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December 18, 2013

Young Parkway Christian girls basketball team learning on the fly

By Jason Carmel Davis
C & G Sports Writer

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The Sterling Heights Parkway Christian girls basketball team will look to pick up a win when it travels to take on Newport Lutheran South in a battle set for 7 p.m. Jan. 7. Pictured is Eagles sophomore Sarah Schmidt, left, during a Dec. 10 matchup against Huron Valley Lutheran.

STERLING HEIGHTS — Sterling Heights Parkway Christian girls basketball coach Bill Schmidt has seen each of his last four teams win at least 10 games and finish above .500, including a 2011-12 team that won a Class D district title.

Schmidt said he set a goal to continue that streak, but recognizes it will be tough early on due to the inexperience of this year’s squad.

Parkway Christian returns four players from last year’s team, which went 10-10. None of those returning players have any experience as starters, the coach said, and two players have never played high school basketball.

“We’re a really young, inexperienced team. We’re just trying to learn how to play together,” said Schmidt, whose team sat at 0-2, 0-1 Michigan Independent Athletic Conference Red Division at press time.

“There was a huge difference at the start of practice between the players who were already sound,  fundamentally, and those who weren’t, which put us behind early on, so we’ve really got a steep learning curve right now.”

Schmidt said his team did not play well in its first game Dec. 5 against Inter-city Baptist, missing shots and making a number of mistakes. He said he could see improvements from game one to game two, even though the Eagles fell by four to Huron Valley Lutheran Dec. 10.

Schmidt takes solace in the final margin because Parkway Christian committed 24 turnovers in the Dec. 10 contest and, he said, did not handle a press well.

“Obviously, we’ve got some work to do on breaking a press,” Schmidt said.

“We’re two games into a 20-game season. They’ll figure things out. Very rarely do you win a game or even stay in a game with that high a number of turnovers. So if you take away all those turnovers, we probably win that game.”

Junior co-captain Francessa Delicata, one of three captains along with seniors Kim Declaire and Casey Zoppa, said the trio has taken to becoming leaders on the Parkway Christian team. She said all three played on the varsity team last season and learned how to lead from last year’s seniors.

“Now, we think we can lead like they did and help the younger players get used to varsity basketball,” Delicata said.

Delicata is one of eight Parkway Christian players who are classified as guards. Schmidt said his team does lack size but makes up for that with speed. He said the Eagles would utilize a motion offense, which emphasizes multiple passes and multiple cuts.

Schmidt also said the team would employ a four-high zone offense, which sees the point guard set up at the top of the key, while the four other offensive players set up at the free throw line against a zone defense. The main objective is to force the back-line zone defenders to make some tough decisions about what areas and players to guard.

Through good floor spacing, smart passing, quick cuts, solid screens and continuous ball movement, the offense should be able to find some holes in the zone and get a look at high-percentage scoring opportunities.

Schmidt said he has a 5-foot-11-inch sophomore — forward/center Sarah Schmidt — who is developing into a nice post player. She pulled down 10 rebounds in just her second game as a varsity player.

Schmidt also said he wants to use his team’s speed to run opposing teams out of the gym.

“The biggest thing, since we’re playing 10 girls, is that their fitness is there,” Schmidt said. “Them being so healthy is going to pay dividends for us down the road.”

The depth will allow the Eagles to press on defense, Schmidt said. He said his players are working on improving that attack and admitted it is a bit sloppy right now.

“I think the style we play works for us because we’re constantly getting fresh bodies on the court, and that’s helping us beat other teams (down the court),” Zoppa said. “What we lack in size, we make up for with conditioning and speed.”

Schmidt said his goal is to turn defense into easy offense so his team doesn’t have to worry about a halfcourt offense, but they’re not to that point yet.

Even with the roster turnover, Schmidt said his goal is to win the MIAC Red. He said the league is wide open, and he thinks his team will finish in the upper half of the league with a chance to win the division at the end.

“But with this young of a team, if we don’t play perfect some nights, we’re not going to be in games,” Schmidt said. “We don’t have the type of team that is  going to go out and blow teams out.

“But if we can stay competitive enough and play strong, I think we can be close enough in the fourth quarter to steal some games.”

Parkway Christian next hits the court for a game with Newport Lutheran South, set for 7 p.m. Jan. 7 at Lutheran South.

You can reach C & G Sports Writer Jason Carmel Davis at jdavis@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1107. Twitter Follow Jason on Twitter.