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Granton girls eager to get on the court to start game action

Granton girls eager to get on the court to start game action Granton girls eager to get on the court to start game action

by Cheyenne Thomas

A season of uncertainty lies ahead for the Granton girls basketball team. As the only high school varsity basketball team hitting the court this year for the Bulldogs, and with low numbers making a possible future COVID shutdown all the more devastating, there is a lot of expectation and speculation in the air. However, the girls remain as determined as ever to play no matter the circumstances.

Jason Strey once again is coaching the girls team, which consists of a healthy mixture of athletes from all grades. Though it lost three seniors to graduation, the team still has 10 players on its squad, keeping consistent with the numbers the girls have seen over the past couple years.

“They (the seniors) will for sure be missed, we had some speed, size and experience there,” said Strey. “However we have a couple quick freshman stepping up and we have a couple other players that are being put into post positions that I feel will do well. One good thing is that it keeps the number of players we have consistent. We don’t have big numbers but we graduate a couple seniors and gain a couple freshman. This at least helps to keep a team going.”

There will be three seniors on this season’s team as well. Makenzie Muraski, Kristin Strey and Joi Riemer will be leading the girls this year and Coach Strey said their experience will be extremely beneficial to the team as they head into the season. They will be the guides and mentors for the younger players and have already begun to fill in that role well.

“They have had three years of experience now and they know what to do to help others,” he said. “But realistically I have seen good leadership from some of the underclassmen as well encouraging each other in practice.”

Jaden Bymers, Megan Walter and Sam Martin will be the juniors on the team. They will be joined by the team’s two sophomores, Abby Woller and Alexis Pongratz, and the team’s two freshmen, Maya McConkey and Anna Kayhart. Each player, Strey said, will be bringing something different to the team and it may take a little time to figure out the right place for each of them.

“We will have some playing new roles and others playing multiple positions for sure depending on who is on the court,” he said. “We are expecting the girls to play as hard as they can and never quit.”

That attitude of never giving up, Strey said, has always been one of the Bulldogs’ greatest strengths. No matter what the score looks like, he said the girls have consistently shown their willingness to continue to play, and he expects this year’s team will continue to practice that virtue.

“I think our biggest strength has been never giving up, ” he said. “The girls have done a good job fighting hard until the end and giving their best. As a coach, that is all we can ask them to do.”

Despite the players’ strong attitude coming into the game, numbers do play a role in basketball, and with Granton only having 10 players on its team, it puts them at a disadvantage. Strey said the Eastern Cloverbelt Conference is a very competitive group, with other schools having better teams with higher numbers, forcing the Bulldogs to have to do more with less.

“As always, the Cloverbelt Conference has some of the toughest teams in the state,” he said. “With limited numbers, it is hard to bring kids up and expect them to play at the varsity level right away Don’t get me wrong, there are some freshmen that can handle that high pace game right away but I do feel that getting some JV time helps build their confidence and comfort level leading up to varsity.”

This year though, Strey expects Granton won’t be the only team struggling with numbers. With the COVID-19 pandemic still going on, he said it will not take much for a team to lose members to sickness and quarantine, and there have already been a few cancelled games due to low numbers and concerns of other schools.

“We have already had a couple games cancelled and some moved because decisions that other schools have made regarding their own requirements,” he said. “I don’t know (what the late season will look like) now, we are just hoping to be able to start playing games.”

Until they are able to start playing games, Strey said the team has been working hard to stay safe and healthy to avoid losing any players. Even losing one player will have an effect on the team, and only time will tell how such a scenario will play out.

“COVID is no doubt making practice difficult,” he said. “It is hard to breathe through a mask when you are working hard, we just make sure they are getting adequate breaks. Extra sanitation is being applied. We haven’t had any games yet so time will tell on how that goes, it seems like things are changing every day. The biggest thing is that the girls want to play so we are going to do whatever needs to be done and manage through it.”

The Granton girls had their first game scheduled to play against Marshfield Columbus on Dec. 1 and their second game against Pittsville on Dec. 3. Their next game is scheduled to be played at Loyal on Dec. 8.

Members of the Granton girls basketball team this year are (front from left) Maya McConkey, Jaden Bymers, Makenzie Muraski, Anna Kayhart, (back) head coach Jason Strey, Sam Martin, Megan Walter, Alexis Pongratz, Abby Woller, Joi Riemer, Kristin Strey, manager Lizzy Reinart and assistant coach Alaina Rojas.