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Buchtel girls basketball program continues to show improvement

2/28/2013 - West Side Leader
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By Sean Patrick

WEST AKRON — The Buchtel High School girls basketball team’s season ended Feb. 16 with a 58-43 sectional playoff loss to Woodridge High School, but head coach Jerome Nairne said he was pleased with the improvement he saw as the season progressed.

“Our players’ basketball IQ rose significantly over the course of the season. Their understanding of spacing on offense, and how to help each other on defense, helped us win a few games late in the year that earlier in the season we may well have lost,” he stated. “We have started to understand how to use pass fakes and shot fakes to help create passing lanes. However, this is an area we will be spending a great deal of time on this summer.”

Buchtel finished with a 9-13 record overall, including a 7-5 mark in the City Series. Last season, the team was 5-14 and 3-9.

“While our overall record has shown some improvement, we were able to turn around our league record from the 2011-12 season,” he said. “I thought we had a chance to play in the City Series championship game — if we stayed healthy. Unfortunately, we lost three starters for extended periods of time this season, and that really hurt us.”

According to the coach, the strength of this year’s team was its versatility.

“We finished the season down a few players and, as a result, a number of our kids were called upon to play a variety of positions in both practice and the games,” he said. “They did it without complaint and did a great job of learning to play in different roles.”

Nairne said his team received strong contributions from this year’s senior class.

“Daizha Ulmer is our leading scorer, and in the 19 games she played for us this season, she averaged 16.9 points per game,” he said. “Deneesha McMillan was voted the most improved player on our team by her teammates because of the strides she made with her post defense and interior rebounding. Dawnielle Fikes logged significant minutes for us this year at multiple positions and, fortunately for us, the toughness and work ethic she brought to every practice and every game was contagious.”

However, Nairne said, an injury to one of his seniors proved to be a major loss to the team for much of the season.

“Our starting point guard, Ashaunte’ Dent, was one of the players that was hurt this year,” he said. “She missed nine weeks in the middle of the season with an injury. She is the engine that makes our offense go.”

The coach said a trio of juniors stepped up and played key roles for Buchtel this season.

“Paetyn McGuire is our most versatile player, with the skills to play guard and the strength to play the post. She was also our starting point guard for several games when our No. 1 and No. 2 people were not available,” he stated. “Beunca Thomas is also very versatile in that she can play both the point and wing positions with equal effectiveness. We are going to be counting on her heavily next year in both spots. Jenee’ Anderson is a post player that has come a long way this season. Early in the year, she did not understand just how good a player she could be. But as we wrapped up the regular season, we saw what she is capable of when she gets going.”

In addition, Nairne said, this year’s team featured a number of underclassmen who showed plenty of promise.

“We had two sophomores starting for us at the beginning of the year, Marneshia Greer and Tionne El-Amin. Marneshia is a shooting guard who can hit the three-pointer and the driving lay-up with equal effectiveness. Unfortunately, an injury ended her season a few weeks ago. Tionne El-Amin is a guard/forward who was voted our best defender by her teammates, and though only 5-foot-5, she can out-jump almost everyone in the gym,” he said. “Takia Thompson and Chianne Crisp are two other sophomores who played some varsity for us this year and are expected to make important contributions for us over the next two years. And we have two freshmen (guard Tieara Brice and post player Mia Giles) who played enough varsity quarters this year to earn varsity letters. We are expecting big things from them next year at the varsity level.”

Nairne said this season was one he will best remember for the perseverance displayed by his players and his coaching staff.

“This season certainly had its ups and downs. I missed a number of games due to illness and our player injuries cost us at least a couple wins,” he said. “However, through it all, my assistant coaches Darren Dirksen and Christina Ball persevered. They kept the kids on track and did a wonderful job of coaching through the adversity. After the players, they were the real bright spots of the season for me.”

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