Clay junior guard Haley Orr doesn’t mind playing defense. Neither do junior teammates Samantha Enck and Hannah Novak.
In fact, the first-year starters relish playing defense and that falls in line with the Eagles’ entire girls basketball team. Buckling down at the defensive end and sacrificing their individual offensive stats is no problem with this group.
“We all realize we have a role on the team,” Orr said. “We have a bunch of 3-point shooters and some girls, like me and Sam and Hannah, we don’t take as many shots because we know our role is to play defense and get the stops and the steals. We count on our teammates to make the shots, because that’s their role. I pride myself in the defensive stops and steals so I can help my teammates out that way.”
Clay junior Hannah Novak applies defensive pressure on Waite
senior guard YaTia Caldwell. (Press photo by Russ Lytle
Clay coach Corey Slovak said Orr, Enck and Novak form the team’s defensive nucleus.
“Haley and Sam are our top two defenders and always draw the other team’s top two players – point guard, center … At no time do they complain,” he said. “They have really relished that role of being on the other team’s best player and we’ll see what we can do.”
The Eagles have a small squad compared to many of their Three Rivers Athletic Conference opponents, so playing strong defense, getting steals and rebounding are a must.
“They have been a very determined bunch and it started in the offseason, in the spring and summer,” Slovak said. “All three of them — Haley, Sam and Hannah — put in a ton of time in open gyms and in the weight room. They were consistently at everything we asked them to be at.”
While her teammates were doing conditioning and weight room sessions in late summer and early fall, Orr was on the tennis court as Clay’s No. 3 singles player. She finished second in the TRAC during the regular season and took third at the conference tournament.
Orr said playing tennis enabled her to keep up with her basketball teammates on the conditioning end.
“It helped me out a little bit footwork-wise,” she said. “It helped me stay quick on the court and with determination. I was a little behind weightlifting-wise because most of the girls don’t play fall sports. Even a lot of the younger girls who aren’t in high school were coming in and working out with us, helping to build the program.”
Clay took a 9-6 overall record and 4-3 TRAC mark into Thursday night’s conference game against Central Catholic. The Eagles were coming off a big win at Whitmer (54-46) last Thursday, which Slovak called the program’s biggest win in three years.
“Whitmer at the time was in second place in the TRAC,” Slovak said. “Hannah hit back-to-back 3-pointers, which was a huge momentum swing for us.”
Novak, a 5-foot-8 forward, averages four points and three rebounds a game. Not big numbers at all, but Slovak couldn’t care less.
“She has a great attitude,” the coach said. “She’s also one who can do more than one thing. She’s a good shooter and will play inside if we need her to. It all depends on matchups. I like her versatility. And if I asked her to run through the door, she’d run through the door.”
Enck, a 5-7 guard, has led the Eagles in scoring just once this season, when she had 21 points against Fremont Ross. Enck averages nine points a game.
“She has that drive-first mentality,” Slovak said. “She’s our slasher in our offense. Even though she’s very undersized, she’s not afraid to get the ball in the post and get to the basket. She gets a ton of free-throw and layup opportunities for us.”