North Central girls possess speed, scoring but lack size
POWERS — It’s a new season, but really the same old story for the North Central Jets girls’ basketball team. The Jets have speed and scoring but lack size.
North Central returns sisters Andie Arsenault and Bree Arsenault, who are both more than capable scorers. Andie averaged 12.5 points per game last season as a sophomore, while Bree averaged 10.4 as a junior.
“The Arsenault girls are still here and they put a lot of time in this summer,” third-year Jets’ coach Lee Vincent said. “You can tell they’re going to be our main scorers because they put a lot of time in the gym.”
However, the Jets don’t have a player over 6-foot tall in a Skyline Central Conference that features 6-foot-2 Mercedes Simmons from Forest Park and 6-2 Tessa Wanger from Carney-Nadeau.
“We have to definitely box out. We have to work a lot on that to get the rebounds. We have enough speed, so I think we’re okay that way. Some teams are really tall and that’s going to give us trouble underneath,” said Vincent, who was the Coach of the Year in the SCC last season. “We always plan for who we’re playing — if we have to double-team somebody, we’ll have to do that. The main thing is to keep the big girls off the boards when the other team misses shots. When they’re over 6-foot tall, it’s hard.”
To try and negate their size disadvantage, the Jets aim will aim to play fast and get out in transition as much as possible.
“We have to get the rebound and go on a fastbreak,” Vincent said. “It’s going to be hard to score underneath on most teams — we know that. If we can get our outside shooting down, I think we’ll be fine.”
The Jets went 14-5 in the regular season last year, then made a run to the district final before falling at home to Stephenson. They lost four seniors off that squad, including All-U.P. second team selection Chloe Wells and point guard Jadie Linder.
In order to pick up where they left off, the Jets will have to rely on others to step up.
“We have a few girls that will have to pick it up a little bit — Hailey Pavlat, Alex Neville and Jaiden Fleetwood will all be factors,” Vincent said. “They all can play ball. It’s a well-rounded team. The only thing we’re lacking is height, as usual. They’ve all been practicing really hard and they’ve been in the gym over the summer.”
Neville and Pavlat are both seniors, while Fleetwood is a junior who was the top scorer for a jayvee team that finished second in the conference last season.
“Alex Neville is going to be a decent scorer. I’m going to count on Hailey Pavlat to be more of a scorer than she’s been. She’s left-handed and she’s starting to shoot better. Jaiden Fleetwood was the top scorer on the jayvee team last year. She’ll do some scoring for us, play good defense and get rebounds,” Vincent said.
“Nevaeh Hundsrucker will probably be guarding the biggest player on the other team. She’s got the strength and she’s starting to shoot the ball well, too. Chloe Webber can also shoot and play good defense, and Ava Eichhorn can do the same thing. Talia (LaFave) came from Bark River, but she couldn’t play last year. She played at Bark River as a freshman, and she’s improving a lot.”
Playing in the Skyline Central is tough, which Vincent is well aware of. He believes anybody can beat anybody, and he just wants his team to take it one game at a time.
“I think a lot of teams are going to be pretty equal. There’s a lot of good teams out there this year,” he said. “You’ve got Mid Peninsula, Crystal Falls (Forest Park), Stephenson, Carney, North Dickinson, Rapid River, Munising and Bark River-Harris.
“We just need to focus on going out there and having fun and playing hard. They’ve been practicing hard, so I imagine they’re going to play just as hard. Hopefully, we can do all right during the year.”