Marian rolling right along with nearly same crew as last winter
LIVONIA — Mary Cicerone said she had a sort of coach’s dream last season, even if it came with a few restless moments along the way.
As she worked her Birmingham Marian basketball team through the 2011-12 campaign, she had to do so with equal parts patience and hope.
Patience, in the sense that her younger roster was extremely talented, but learning on the fly.
Hopeful, with the knowledge almost the entire group would be back and playing together again a year later.
It’s now a year later and they are playing, and mostly winning.
“The maturity has certainly been key,” Cicerone said with a laugh. “Usually, when you have this many kids back, you can’t help but be excited as a coach. Now it’s just a matter of putting things together and keeping everyone on the same page.”
That hasn’t been an issue so far.
“Having just about everyone back is very important to what we’re doing,” senior forward Kilyn Bulluck said prior to a Jan. 31 game at Livonia Ladywood. “When the season started, it’s like we hit the ground running. We were ready to go.”
The Mustangs haven’t looked back.
Roughly two hours after Bulluck spoke, Marian rolled to a 49-34 victory against the Blazers. The girls built a 15-9 first-quarter lead, extended it to 30-14 by halftime and cruised the rest of the way.
The win bumped the Mustangs’ record to 14-2 at press time and avenged one of their early season losses.
The only other setback was a 43-39 loss to Dearborn Divine Child — a team Marian beat 62-59 the second time around.
“We knew last year was going to be a growth year,” Cicerone said. “But we also knew that by bringing so many girls back, they had a chance to be that much better. The key was, they decided how much better they wanted to be. They’ve put in the work and had the attitude to do what we’ve needed to do.”
But did she envision taking a 9-14 team from a year ago to a 14-2 squad now?
“When they want to play, they can compete against anyone,” Cicerone said simply.
“I don’t think any of us are surprised with this,” senior guard Natalia Abro said. “The teamwork has been great. We’ve bonded from day one, and just played as a group.”
Fueling the lack of surprise as to how this year has gone, is how last year ended.
Despite the sub-.500 record, Marian caught fire a bit in the playoffs, winning a district title before falling to Stoney Creek in the regional semifinals.
While the main focus for the rest of the regular season centers on a Catholic League title — the Mustangs were 4-2 and a half-game back of DC in the Central Division with one game in hand — there was little hiding the fact that these girls feel like another regional appearance should be just the starting point.
“Getting to the point we did last year is, at least, what we feel we can do,” Abro said, hinting that even the regionals wouldn’t be good enough.
Bulluck did more than hint.
“I want to go all the way to the Breslin,” she said with a smile about the final four in Class A. “We’re good enough to do it. It’s something we’re capable of.”