Utica Ford II girls basketball coach Matt Joseph talks with his team during a game earlier this season against Troy High. The Falcons have already surpassed last season’s win total.

Utica Ford II girls basketball coach Matt Joseph talks with his team during a game earlier this season against Troy High. The Falcons have already surpassed last season’s win total.

Photo by Sarah Purlee


Utica Ford II girls basketball rebounding from down 2018

By: Jason Carmel Davis | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published January 28, 2019

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STERLING HEIGHTS — This year’s Utica Ford II girls basketball team has already surpassed last season’s overall and divisional win totals, and coach Matt Joseph said the play of the team’s veterans is the biggest reason why.

At press time, the Falcons were 6-5 overall and 2-4 in the Macomb Area Conference White Division. That’s already two more total wins than they recorded all of last season. The team went 1-9 in MAC White play in 2017-18.

“We returned six players who all got a lot of playing time last year, and it was very obvious right from the start that the confidence level and maturity was much improved from last season,” Joseph said.

The improvement is evident on both ends of the floor.

Ford, which over the past 15 seasons has won multiple district titles and won at least 18 games seven times, is scoring more than seven points per game more than last season. Taking better care of the ball is a big reason behind the bump in offensive production, Joseph said.

Though out now with an injury, forward Evgenia Koneva helped bolster the offense. She scored in double figures in three of six games played and recorded at least 10 rebounds in five games. Koneva scored in double digits twice all of last season.

The team is playing at a faster pace this season. That’s been aided by the play of guards Zahra Williams, Kelly Bartlett and Shyla Peters, along with leading scorer Olivia Kubik. Team captain Calise Stepp serves as a calming influence on the floor, Joseph said.

Defensively, the Falcons allow close to six points fewer per game than last season.

“The biggest reason for our improved defense is the reduction in turnovers and a bump in our defensive rebounding,” Joseph said. “We actually played pretty good defense last year, but with so many turnovers, we gave opposing teams too many easy baskets. We’re averaging 13 turnovers per game this year compared to 24 last year. That is a huge difference.”

The team has four MAC White games remaining and would like to remain a factor in the league title chase.

“I think the biggest thing is to continue to limit our turnovers and play within ourselves,” Joseph said. “We will have a tough task with (Koneva) out and (Peters) now out for at least an extended time. Our other players off the bench — like Breann Piechocki, Karlin Stepp and Ava Hacker — will have to step up and fill that void.

“Our goal is to finish in the top four of the White so we can make the MAC playoffs and be playing our best basketball come state tournament time.”

The MAC Red/White tournament takes place Feb. 14-23. District play begins March 4.

Ford’s next game is against Port Huron High at 7 p.m. Feb. 1 on the road.

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