TAKE IT HOME — Alena Woodarek pushes the ball up the court, during a match against Depew. Photo by Dave DeLuca.
SPRINGVILLE — It seemed like the Springville-Griffith Institute girls varsity basketball team was about to slip to 0-3 on the season, as the Lady Griffs trailed Depew 36-31 entering the fourth quarter on Dec. 17. However, Springville would score 17 points, in the final frame, to propel them to a 48-46 victory. During that game, 40 fouls were called and 61 free throws were attempted. Springville was able to outscore Depew 11-4 at the foul line, in the fourth quarter.
“Our depth played a role – they have a pretty short bench and I thought we were fresher, in the second half, which allowed us to get a few more turnovers and got them into foul trouble,” said Springville coach Chris Mathewson. “We wanted to slow down their aggressive push in transition and we did a better job of staying in front of them and helping out, when they tried to drive the gaps.”
Last season, Springville used its full-court defense to force steals and get out in transition. The players’ 161 steals led their division. This season, through three games, the Lady Griffs have allowed an average of 49 points, per game. In comparison, in 19 games, last season, Springville allowed the opponents to score 49 points just twice.
“If you ask the girls, we’re always talking defense,” said Mathewson. “Our goal is to get back to that full-court pressure, man-to-man, that can wear people down. Much of defense is based on trust and reliability of five girls reacting together and supporting each other.”
The defensive continuity has been affected by newcomers from junior varsity and injuries. Injuries have taken their toll, early in the season. Absent from the Depew game on the Springville side were two starters and a key reserve, due to injuries. Because of snow days and cancellations, Springville had just one practice in seven days, before taking on Depew.
Mathewson has taken a “no excuses” approach, since the beginning of the season.
“Once you start making excuses for yourself, it’s hard to stop,” said Mathewson. “It’s really just a process that we want to get better at each game, and understand that each game is going to present different challenges to focus on, defensively. The good news is, they are getting better and we just have to keep making it a priority.”
Springville junior forward Jenna Schunke has moved into the starting lineup and has been a quality player in the post, according to Mathewson. Schunke scored 9 points against Depew and held the Wildcats standout forward Sam Wayne to 1 point. Wayne is a four-year varsity player for the Depew team.
“Jenna’s been a strong competitor for us, but, and I mean this in the most positive way – I think she has the potential to be even better, said Mathewson. “She’s a willing competitor, has pretty good focus on what we’re asking her to do and how we’re asking her to play and, most importantly, she’s trying to be reliable for her teammates. She put pressure on [Wayne] defensively, with her ability to run the floor. Fronting the post is not something Jenna’s used to and it takes a lot of physicality and commitment to get in position and she’s worked really hard at it and doesn’t shy away from the physical demands of it.”
Leading Springville in scoring was Alena Woodarek with 14 points. Through three games, Alena leads Springville in scoring, as well as assists and steals.
“Alena and I talk, almost every day, about the mental side of the game and she’s really always open to feedback,” said the coach. “I think she’s trying to recognize different situations and read the defense and react to the opportunities in front of her, rather than having a predetermined idea of what she’s going to do. Her strength with the ball has improved from last year, which allows her to be aggressive and she’s been good with making the assist when it’s there, too.”
Erin Kwiatkowski finished with 10 points against Depew, while Heaven Rollek scored 7.
Springville took on Maryvale on Dec. 20.