Gielczyk: Manistee CC Continues to Make Strikes on the Hardwood
Despite losing in a district semifinal game to county and Western Michigan D League rival Bear Lake, 47-37, last year ended on a much brighter note than the previous two did for the Manistee Catholic Central girls basketball team.
Back-to-back 4-16 seasons left the Sabers with a bitter taste in their mouths, and filled them with a resolve to break above the .500 mark last season, which is exactly what they accomplished with a 12-7 record last season.
Now, though, the burning question on everyone’s mind is … can the Sabers not only repeat that success, but take it a step further by winning a district championship?
It’s still a young team, with three in-coming freshmen — two who were on the varsity all year as eighth graders, and the other who was promoted later in the year — and a pair of in-coming sophomores who head coach Todd Erickson says have all improved and developed their skills from the end of last season.
Riley Feliczak and Jenna Bialik are the only two starters coming back as seniors. A third, Nicole Kaminski, is questionable with a hamstring injury she suffered in the spring. Kaminski played softball and ran track for the Sabers.
But it did give Erickson a chance to use some younger players this summer, and see where they might fit into the picture.
The Sabers tipped off their summer activities with a trip to Northwood University for a one-day shootout. It was new to the players, which added a little spice to it, and assistant coach Scott Schmeling went to school there.
Manistee Catholic was one of just two Class D (or Division 4) schools there, and since they hadn’t been in the gym much before then the Sabers had a challenge learning on the fly.
“You could see that we had a lot of rust in the pipes at Northwood, I guess you could say,” Erickson said. “They hadn’t been playing together much, because they couldn’t get into the gymnasium.
“So, we were behind the 8-ball a little bit compared to the other schools. We used Duffy Park to practice at, and that was tough. There’s not even lines there.
“But, we had baskets, and one of the dads would take a leaf blower and blow off the sand. We did the best we could. But, to see some of the younger ones had growth spurts here and there, and they got better as we played.”
Erickson says the biggest area of concern for the Sabers is the defense. He says the team needs to fine tune the defense if it hopes to have another winning season.
Staying out of foul trouble is a concern for Erickson.
“They play hard, but they have a tendency to get in foul trouble,” Erickson said. “We try to mix up the zone and man-to-man, but our biggest concern right now is to really shore that up.
“We’re looking to play much harder than we what we have been. We’re a year older for the younger ones, and the seniors have the experience so they should be getting the mix better. We want to limit the (shot) attempts for the other team. We just have to play stellar.”
Manistee Catholic’s goal is to keep making forward strides.
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 email@example.com for story ideas.