Parkway Christian girls hoops hopes team-first approach leads to second straight district title

By: Jason Carmel Davis | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published December 11, 2012

 The Sterling Heights Parkway Christian girls basketball team returns just one starter from a district title team. Pictured is Eagles senior guard Paige Paoletti.

The Sterling Heights Parkway Christian girls basketball team returns just one starter from a district title team. Pictured is Eagles senior guard Paige Paoletti.

Photo by David Schreiber

This year’s Sterling Heights Parkway Christian girls basketball team looks a lot different from the one that won a Michigan High School Athletic Association Class D district title last season.

Gone from that team, which went 11-10, 6-8 in the Michigan Independent Athletic Conference Red Division, are four starters and the majority of players in the Parkway Christian rotation.

Senior guard Taylor Swarts, a team co-captain, is the Eagles’ lone returning starter. Senior guard/forward Natalee Delicata, a Sterling Heights resident, moves into the starting lineup after serving as the team’s sixth man last year. Senior guard Paige Paoletti, of Fraser, is expected to play a major role in the team’s success, after playing in only six games last year due to injury, according to Parkway Christian coach, Bill Schmidt.

“Being that we’re a small, private school, a lot of times we get 12 players and 12 jerseys. We don’t have a lot of kids coming out like some of the public schools,” said Schmidt, in his 10th year with the Eagles.

“But I think we can play with the bigger high schools. Aside from (scheme and gameplan), continuity is important, and these girls love being on the court together.”

“We all work really well together,” said Swarts, a Roseville resident. “That’s important. You can have a group of talented players that don’t win anything because they’re individuals out on the court. That’s not the case with us. We know how to play together, even though we haven’t played together that long.”

Because of the infusion of new players, including two girls who’ve never played high school basketball, Schmidt has scaled down his offensive approach. Parkway Christian (1-0 at press time) will employ a motion offense, according to Schmidt, that emphasizes two to three passes and two to three cuts. The Eagles’ coach said the team would have the opportunity to freelance on offense, as well.

“We’re running a three-guard lineup because we have more ballhandlers and point guards than bigs,” said Schmidt, adding that he’s found a couple of 3-point threats that may stretch opposing defenses. “We’re also going to work the ‘four out, one in’ set, with four guards and one post player.”

On defense, Parkway Christian will look to force turnovers with a pressing, trapping attack, according to Schmidt. He said he’ll rotate players in and out during the course of each game, in order to keep the trap up for 32 minutes.

“We’ll bring somebody else in if girls get in foul trouble,” Schmidt said. “We’re gonna press a lot. I’d rather a team get a quick lay up than allow them to settle into their halfcourt offense.”

Schmidt said that his approach would likely lead to his team finishing fourth in the eight-team MIAC Red. He said teams like Ann Arbor Greenhills and Lutheran Westland could pose matchup problems because of their size. Schmidt added that playing teams like that prepares his group for the postseason.

“That’s what we want — we want another district championship,” Delicata said. “That’d mean a lot to us to come together with so many new players and be able to accomplish that.”

The Eagles next hit the court for a battle with the Frankel Jewish Academy at 6 p.m. Dec. 11 at Parkway Christian.