The Press Newspaper
Led by Ciara Albright and Haley Pickard, who are averaging a combined 36.9 points, Genoa has won four consecutive games and finds itself 9-3 overall and 4-2 in the Northern Buckeye Conference.
The Comets are back in the hunt after a dramatic, 57-52 victory over Rossford last week. Their winning streak also includes a 57-41 victory of Old Fort, which came into the game undefeated.
The Comets' other seven wins have come in convincing fashion and two of their three losses were to Oak Harbor (9-2) and Elmwood (7-4), two teams having quality seasons. The loss to reigning league champion Elmwood, a 57-47 setback, sparked the current winning streak and enabled the team to refocus.
"We sort of got put in place," said guard Carly Gose, a five foot tall sophomore. "It helped us get rid of the mindset that we couldn't be stopped. We have better team chemistry now and are working together. And we're thankful to be back at full strength. Everyone is a key player on the team."
Coach Mike DeStazio believes the team put too much pressure on itself in the game against the Royals and has since been able to relax.
"I thought the outside pressure in the Elmwood game was an awful lot," DeStazio said. "We had one loss. They had none. Everybody acted like that was a game we had to win if we wanted to win the league. It was the fifth league game out of 14. I thought the kids did not play with the confidence. The girls played very tight; they became too mechanical. This is a group that needs to play basketball without being too structured. They're athletic, quick, and I don't think they played that way against Elmwood."
Albright, a returning Division III honorable mention all-state selection who led the NBC in scoring last season with 16.6 points, has combined with Pickard to form a potent one-two scoring punch that is giving defenses fits. Albright is averaging 20.3 points and nine rebounds while Pickard, an all-district honorable mention selection last year, is putting up 16.6 points and 7.7 rebounds. The performance that stands out for Albright this year was her 16-point, 17-rebound effort in the comeback victory against the Bulldogs, a game that saw the Comets blow a 14-point lead.
"I think Albright has realized that if you surround her with a couple more scorers, people can't focus too much on her with a gimmick defense," DeStazio said. "The thing about ‘C’ is that she's a great finisher. She's good at getting to the hoop. Between the two, Pickard is a little quicker. Albright is more of a basketball player. Albright can get to the hoop and ‘Pick’ is just a great athlete. She's is as tough mentally as you'll find. She's got great hands (and) she can get to the hoop. She doesn't want to lose. When you talk about her, she is really an easy kid to coach because of the effort she gives. Her bar is raised so high all the time."
Despite having a great individual season, Pickard understands the importance of getting everyone involved.
"It's important for everyone to help out and score," Pickard said. "Basketball is a team game. We like to use our speed and quickness to create turnovers for our offense
The starting lineup features Pickard at the point, 5-4 freshman Emily Edwards at guard, Albright at small forward and seniors Katie Jensen and Brynn Skilliter, both of whom stand 5-8, in the post with sophomore guards Gose and (5-4) Haley Gerke, wing Erica Harder, a 5-11 sophomore, 5-9 junior Christy Dazley and sophomore Caitlyn Shessler filling in off the bench.
And that's where the role players come in.
Skilliter, who leads the league in rebounding at 9.9 per contest, and is averaging 4.6 points, has increased scoring while continuing to be a solid defensive presence in the post. Jensen, who normally plays in the post, is such a versatile talent that can shoot and play any of the five positions. She is currently averaging 7.1 points and 3.6 rebounds.
"Brynn has been a pleasant surprise in terms of her scoring," said DeStazio. "She told me before the season that she was going to be more of a scorer for us. She's another unsung for hero on this team. When you look at everything she does, you can't win without her.
"Katie is a smart player. She sees the floor and makes great passes and takes the ball out of bounds all the time. She also plays at the top of our defense. She the kind of player that, at the end of the night, won't have a lot of stats, but she was a big part of the game."
The other starter, Edwards, who is averaging 5.2 points and 3.1 steals, has filled in nicely for Gose and Gerke, both of whom have missed significant time this year because of injuries.
"I've started her every game," DeStazio said. "She was the silver lining in a dark cloud when we lost. She's a freshman and I didn't know what she was capable of. She's done a nice job for us."