Over 2,800 spectators, the largest crowd in City League girls’ basketball history,
witnessed two state ranked teams, Waite and Start, play in a sold out Grant
Murray Field House over a week ago. Waite senior Natasha Howard and junior point guard Brooke Hunt keyed an unexpected 66-46 romp over the Spartans.
In Sylvania last Saturday, Eastwood graduate and veteran Northview coach Jerry Sigler saw his Lady Kats defeat cross town rival Southview, 51-39, in a key Northern Lakes League game. The Northview Field House, nicknamed the “Kat’s Den,” was filled to the brim.
“What a crowd,” Sigler said. “What an atmosphere for a high school game. It’s so exciting. We’ve never had this kind of excitement. I mean, we’ve had it, but nothing like this.”
The Lake and Genoa rivalry has reached the same level — playing in front of sold out crowds and a raucous atmosphere. Students and adults are face-painted and dressed in school colors.
There is no doubt that the fourth edition over the past two seasons between these top two Suburban Lakes League contenders will be just as electrifying.
The Flyers and Comets are scheduled to meet again Thursday, Feb. 18 at Genoa, tip-off at 7:30 p.m. If you don’t have a ticket yet, you might want to get there before the junior varsity game (6 p.m.) if you want to be witness to the madness.
“It’s turned into a very high energy game against Lake,” Genoa coach Tom Kontak said. “I think that’s because the communities are so close. I think a lot of people know each other, and most importantly, I think the game has had significance as to who wins the SLL title.”
Each team had two league games to play before the showdown, but as of Feb. 11 Lake remained undefeated at 15-0, 9-0 in the SLL, while Genoa was 13-3, 8-1. A Comet victory could mean a co-championship.
Kontak and his counterpart at Lake, Denny Meyer, are savoring the opportunity to play in front of a packed house again.
“It’s unbelievable,” Kontak said. “If we’re still within one game of Lake come next Thursday, I wouldn’t be surprised if they sell it out again.
“It wasn’t that long ago where in girls’ games they only would pull out one side of the bleachers. First of all, we have great support from the student body and from the community that support us each game all year.”
Kontak says there is nothing to hide when talking about how his team will prepare for Lake.
“First of all, Coach Meyer does a great job scouting,” Kontak said. “We’ve been out scouting. I think both teams know each other well enough now, and we’ve studied each other enough to where there really aren’t any secrets. We have the utmost respect for what they’ve done.”
Lake won the first encounter this season, 51-40, with about 1,000 fans present.
“We played really, really good defense that night. We showed that we forced them into 29 turnovers,” Meyer said.
Meyer expects Genoa to be prepared to improve on those numbers by the time they meet again this week.
“I think they’re playing decent. I know they beat Otsego by six points (46-40) Thursday night, which was a good win for them,” Meyer said. “Otsego had just played us real tough the week before.
“They (Genoa) are just consistent all the time. They are going to do all the little things and they will be right there with everybody all the time.”
In addition, Meyer says it has become harder to prepare for Genoa without former Comet Simone Eli, who has gone on to play NCAA Division I basketball at Bowling Green.
“I think with her it made it easier to game plan for them, because going into the game I know we have to stop Simone. Where now, they have five or six players who can score and you don’t have to just stop one of them,” Meyer said.
“I mean, they are playing very good without her. I think they do hurt on handling the ball, like against us having the 29 turnovers. You didn’t get that when you had her handling the ball most of the time.”
Three Comets are averaging in double figures — Jessica Feller (11.9 pts., 5.9 reb.), Julie Swartzmiller (10.5, 2.4 steals), and Alyssa Meis (10 pts., 6.4 reb., 3.4 asst., 2.5 steals).
Meyer has a star of his own — junior Kaysie Brittenham, who has shined brightly on the basketball court since her freshman season. This year, Brittenham leads the SLL averaging 16.1 points along with 5.3 rebounds, 3.3 steals, and two assists and one blocked shot.
Meyer says Brittenham has come a long way since her freshman season.
“I think that she’s maturing and becoming a lot smarter player. I saw a little bit her freshman year,” Meyer said. “I came her sophomore year but I watched them a little bit. I just think that she, being a freshman, tried to do too much and would get herself into trouble. Now, she’s letting the game come to her more.
“She’s scoring for us like we want. Her defense is getting a whole lot better, because that was a big thing with her was her defense. We work her really hard on that and she comes in ready to work real hard to improve on her defense. She’s done a good job with that,” Meyer continued.
“I know she definitely wants to go somewhere and play, but I don’t know if she has gotten a whole lot of offers yet from Division I and II schools. I know she would like to go at least Division II, but I haven’t really heard of anything. She’s going to play AAU this spring and summer, so hopefully she’ll get some good looks during that.”