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December 11, 2013

Liddane leading youthful Norsemen

Young North roster showing early progress this season

By Thomas Franz
C & G Sports Writer

» click to enlarge «
Grosse Pointe North’s Maria Liddane takes a shot over a Sterling Heights defender during a game Dec. 3. Liddane finished the game with a double-double — 13 points and 10 assists.

GROSSE POINTE WOODS — With only three seniors on this year’s varsity roster, the girls basketball team at Grosse Pointe North will be experiencing a bit of a youth movement, but senior Maria Liddane will help to steady the team throughout the season.

In North’s opening-night contest against Sterling Heights, Liddane scored 13 points and had 10 assists to lead the Norsemen to a 50-32 victory Dec. 3.

Liddane, who committed to playing basketball at American University last week, is a captain, and she said she is embracing her role as a leader.

“I just reassure everyone that you’re going to make mistakes and it’s all part of moving from JV to varsity. Everyone has been there, playing varsity for the first time, so it’s a lot of reassuring that it’s OK to mess up and to just make up for it on the defensive end,” Liddane said.

The defensive side of the ball appears to be where North will set itself apart from the competition, while its young players continue to improve their offensive skills. North featured its typical hard-nosed, man-to-man defense against Sterling Heights to make the Stallions become stagnant when they had the ball.

Because North plays primarily a man defense, the Stallions did initially provide a challenge by playing zone on their end defensively. North’s offense got off to a slow start, but once Liddane and her teammates got comfortable, the Norsemen were able to pull away.

“Our defensive mentality is always hard, full-court man-to-man throughout, generally speaking, but we expected a zone because that’s what they did to us last year, and we prepared for that. We really moved the ball well and read the defense pretty well today,” Liddane said. “We might have struggled last year a little more with the zone, but this year, we are already looking good just after the first game.”

Senior forward Jayla Hubbard added 12 points and five rebounds for North, while sophomore Erin Armbruster scored nine points and collected seven rebounds in the Sterling Heights game.

North coach Gary Bennett said that although his team may have had some nerves to start the game, it showed off the progress they have made in practice already.

“I was happy with the ball movement; I thought we finished better tonight than we did almost all of last year. I was just happy because the kids have been coming to practice eager to learn and, from the first day of practice to now, we’ve improved quite a bit, so that makes me happy,” Bennett said. “I thought that, in the first quarter, that we had a lot of good scoring opportunities that we didn’t score on, but then we started to loosen up. I think a lot of that was just nerves.”

In total, North has five girls back from last year’s team, so it will be up to Bennett to prepare the new group of players for a higher level of play on the varsity team.

“We have those younger kids who didn’t get a whole lot of time tonight, but they have to get accustomed to the varsity level of play. I have a bunch of really nice kids who are coming to practice eager to learn, and as a coach, that’s what you want,” Bennett said.

Following North’s victory against Sterling Heights, the Norsemen fell to Marian on Dec. 5. North will continue its preconference schedule with a game at Plymouth-Canton on Dec. 12.

You can reach C & G Sports Writer Thomas Franz at tfranz@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1040.