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Falcons’ success comes in many forms, and players are fine by that

By: Mike Moore | Farmington Press | Published January 26, 2011

 Farmington junior Cherrish Willis lets go of a jump shot during a Jan. 20 win at Royal Oak. The Falcons were 7-3 overall and 6-0 in the Oakland Activities Association Blue Division and alone in first place at press time.

Farmington junior Cherrish Willis lets go of a jump shot during a Jan. 20 win at Royal Oak. The Falcons were 7-3 overall and 6-0 in the Oakland Activities Association Blue Division and alone in first place at press time.

Photo by Deb Jacques

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FARMINGTON — There have been nights when Cherrish Willis seemed to score at will.

There have been other nights where the third or fourth player off the bench has outscored her while she instead concentrated on handing out assists, playing lock-down defense or being the team’s most vocal cheerleader from the sideline.

As long as the result in both instances is the same, Willis has no problem with the journey to it.

“I don’t care if I don’t score one point or I have to go out and score 30. As long as we win, that’s all that matters to me and anybody else on this team,” the Farmington High junior said after a Jan. 19 practice. “As long as we’re winning, we’re happy.”

Quite simply, that’s been the attitude and strength of the Falcons’ attack this season. Monday night’s hero may be Tuesday night’s role player.

“That’s the make of a good team,” coach Dave Browne said. “These girls don’t worry about who’s scoring or how many minutes they get from one game to the next. They understand situations. They understand our depth is an advantage, and whatever they need to do individually to win, they’re more than willing to do so.”

Roughly half way through the season, that approach has certainly worked.

At press time, the Falcons were 7-3 overall and 6-0 in the Oakland Activities Association Blue Division, alone in first place.

Depth has been the squad’s calling card, but the overall maturation of the team has been just as essential. A year ago, the Falcons were 10-12 and just 7-7 in the Blue. But when camp broke this past fall, seven girls were back and a couple of key additions, including Willis, a transfer from Lathrup Village Southfield-Lathrup, worked themselves seamlessly into the fabric of the team.

The key to all that, said Browne, was his girls’ commitment in the offseason.

“We did a ton of work, a lot of work,” he stressed. “Whether it was camps or scrimmages, or whatever, they really put in the effort to get better and build up that basketball IQ that seemed to be missing at times last year.”

“That was huge,” Willis echoed. “To get to know these girls, and the way they welcomed me and the overall way we seemed to come together as a team was just awesome.”

It also provided some much-needed confidence heading into the start of the season, especially after the Falcons dropped their first two games by a total of six points.

There was no panic. Instead, the girls rallied around one another and subsequently went on a six-game winning streak, one that included victories by the narrowest of margins — 47-45 against Berkley High —and others, like a 42-19 victory against Bloomfield Hills Lahser, that were over by halftime.

“I don’t think we’re surprised at how well we’re playing,” senior Lida Baur said. “We put in so much work this offseason and gained so much experience from last season. We knew what we had coming in.”

Asked if he was surprised at all, Browne shrugged, saying, “maybe a little.”

“I would have been more surprised if we weren’t right in the race,” he added.
Yet they are, and leading the pack thanks in large part to chemistry, experience and especially, depth.

Through 10 games, senior Aaron Howell was the team’s leading scorer with a 12.9 points-per-game average. Willis was a close second with 11.9. After that, five different girls averaged anywhere between 4.4 and 5.7 points per game.

“We take pride in having each other’s back,” Baur added. “We can’t get cocky about it and we haven’t won anything yet, but we feel like we’ve got a group that’s capable of accomplishing the goals we set out to do.”
 

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