Girls' Basketball: Led by a dominant center and a bevy of veteran talent, P-C should compete for RVC title
By BRANDON HURLEY
With a ridiculous amount of returning experience and talent at their disposal, how the Paton-Churdan girls’ basketball team handles pressure will ultimately dictate whether or not the Rockets can compete for a conference title this winter.
Possessing one of the state’s best centers and the Rolling Valley Conference’s most prolific long-range offense is a good start. But, limiting turnovers and breaking a defensive pressure is also key, an area head coach Tom Kennedy believes could be P-C’s kryptonite.
“I would really like to see us take a jump in lowering our turnovers and take care of the ball better,” the coach said. Handling pressure can mean the difference between competing for the conference crown or finishing short, yet again. Often in Class 1A girls basketball, the faster, more aggressive press can sudden a less superior offensive team crashing to the ground. Kennedy wants his girls to embrace the defensive pressure, finding a way to slice through the various schemes while also inflicting a bit of pain on their opponents as well.
“The team that wins the title is a pressing team. We will have to be able to handle the pressure,” the coach said. “We can compete with anybody if we limit our turnovers. When turnovers happen, the other team gets easy buckets. I think that is the key.”
Regardless of P-C’s prior ball-handling issues, there is plenty of excitement surrounding a basketball squad returning its entire roster from a 15-win season a year ago, tying their highest win total over the past decade.
The Rockets are trying to become the first P-C team to win more than 15 games in at least 15 years. They certainly have the talent and experience to do so. The northeastern Greene County squad possesses perhaps the best player in the Rolling Valley Conference in center Danielle Hoyle while the Rockets also connected on 142 three-pointers at a 32.2 percent clip, attempting 170 more deep balls then the season prior. That offensive shift, Kennedy said, can be attributed to a natural growth in ability and a willingness to not only step back and shoot the three, but also due to Hoyle’s presence on the inside, spreading things out.
“I think they got a little more confident, they matured more and it was an easier shot for them,” Kennedy said. “Hopefully we get a little better than that. Danielle opens that a little bit too, with all the focus on her it allows our shooters to get open.
Hoyle’s interior dominance is nearly unrivaled, having tallied 1,059 career points in just three seasons. She’s also blocked 269 career shots while hauling in 692 career rebounds, bolstered by a career-best 270 boards. Not to mention, the towering center is coming off a career year in which she led the RVC in scoring (18.3ppg), shooting percentage (62.4 percent) and blocks (105).
The soon-to-be four year starter was named to the Iowa Print Sports Writer’s Class 1A all state third after leading the Rockets to 15 wins.
She was top 10 in 1A in four different categories – scoring, rebounding, blocks and field goal percentage, clearly earning the right to be named to the elite team.
Certainly, as Hoyle goes, so does Paton-Churdan’s chance at success. Kennedy has witnessed the senior grow from simply an imposing defensive presence to an athlete with a well-rounded and complete offensive game.
“She’s a lot better shot and a lot more confidence in her ability,” Kennedy said. “She’s developed her rebounding and is a really smart player with really good instincts.”
Hoyle’s defensive prowess is really what sticks out. She’s maintained her stranglehold as one of Iowa’s premier shot-blockers her entire career, producing a 1A-best 105 blocks last winter (a career-best 4.4 blocks per game), which was also the third most deflections in the state, across all classes.
There’s much more to her momentum-shifting deflections than simply having exceptional height, Kennedy said. Shot-blocking is an art form, the coach said.
“She really has a good sense of when people are going to shoot,” the coach said. “She’s really good at swatting it without making contact with the offensive player.”
If the Rockets hope to make a run at Exira-EHK after the Spartans ran the RVC gauntlet with a perfect 16-0 record a season ago, they’ll need to shore up the turnovers and learn how to break a press. Kennedy doesn’t want his Rockets relying on Hoyle’s height to navigate their way through, rather using her as a weapon on the opposite end of the floor, where she’ll likely be matched up with a smaller defender. He hopes the Rockets can get the ball in the hands of veteran point guard, Carmyn Paup, who made 33 three-pointers a year ago. Paup will be joined by Tessa Steimel, who drained a career-best 50 three-pointers last winter, in addition to guard Chloe Berns, owner of 38 long balls as well. The three-pronged backcourt should provide a high-quality press break.
“We just have to make better decisions off our first pass,” Kennedy said. “If we can leave Danielle at the other end, that leaves her more one on one. I think we’ve matured. Carmyn is a better ball handler this year and she’ll make good decisions.”
The Rockets open the 2020-21 basketball season on the road Dec. 1 against Ar-We-Va. P-C’s home-opener is set for Friday, Dec. 4 against Glidden-Ralston at the high school gym in Churdan.