,” Nowak said.

“She’s definitely got the speed and the skill set to pair with her size nicely to do some of the things, but she’s also got kind of a knack for the ball — she’s got a real nose for it — she can seek it out. Her endurance level is pretty high, and she’s gotten faster progressively through the years so, overall, she’s a really nice athlete. Basketball is her primary sport, which I’m sure is always something college coaches are looking for, too. It is her overall versatility and her speed level and just her desire and hunger to prove she can play.”

St. John, a standout three-sport athlete, said she was first noticed by Lourdes basketball coach John Kenger and his staff during an event in Wauseon. She has not signed yet, so Kenger cannot comment.

“It was actually over the summer before this, I was at a summer shoot-out at Wauseon hosted by Lourdes because they actually needed players, and they saw me there and they started following me at Lake. We talked and I went to open gyms there and I really liked it,” St. John said.

Although St. John’s stands out on the soccer pitch and running track, too, basketball is her favorite sport. She said she started playing at the age of 5 and has grown to love the sport.


Maturing before the coach’s eyes

Nowak says he has seen St. John mature throughout her prep career.

“Hayley will be the first four-year letter winner that I’ve had at Lake, and this is my sixth year, and she’s played with some pretty good players that are older than her and she’s played with some pretty good players that are younger than her. I think there are a lot of things that stand out about Hayley,” Nowak said. “She is always eager to get better, she is always committed to getting in during the offseason, listening and taking stuff that we work on and apply it to her game. 

“Another great thing about Hayley is just her commitment to the team and she’s just a great teammate,” Nowak continued. “She gets along with her teammates. She’s there for them, she’ll talk to them, and one of the things I’ve been really impressed with is her overall growth and maturity even from last year to this year. 

“There are times where I’m getting on them about something or even her specifically and she is not slouched over or anything like that and looking away. She is locked in, she is eye to eye, she is nodding along and taking what you are telling her, and then she goes up there and she uses it. Her overall growth as a person and her maturity level thing, too, has been something that has been noticeable. I definitely think it is something that has helped her.”


Northern Buckeye girls solid

The Flyers were headed into a tough match-up Thursday hosting undefeated Elmwood (12-0, 9-0). Lake, currently at 6-4 overall and 4-2 in the Northern Buckeye Conference, was the preseason coaches’ favorite to win the league, but this is no average season. Woodmore (11-2, 7-2), Eastwood (8-4, 5-3) and Elmwood make the NBC perhaps one of the best girls basketball conferences in Northwest Ohio this year. 

The Flyers lost to Woodmore, 62-51, Tuesday and were at Eastwood Saturday. Lake defeated Woodmore 74-50 in their first match-up, so anyone can beat anyone on any given night. Elmwood handed the Flyers their other league loss, 62-48. St. John and Nowak say it did not help having a two-week hiatus because of coronavirus protocol.

“I was very shocked. Elmwood is going to be good because they have good players, but I actually was shocked in how good they actually were,” St. John said. “I think it is going well. We got quarantined right around Christmas so that definitely did not help, but we’ve gotten back into it. It has definitely been different.

“I think it is good just to be back to where we were and everything and we haven’t lost anything. We need to play better than we did last time against Elmwood now that we know what their strengths and weaknesses are.”

Nowak added, “That Elmwood squad — they have the right combination, players and size that they know what they are looking for and they are pretty good at getting what they are looking for, too. We were looking to lean on Hayley a little bit probably.”

Nowak added that this is where St. John’s teammates step up.

“Delani Robinson really came on strong in the second half of the season last year and she started out well for us this year,” Nowak said. “We have been kind of going through a little bit of a funk because we got thrown into a quarantine situation. We played two games in a matter of maybe three-and-a-half weeks, and it’s tough to get into any kind of groove, and we’re getting ready to kick off a pretty active January here but we’ll look forward to it.”













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