Lady Golden Eagles clicking in time for championship
Once again the women’s basketball team heads into the late season stretch playing its best basketball of the season and full of chemistry, but still with less respect than it deserves.
This isn’t anything like last season. On paper fans wouldn’t notice it, but in the playbook and on the court this women’s team is much different than last year’s, and early on that caused plenty of chemistry problems. Sloppy offense, defensive breakdowns, miscommunication. Everything that made Cornerstone a success the year before was lacking, and fans wouldn’t have been blamed for giving up on the team.
But after a rocky start, the Golden Eagles have begun to mesh. The same qualities that thrived in last year’s team are beginning to sprout in this year’s team, and Cornerstone is finally starting to make it look easy again thanks to scrappy aggressiveness, smothering defense and timely shooting.
The Golden Eagles have emerged as the WHAC favorites after knocking off Davenport 95-81 on the road. They sit alone atop the conference at 7-1 (17-6 overall), and are one of the hottest teams in the WHAC, winning seven of their last eight games. Any doubt about their post-season potential is shrinking in the rear-view mirror.
“It was probably the biggest part of our conference season to beat [Davenport], because they were at the top, and now we are,” sophomore forward Brooke Carter said. “Now they know what we are about and are going to do, and we just have to do it one more time.”
Cornerstone started the conference season very well at 7-1, and Carter is the X-factor that has turned the team around. While Jenna Plewes is the motor of the team and Kara Overbeek is the brains, Carter is the fuel that makes the engine run. She does everything – rebound, block, score from the post, shoot the mid-range shot, pass. When she gets involved offensively the team does well. But early in the season she was ignored while the team was transitioning to a new offensive system with a guard-based mentality. Now as the team is meshing with the new system, it’s found a vital role for Carter in the post.
“She needed to find her niche in how she would go about scoring and she’s been doing a really good job in the last few weeks,” head coach Carla Fles said. “It’s a matter of if she puts her heart and full effort into it. She’s capable of being a dominating player.”
To add to the mix, the veteran backcourt is shooting well, which will be essential to a deep tournament run. Overbeek drilled three clutch 3-pointers down the stretch in the victory against Davenport, and Tami Thelen was stroking it in a recent win against Siena Heights.
But as Carter said after the Siena Heights game, “Defense comes first.” The Golden Eagles have dominated key possessions with their suffocating defense that forces steals and blocks. When opponents do get shots off they are usually forced, and thanks to the team’s ability to clean up the boards, it plays right into Cornerstone’s hands.
“I am thrilled to be in the position we’re at right now,” Fles said. “With [six] losses, all of those were really close games. We didn’t get blown out. They were against very good teams; a lot of them are currently ranked.”
As well as the Golden Eagles are playing right now, the rest of the season won’t be easy. Cornerstone still plays both Aquinas and Davenport again, and all three will duke it out for the WHAC crown, which will surely be won by a Grand Rapids school.
“I think it’s great for the area for women’s basketball,” Fles said. “The majority of our players are from area high schools, and it’s great to see each of our programs doing so well on the national scene.”
It would also be great to see Cornerstone sweep Davenport this season with a win tomorrow, which would give the Golden Eagles a decisive advantage come tournament time. Fles couldn’t ask for a better birthday present than a win, and a crowd full of students and alumni would be the gift wrapping (icing on the cake).
It’s not too late to be part of what could be a championship season for the women’s basketball team. Sure, you can’t make every game, and maybe you haven’t watched any this season, but you can make this one. The women’s team needs you there, not just for the men’s game, but for their game too. So rip out the back page sign of this newspaper and wave it around at the game, throw on some face paint, grab your friends and come ready to have a blast at homecoming weekend.