Macomb L’Anse Creuse North girls basketball coach Bob Johnston talks with his team during a Jan. 8 win over Fraser High. Johnston, in his 35th year of coaching, said this is the youngest team he’s ever coached.

Macomb L’Anse Creuse North girls basketball coach Bob Johnston talks with his team during a Jan. 8 win over Fraser High. Johnston, in his 35th year of coaching, said this is the youngest team he’s ever coached.

Photo by Sarah Purlee


L’Anse Creuse North girls hoops thriving despite inexperience

By: Jason Carmel Davis | Macomb Township Chronicle | Published January 16, 2019

 Freshman guard Brooke Daniels, left, drives past Fraser High’s Elise Vitale. The Crusaders’ next game is against New Baltimore Anchor Bay at 7 p.m. Jan. 18 at home.

Freshman guard Brooke Daniels, left, drives past Fraser High’s Elise Vitale. The Crusaders’ next game is against New Baltimore Anchor Bay at 7 p.m. Jan. 18 at home.

Photo by Sarah Purlee

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MACOMB TOWNSHIP — Macomb L’Anse Creuse North girls basketball coach Bob Johnston is in his 35th season on the sidelines, and he said this current group is the youngest he’s ever coached.

The Crusaders roster of 12 players includes three freshmen and two sophomores. The backcourt and wing are all freshmen — guards Brooke Daniels and Jekiah Mack, and small forward Olivia Chadwick. Sophomore forward Kelsey Duffey and senior Marissa Casper comprise the rest of the Crusaders’ starting five.

LCN has just three seniors on its roster: guards and captains Alexandra Lavey and Lauren Peraino, along with Casper.

Coming into the season with a young group, the Crusaders were looking to put a down year behind them. The team finished 8-13 overall and 2-8 in the Macomb Area Conference Blue Division last season.

Inexperience hasn’t hurt LCN thus far. At press time, the Crusaders were 7-1 overall and 1-1 in the MAC Blue. LCN’s lone setback through Jan. 10 is a two-point Dec. 18 loss to St. Clair Shores Lakeview — the team that has won the last two MAC Blue titles.

“We got Lakeview early and that hurt us,” Johnston said. “That’s a good team. Our division is tough. There are no off nights. I have to make sure the girls know that, because we are so young. There’s no easy games in the MAC Blue.”

The Crusaders are looking for their first division title since 2013. Johnston would love to raise another banner, but he’s not ready to put that pressure on his young group.

What could bring that goal to fruition is the mental makeup of his team. Johnston noted his squad has a high basketball IQ and plays hard every night.

LCN gives the opposition a variety of looks defensively — from full-court presses to half-court traps and zones. On offense, Johnston preaches patience. The Crusaders so far have been adept at working the ball around and looking for the best possible shot. Players in the half-court, per Johnston’s teaching, don’t hold on to the ball for longer than is absolutely necessary.

“We’re so young that we’ve kind of scaled things back offensively to this point,” Johnston said. “The kids have to learn how to control the game and hold a lead, then we’ll expand the playbook a little bit.”

Johnston is fond of all of his players, but Daniels has shown an ability to be a playmaker on both ends of the floor. In a 35-34 Jan. 8 win over Fraser High, Daniels scored a game-high 14 points — 10 in the second half. She also wreaked havoc on defense, recording at least 10 steals in the game. The defensive play is especially vital, as the Crusaders look to force live-ball turnovers to create extra possessions and fast-break opportunities.

“She’s a kid with a high basketball IQ, and she’s very athletic and skilled,” Johnston said of Daniels. “She’s easy to coach. She wants to learn as much as she can about the game.”

The fast start has LCN close to eclipsing last season’s win total of eight games, but Johnston isn’t focusing completely on wins and losses.

“They’re learning and they’re getting better every day,” the coach said. “You always want to win, of course, but if I see these girls improving every day, that’ll be great.”

LCN’s next game is against New Baltimore Anchor Bay at 7 p.m. Jan. 18 at home.

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