L’Anse Creuse North coach Bob Johnston addresses his team during a timeout in a game earlier this year. Johnston has served as the LCN coach for 10 seasons in a career that has lasted more than three decades.

L’Anse Creuse North coach Bob Johnston addresses his team during a timeout in a game earlier this year. Johnston has served as the LCN coach for 10 seasons in a career that has lasted more than three decades.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes


Sirut and Speed guiding young LCN team

By: Timothy Pontzer | Macomb Township Chronicle | Published February 14, 2018

 Macomb L’Anse Creuse North senior guard Nysha Speed brings the ball up the floor during a contest earlier this season. Speed serves as a team captain along with fellow senior Hailey Sirut.

Macomb L’Anse Creuse North senior guard Nysha Speed brings the ball up the floor during a contest earlier this season. Speed serves as a team captain along with fellow senior Hailey Sirut.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

MACOMB TOWNSHIP — Last season, the Macomb L’Anse Creuse North girls basketball team went 12-11 overall and finished 5-5 in the Macomb Area Conference Blue Division.

From that group, Crusaders coach Bob Johnston estimates he graduated over 70 percent of his offense, losing three starters.

“No question about it, this is a transition year,” Johnston said after a Feb. 5 practice. “You can get away with being young and you can get away with just being inexperienced, but when you’re both, we kind of knew what was going to happen. It’s been a bit of an uphill battle.”

At press time, LCN was 5-11 overall and 3-8 in the Blue. The club had won three of its past five contests, and Johnston praised his roster for never taking a day off.

“With this particular group, I always feel good about coming to practice,” Johnston said. “This is a group that works their tail off every single day.”

Johnston believes that mindset has been passed down from his two seniors. Center Hailey Sirut and guard Nysha Speed are the two elder statesmen and fill a vital role in Johnston’s program.

“They’ve done a tremendous job. A ton of credit goes to them for the team staying together and staying positive,” Johnston explained. “They’ve seen the kids in the past have success, and we’ve tried to build it that way where you just pass the torch from senior to senior to carry that responsibility. … They understood what might happen this year, but that didn’t deter them.”

Sirut said that she and Speed relish their roles.

“As our high school careers come to an end, we just want to give it all we’ve got and hold nothing back,” Sirut said. “We hope to leave a positive impact on the younger players. We work hard to be the best role models we can be for future captains.”

Speed agreed, saying she has forged close bonds with both Sirut and the younger players she has helped guide.

“I’m glad I’m ending my high school career with such a great group of friends,” Speed said. “(Sirut) and I have made it all the way through together. I’ve established friendships that will last forever. I love being a leader because I’m able to teach the girls how to work with each other, and I know I’ve influenced them on and off the court.”

For both team captains, positive reinforcement has been a major tool this season.

“To help guide the group, I’ve made sure that they believe in themselves, and I’ve made sure that they not only depend on me but their teammates as well,” Speed said. “I’ve made sure they know that we’re all equals and have plenty of things to work on.” 

Sirut echoed that mindset, using a personal hardship she overcame as an example for the underclassmen.

“I personally ran into a pretty large obstacle having back surgery, which discouraged me for a period of time, and I think that helps me a lot to impact the underclassmen,” she said. “I know that anything is achievable from what I’ve been through, and I believe that is a good message to pass on to everyone.”

Sirut said the personal connection between herself and Speed has made it easy to serve as co-captains.

“My relationship with (Speed) is one of the strongest relationships I’ve had with a teammate,” Sirut said. “We’ve been playing sports together for around five years now. Outside of basketball we compete in track and field. (Speed) is our rock on the court, and I couldn’t lead the team the way I do without her help and constant positivity.”

As the season hits its final stretch, Johnston said he’s not worrying about wins or losses.

“We’re concerned about building character and developing our younger program,” he said. “(Sirut) and (Speed) are key to that, so I’m very, very appreciative of them.”