Sterling Heights Parkway Christian’s Rebecca Shea takes a shot in a win over Clinton Township Clintondale earlier this season. The Eagles have rebounded after a slow start to the season.

Sterling Heights Parkway Christian’s Rebecca Shea takes a shot in a win over Clinton Township Clintondale earlier this season. The Eagles have rebounded after a slow start to the season.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

Parkway Christian girls hoops on upswing

By: Jason Carmel Davis | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published February 6, 2020

STERLING HEIGHTS — The Sterling Heights Parkway Christian girls basketball team has been on a roll since the start of the new year, and coach Joe Malburg sees mental toughness as a big reason for the squad’s success.

“We’ve matured significantly as the year has gone on,” said Malburg, whose team was 8-6 overall and 5-2 in the Michigan Independent Athletic Conference Red Division at press time. “Early in the season we would get frustrated when our shots didn’t fall, and we let it affect our energy level, which in turn impacted our defense negatively.

“We’re a team that relies on our defense to win games, and that requires a very disciplined mental approach. We had to develop that mental toughness before we could maximize our potential on the court.”

Defense has played a major role in the team’s current run.

Since the start of the new year, the Eagles have won six of seven games by an average of 17.8 points per game. The team has allowed only 19.1 points per contest in those six wins.

The run comes after Parkway Christian, second in the MIAC Red to 8-0 Whitmore Lake High, dropped five straight before the holiday break, allowing 47.8 points per game in that stretch.

The great improvement on defense, Malburg said, comes from increased effort and continuity on the court.

“The girls have to work extremely hard and have to be on the same page and communicating with each other at all times for our defense to work,” said Malburg, whose team has forced close to 25 turnovers a game this season. “It takes a lot of pressure off of our offense. Our goal is to exhaust (the opposition) physically and mentally with a variety of full-court press looks and force teams into low-percentage shots in the half court.”

Veterans — most notably senior captains Rebecca Shea and Madelyn Turner — lead the team.

Shea, first team All-MIAC last season, has led the team in scoring and rebounding the last two seasons. Malburg called Shea a versatile offensive player and the anchor of the defense.

Turner, the team’s starting point guard, is the team’s leader on and off the floor. Her value can’t be measured in stats alone, Malburg said. Turner routinely guards the opposing team’s best ball handler and makes it hard for other teams to pressure the Eagles because of her own skills with the ball.

Eagles seniors Mikayle Collins and Jina Middleton, and sophomore Caroline Schalf have also made major contributions, Malburg said.

Both MIAC Red losses were to Whitmore Lake, meaning the Eagles have a slim chance of winning the league. Given the team went winless in the league last season, Malburg is happy to have the team back in contention.

The coach admits the team has already accomplished a number of the goals it set at the outset of the season. Now he wants to have his squad finish the regular season strong and put itself in the best position to win a district title.

The Eagles host their Division 4 district and welcome in Chesterfield Austin Catholic, New Haven Merritt Academy, Marine City Cardinal Mooney, and Warren Michigan Math and Science.

“I believe we have a team good enough to win (a district title),” Malburg said. “However, we also understand that our margin for error is very slim and that we cannot take anything for granted.  Our attitude all season has been that we have to outwork you to beat you, and we understand that is especially true in the postseason.”