The Wilcox varsity basketball team is facing an extremely tough challenge early on this season. Not only did the team lose three key seniors to graduation last spring in Anna Neeley, Stacey Klassen and Ellen Collins, but twin sophomores from last season, Maison and Hali’a Yee, transferred to Lynbrook. On top of losing five of their seven best players from last season, four-year starting captain point guard Elise Corwin has missed most of the preseason as she recovers from a concussion. That has left the onus on returning players, like Natalie Getz and Amanda McDowell in particular, to take on bigger roles.
In Wednesday’s 56-49 loss, spectators could see exactly how both players have been able to grow their games, as they helped lead their squad to force overtime after trailing by eight early in the second half.
Getz, who was mostly known for her defensive prowess in years past, was the primary ball handler for the Chargers in the overtime loss against Piedmont. Trailing 23-15 in the third quarter, it was Getz who scored six of the eight points for the Chargers’ 8-0 run to tie the score back up at 23-23.
“We said at the beginning of the season for all of our returners that roles were going to be enhanced,” remarked Chargers Head Coach Justin Fujihara. “People are going to have to expect a bit more from you at either end, whether it’s to handle the ball or create opportunities for us on offense. Also, defense is a big part of our success, so our returners need to stress that message that we know how to defend and rebound. With Elise being gone, Natalie and Olivia [Corwin] have had to handle a lot of the ball handling responsibilities.”
“Olivia and I have been bringing the ball up more with Elise out, and a bunch of us have stepped up leadership-wise,” acknowledged Getz on the changes while missing the captain. “She is a big player to fill that gap and she’s been out for a while recently. She’s a huge part of our team.”
Along with Getz and Olivia Corwin handling the ball as guards, McDowell has expanded her responsibilities from her center position by taking more outside shots. Against Piedmont, McDowell went three-for-four shooting mid-range jumpers, including a buzzer-beating shot to end the third quarter.
“I have not hit a buzzer beater like that before, especially in a girl’s face,” joked McDowell with a big smile after the game. “That felt really nice.”
McDowell also showed incredible vision throughout the game, finding Corwin cutting into the lane multiple times in the fourth quarter, as well as firing cross court to Kathy Tran, setting up some wide open three-point shots.
“She’s become a very good pressure release for us, whether that’s getting the ball in or up the floor,” chimed coach Fujihara on McDowell. “Again, not having Elise, those are things that we need to have. She’s had to step out a little bit around the perimeter and not stay so much around the paint or the rim. It definitely adds more if she can knock down a few shots like that and her passing ability that she showed as well.”
The eventual overtime loss drops the Chargers’ record to 1-6. They will partake in the Del Mar John Araujo Memorial Tournament after Christmas before opening up league play against some familiar Lynbrook faces on Friday, Jan. 3.