Avondale girls hoops prepping for postseason run

By: Jacob Herbert | Rochester Post | Published February 19, 2019

 Auburn Hills Avondale senior Olivia Russell drives the lane in a recent game against Troy High. At press time, the Yellow Jackets were 14-2 overall and 8-2 in the Oakland Activities Association White Division.

Auburn Hills Avondale senior Olivia Russell drives the lane in a recent game against Troy High. At press time, the Yellow Jackets were 14-2 overall and 8-2 in the Oakland Activities Association White Division.

Photo by Brian Sevald

AUBURN HILLS — Last season, the Auburn Hills Avondale girls basketball team went 17-3 and won a share of the Oakland Activities Association Blue Division title. Though they have a new coach this season, the Yellow Jackets and Bob Lees haven’t skipped a beat.

At press time, Lees’ team was 14-2 overall and 8-2 in the OAA White Division.

Lees said part of the reason the transition has been smooth is due to the work ethic of his new team.

“They like to practice,” he said. “They practice hard. Some of the concepts and things that I use were a little bit of a transition for us, but they’re making an effort to understand it and move forward, and they’re doing a pretty good job.”

Lees came to Avondale after having served as an assistant of the Troy High boys basketball team, under the guidance of coach Gary Fralick. The two keep in touch and talk on the phone a few times per week. Lees, who is in the midst of his 50th year coaching basket ball in a career that has included a stop as an assistant under Greg Kampe at Oakland University, still had lessons to learn from Fralick.    

“The things you can take away from Coach Fralick are I don’t think anybody outworks him,” Lees said. “His preparation and his ability to prepare the kids for not only practice, but for games. That’s a huge takeaway for me.”

Preparation this time of year is key, as the playoffs are just days away. With four games left in the regular season, the Yellow Jackets still have work to do before a March 4 matchup against West Bloomfield High looming in the first round of the Division 1 playoffs.

“I don’t think we guard well enough yet,” Lees said. “I don’t think we play with enough urgency. I don’t think we move the basketball well enough at times. There’s a lot we have to get to. We’ve got four games left, and we’re trying to focus right now on execution and running our stuff more efficiently both offensively and defensively.”

While there is still room for improvement, the Yellow Jackets have plenty of standout players leading the way this season.

Topping the list are seniors Olivia Russell and Keiori Lee. Lees called both players exceptional talents. The Yellow Jackets start two freshmen in Taniah Jackson and Raigan Lawrence, and while both players have made the typical freshman mistakes at times, their development is coming along well.

“Both of them are very talented players,” Lees said.

The only two losses that Avondale has suffered this season were to West Bloomfield. The most recent was a 54-36 setback Feb. 7. Lees said it was due to the inability to focus for a complete 32 minutes. Avondale had led at halftime.

If the Yellow Jackets are to have any success against the Lakers this time around, they will have to correct that while focusing on their strengths.

“I think we shoot the ball pretty well, and we’re starting to move the ball better on offense. Our execution has improved. Defensively, we have length and athleticism, and we try to play full court, so that’s an advantage for us.”

Catch the Yellow Jackets in their last home game of the season when they meet Rochester Adams at 7 p.m. Feb. 26.