The Press Newspaper
What a difference a year makes.
Just last season, the Oak Harbor Rockets struggled to a 7-14 finish and finished seventh in the Sandusky Bay Conference. This season, things are different.
Led by the senior trio of Abbie Gezo, Maria Boers and Makayla Carpenter and freshman Andrea Cecil, Oak Harbor is 11-7 overall while going 6-6 in the SBC, good for fourth place in the league.
Gezo, who earned honorable mention status in the league last season, was expected to take the next step, which she has, averaging 13.3 points and six rebounds, both tops on the team. And Cecil, despite this being her first year in high school, was highly touted and expected by many to contribute greatly to the club, which she has.
However, it's been the backcourt duo of Carpenter and Boers that have been just as instrumental to the Rockets' success.
With Gezo providing a consistent low-post presence and Cecil's versatility helping her to average 10.1 points and five rebounds, Carpenter has managed the offense as the point guard and Boers has provided an outside shooting threat that helps Oak Harbor stretch the floor.
Oak Harbor also has a man with a proven track record at the helm in Tom Kontak. Kontak, who took over after former coach Brad Hemminger retired after being a part of the program for nearly two decades, is well known to the area, having been Genoa's coach from 2004-10. During his time as the Comets' top man, he compiled a 91-44 record, built one of the area's top programs and won two Suburban Lakes League titles.
Carpenter, who is a four-year letter winner, notes that part of the team's motivation for playing so hard lies with the fact that the Rockets were picked to finish sixth in the SBC before the season began.
“The coaches remind us every day, during every practice and every game that we were picked sixth,” she said. “It's definitely a little disheartening when you come into a season with four returning starters and you're still picked sixth. It's like others in the league take for granted your abilities, so that definitely fuels the fire to want to prove them wrong.”
This season hasn't come without setbacks, however. Because of an injury in midseason to forward Nikki Weis, not to mention the fact that Allison Dunn, a second team All-SBC selection last season, graduated, the Rockets have struggled with depth. The starting lineup that features Carpenter and Boers in the backcourt with Amanda Hetrick at small forward, Cecil at power forward and Gezo at center while senior Erin Bryant and Athena Eli, another promising freshman, have helped to provide production off the bench.
Boer, like Carpenter, Gezo and Bryant, is motivated to help turn things around for the program and leave behind the beginning of a legacy. Along with Cecil and Eli, Oak Harbor has an eighth grade team that has lost just twice in the last two seasons, making the future looking bright for a program that had back-to-back 20-0 seasons in 2003 and '04.
“I'm very proud of how we are doing so far and I hope we can continue this,” Boers said. “It's very important for us. I want people to look back and remember us.”
Boers, who was coming off the bench at the beginning of the season, has moved into the starting lineup in part because of her three-point shooting. This season, Boers set the school record for three-pointers in a season and a career. Currently, she's tied with Gezo for the team lead in points (199), averaging 13.3 per contest.
What's helped Boers the most this season is the fact that she's diversified her game, mixing in penetration with her outside shooting.
“I am more confident with my driving abilities than I was at the beginning of the season,” said Boers, a three-year letter winner. “And taking the ball to the basket opens up my three-point shot, making me a more versatile player on the court.”
For the third straight season, Carpenter is the starting point guard. Carpenter runs the offense with fluidity while providing scoring when needed.
Carpenter has helped Cecil get acclimated to playing at the varsity level. Carpenter knows that Cecil's play will greatly influence the success of the team this year, not to mention the fact that Cecil will likely be the primary ball handler when Carpenter is gone next season.
“I've always had close friendships with people, and this year isn't any different. I'm friends with everyone on the team, some closer than others,” Carpenter said. “Andrea and I are really good friends — we do everything together. Maria and I are good friends and Abbie and I have known each other since grade school and have always played with each other on teams. I think that transfers into the game and that’s why we work together so well. And I'm also pretty close with some of the JV girls.
“When I was a freshman, I really loved having the seniors there to talk to me and I was really good friends with them and I loved being able to have friendships with them,” Carpenter continued.
Carpenter notes that it was former players Abby Zurvalec, Kayla Diefenthaler and Lauren Adams who helped guide her when she was younger.
“I hope I am doing that for the younger kids this year and trying to give a little more advice or reassurance to them,” Carpenter said.