Elliott: Noticing The Rockets’ Red Glare
Don’t look now (OK, go ahead), but the Connotton Valley girls’ basketball team is two weeks away from potentially completing an unbeaten regular season, something that’s never been done at the tiny Bowerstown-based school.
Granted, it’ll be a tough stretch. They’ll have to repeat what they did last year -win two games in the OVAC Class A Tournament – but no one has been able to slow second-year coach Chandra Myers’ club to date.
It’s not like this run came out of nowhere (the Rockets were 15-6 last year), but let’s face it, Connotton Valley hasn’t always been a sports hotbed. It has seven OVAC championships of any kind in its history (Linsly is the leader with 188), and the longest girls’ basketball winning streak, prior to this year, was a nine-gamer in the mid 1990s.
Doesn’t matter. The 27-year-old Myers is writing her own history. She knows what high-level basketball looks like when she sees it, as she played at both Garaway High School and Ohio University.
For the better part of the last three months, she’s seen it.
”The girls are taking their game to a whole new level,” she said. ”It’s them understanding me and my coaching and me getting to know the girls. All of the pieces are falling into place. From where we were last year to this year is a drastic change.”
So who are these soaring Rockets, who were planning to take a 17-0 record into McMechen on Monday night before the freezing weather changed those plans?
Well, it’s a group of mostly juniors and seniors, led by the OVAC’s newest member of the 1,000-point club in junior forward (yes, junior) Olivia Bower.
Because of that, Bower may grab the headlines, but Myers says this is a team in every way.
”They’ve all stepped up,” she said.
The point guard is senior Piper Edie, known primarily as a defensive stopper, but her court awareness on offense sometimes allows her to slip a beach ball through a doughnut hole.
”She’s a spark for our team,” Myers said.
Junior guard Chandice Cottis has flourished of late. Brynlynn Delknap is a senior post player who is not afraid to get inside and get physical, the coach said. She has an array of moves around the basket and poses as a nightmare for opposing players trying to show off theirs.
Junior guard Taylor Russell, too, is said to have upped her game in recent weeks.
”Everyone’s turning it up lately,” Myers said. ”They’re kind of relieving the pressure of ‘Liv.’ It’s really helped that they’re all playing together. Our team is so balanced lately. It takes everyone clicking on all cylinders to do well.”
The top two off the bench are Aubri Jones, a junior guard, and Kylie Manbeck, a junior forward.
It’s a defense-first mentality, a change from the previous coaching staff at CV. Most of these players learned pushing the ball on offense was the way to get it done during their freshman seasons.
”I think defense creates offense,” Myers said.
All of this winning creates interest. Sparse crowds have turned into near sellouts and everyone in the community is climbing on board and giving these Rockets a little more of a red glare.
”It really gets the girls going,” Myers said. ”They get excited about having that support behind them. It’s been great.”
That’s something. This is a school that once had so few football players, coaches were going door-to-door to recruit.
Suddenly, they’re heavy favorites to win back-to-back OVAC tourneys and make some serious noise in the Ohio playoffs.
”The OVAC is nice step in the right direction,” Myers said. ”Our ultimate goal is to use that to carry into the sectional. They are big games to get us ready.”
An unbeaten season isn’t something they’ve been overly concerned with.
”It’s not something we really talk about,” she said. ”We just want to keep working really hard. In the end, we’re playing to get through the state tournament, so we want to get a sectional win, and championship.”
Jim Elliott can be reached via e-mail at: email@example.com