Wildcats plugging away

J. Patrick Eaken

In your average year, this Woodmore girls basketball team would have a good shot at winning the Northern Buckeye Conference championship.
        This is not your average year. Talent explodes in the NBC with the likes of senior point guard Jamie Schmeltz and a deep bench at Eastwood (15-3), the high-scoring play of Sammi Mikonowicz at Rossford (10-6), and a sound Otsego squad (15-1) that was state-ranked in Division III before losing to Eastwood last week.
        “We’re plugging away. The league is ridiculous again,” Woodmore coach Kyle Clair said. “I was looking the other day and in our league, our non-league record against everybody else is pretty impressive.”
        To be precise, if you combine all eight NBC girls basketball teams, against non-league competition, they are 17 games over .500 entering the weekend.
        The Wildcats are no slouch, either, at 12-5 and are 6-5 in the conference with all losses coming to Rossford, Otsego or Eastwood. The Bulldogs nipped the Wildcats 41-39 and Woodmore gets another shot in Rossford’s new field house on Feb. 13 — the final regular season game. The strategy will be to keep Mikonowicz from getting to the hoop.
        “She’s tough,” Clair said. “Obviously, our players are well aware of players like her. The first time around we did a lot of testing and kind of tweaking things and we have to pay attention to your Schmeltz’s and your Mikonowicz’s and players like that.
        “The girls have actually acknowledged that they prefer and like playing man (man-to-man defense) and we do fly around and help really well — a straight-up man and being attentive to those kinds of players. I think that’s our ticket. That’s what we’ve got to hang our hat on right now.”
        There have been big wins in the league over good teams, like Lake (7-10, 3-8) and Elmwood (10-7, 6-5). You notice that even those two teams are 4-2 against non-league competition and the Flyers would likely be above .500 if they didn’t have to face the leading trio of teams.
        “Any win is good,” Clair said. “We beat Lake twice (64-48, 61-57) and those have always been pretty good games. They are strong and they are in our sectional this year because they went down a division. Elmwood was a good win over there in overtime (46-41).”
        For the second year in a row, Woodmore is being led by two players who like to score in the paint — 5-foot-10 forward Jordan Nighswander and 6-1 junior post Brooke Allen.
        “I think they’ve definitely taken a step forward,” Clair said.
        Allen, who is shooting 41 percent from the floor, is averaging 13.9 points and she has 165 rebounds in 17 games, and what is distinctive about that is she has more offensive rebounds (83) then defensive (82) and has blocked 20 shots. Nighswander is scoring at 13.1 points per game and has 145 rebounds, including 57 off the offensive boards.
        “Our two post players, Brooke Allen and Jordan Nighswander, are strong. Our guard positions we had some experience coming back, but we lost a lot of strong senior leadership there. In our rotations this year, we have quite a large group of guards who are contributing,” Clair said.
        The guards include 5-7 junior Greta Bauder, 5-8 junior Ava Beam and 5-7 senior Claire Rothert. Those are all players who also excel at other sports, so the athleticism is there. Bauder is averaging 5.6 points and has 39 assists, Rothert is averaging 4.8 points and has 56 assists and Beam is averaging 7.3 points and has 28 assists.
        Clair is trying to take advantage of pairing up his athletes with his quality post players.
        “We’re trying to get out and run a little bit. Our posts run the floor really well so we’re trying to speed the game up as much as we can and get some easy ones, and at the same time we look to get it to Jordan and Brooke quite a bit,” Claire said.
        “We’ve harped on the guards a little bit, told them we want to have an attack mentality — shoot first and create offensive rebound opportunities for our posts. We have to be able to rebound well if our guards are going to shoot it a little bit more.”


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