Gielczyk: No Break for Manistee CC

Now that the season is over with a 65-39 loss to Pentwater in the Class D district quarterfinals at Mason County Eastern on Monday night, and the gym isn’t being used for anything else, Manistee Catholic girls basketball head coach Todd Erickson made a call to the MHSAA to see if he could use his varsity players to help with a youth camp.

The idea is to run a camp for girls in the second, third and fourth grades first, then one for fifth through seventh that would run on three consecutive Saturdays.

Reaching out to the younger girls is one way Erickson hopes to address the program’s growing issue with a lack of numbers, without a junior varsity team to allow freshmen and sophomores to be better prepared to take the next step.

The Sabers went 16 straight weeks without a full team to practice, which made it impossible to do much more than work on shooting drills with the girls.

But, the Sabers, who finished 4-16, never had any problem with eligibility issues. The girls were sound academically, and all of them maintained good grades throughout the season.

With only eight girls on the roster, sickness and injury plagued the team from the first day of practice until the last night.

It drove Erickson at one point to express his frustration at what he felt was a lack of commitment from the girls. The team held a players only meeting, and re-dedicated themselves to the sport.

The Sabers won their last two games of the regular season, averaging 54 points a game, and came into the district tournament holding high hopes of pulling off an upset against Western Michigan D League champion Pentwater.

After staying with the Falcons throughout the first half, and a good part of the third quarter, the Sabers finally fell victim to fatigue and faded in the fourth period.

Despite the loss, Erickson was encouraged by the emergence of sophomore Rylee Feliczak, who led all scorers for the night with 21 points.

“The last four and a half weeks, they’ve all, I thought, notched up a bit,” Erickson said. “In each game, I thought we did better things, both as a team and individually.

“I thought the last three games especially, Rylee has emerged. As I told her, ‘I really don’t think there’s anybody in the district that can stay with you because you are so ambidextrous.’

“She’s left hand and right hand, and she does a great job with it. We worked very hard on elbow and box, catch, spin and look. Boy, she really took it to heart that night (against Pentwater).”

Nicole Kaminski, another sophomore, and Feliczak also stepped in front of a couple of passes out front on the Pentwater weaver to score at the other end on layups.

“I thought the two of them played a pretty darn good game,” said Erickson. “We still had a few mistakes in areas. All the kids did. Nicole didn’t miss a practice, and stayed over for extra shooting.

“When you get one kid doing it, you hope next year you can get a few more kids doing it. We let the kids decide how long they want to stay. On the most part, Nicole would come in and ask ‘Coach, can I get in 20 minutes to a half hour extra tonight?’ We said ‘Sure, we’ll hang around.'”

One of Erickson’s assistants, Phil Johnson, spent a lot of time working with Kaminski on her shooting from last year to this. Kaminski has especially improved her 3-point shot.

It’s a matter of confidence.

“Now, I want her, Jenna (Bialik) and Natalie (McLinden) especially  … when they get it swung back to them, I want the confidence with them that they know they need to take the shot,” Erickson said.

“I don’t mean a heave. I mean, it’s got to be a shot. That’s what I’m looking at for those kids. It’s all growing pains. We keep trying.”

The Sabers lose seniors Sarah Bialik, Samantha Wilkosz and Elizabeth Nelson. All accepted their roles, and were major contributors after improving from last year.

Improving the numbers will be a problem for Manistee Catholic, which has an enrollment of just 44 students in the high school. There were no girls in the junior class, and just one or two in the freshman class, and neither of them play.

Erickson said there are five girls in the eighth grade class, but he’s not sure if they’ll all ready to take that next step to the varsity.

“You really have to evaluate that over the summer, and see what’s best for those kids,” Erickson said. “If they’re not ready to make the jump that we had to do before, then we’re going to have to come up with a good scenario.

“Because you want those kids to progress, but not get overwhelmed and say ‘This isn’t for me.’ But, you never know what could happen. We might put together a junior varsity program, if the school wants to go in that area.

“I think it’s something we need to look at, just to keep our programs going.”

Greg Gielczyk is an award-winning sports columnist and sportwriter who worked a total 36 years — interrupted for an 18-month period from 1997-99 — at the Manistee News Advocate as sports editor until 2006 and is now retired. He currently is a freelance sportswriter for the Ludington Daily News. Gielczyk can be reached at ggielczyk@jackpine.net for story ideas. 

Categories: Girls Basketball