February 2020 ROAR

jeanniegregory

Coverage of Rockford athletics at all levels.

Of the 12 games, the Rams were tested the most in their

game against Mona Shores. The Sailors gave the Rams a huge

test, but the players showed they were up for it. It was a 35-

34 double overtime victory. It was an exciting game, to say

the least. The Rams leading scorer, Kara Higgins, averaged

17 points per game heading into the game. Through the first

32 minutes of the game and 7 minutes and 53 seconds of two

overtime periods, the Sailors had shut her down. Kara hadn’t

scored a point. The Rams were looking at the wrong end of

a 34-32 score, when with just seven seconds left on the clock

Kara knocked down a huge 3-point shot for the Ram win.

“To answer your question about what made this game different,

our top scorer wasn’t scoring,” shares Graves. “That

made everyone have to dig that much deeper. It was our best

TEAM game of the season so far.”

Graves points to help from his assistants Bri Young and

Katie Lanzski as one of the keys to his team’s success. Young

is an RHS grad and a former Rams basketball player. She is a

medical assistant in Zeeland and focuses on the team’s offense.

Lanzski role is to focus on the defense. She played basketball

in high school for Adrian and is a Spanish teacher at the Rockford

Freshman Center.

“Both have great basketball minds,” he shares. “I couldn’t

do this without them.”

Graves likes how every girl on the team not only knows

their role for success, they embrace it. He is grateful for every

one of them.

Kara Higgins is still the team’s top scorer, averaging just under

14 points per game. Laura Millan is the team’s point guard

and second leading scorer. Laura is an exchange student from

Spain and only in Rockford for one year.

“She plays a fast and crazy game, we’ve had to get used to

how she learned to play in Spain,” says Graves.

The Rams’ leading rebounder is Bri Rodriquez, and their

two wing players are Emily Obenauf and Julia Wildman.

“They are both used to playing as post players and I have

asked them to move to the wing this year,” explains Graves.

“Emily is a slasher and loves to attack the basket. Julia has become

one of our best outside shooters.”

Players off the bench have been Jaelyn Vega, who has started

a couple games, Claire Gleason, Alyssa Axtman, Bella Augustine,

Rylee Zandstra, Jaydin Quinones, and Reagan Hall.

“Reagan has designated herself as the Bench Captain and

has put herself in charge of bench morale and all cheering,”

NET GAIN!

Bri Rodriguez defends for the Rams during recent freshman basketball

action. ~ Photo by Memories By Mandy Photography

says Graves. “She is a great example of what this team means to

each other. They find their roles and excel in them.”

Graves is happy to be part of the girls basketball program,

and understands what unity at all three levels can mean.

“What makes this program special is a dedicated coaching

staff and quality young ladies willing to work hard. Goals were

set early and plans were put in place to achieve those goals. At

all three levels, I see players willing to sacrifice personal goals

for team goals. Every team is about how ‘WE’ can succeed.”

Graves seems to be picking up his team’s mojo in how he is

tackling the season.

“I love this team,” Graves concludes. “Every team I have

coached is different and special in their own way, but this one

being my first at Rockford will always be very special. They are

social, funny, serious when needed, crazy, and weird. But when

we need it and definitely during games, they can be laser-focused.

It makes practice and games fun.”

FEBRUARY, 2020 ROCKFORDROAR.COM 9

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