SHOOTER: Carissa Garcia has taken her Concordia Lutheran leadership role and ran with it

Concordia Lutheran junior Carissa Garcia has taken on the leadership role for the Cadets. (Photo by Dan Vance of news-sentinel.com)
Concordia Lutheran's Carissa Garcia looks for a pass Tuesday in a win over Bellmont. (Photo by Dan Vance of news-sentinel.com)

To say that Concordia Lutheran High School’s basketball team has started their season better than expected with two impressive wins would be an understatement. Longtime program staple Shania Kelly graduated and her cousin, junior Sylare Starks, moved on to new pastures with Homestead basketball.

Still, we all thought that Concordia would be alright. They have size, a knowledgeable and longtime successful coach in Dave Miller and are bringing back their third-leading scorer in junior Carissa Garcia, who just recently committed to Northern Kentucky. But, with a deep Summit Athletic Conference waiting for them, the Cadets were more out of the preseason conversation than in it.

Well, consider them something worth talking about now.

We all know that when Shooter gets behind a player, he will absolutely beam about the player until his or her principal hands the player a diploma and the student is no longer in my jurisdiction. Some may consider that a character flaw, but this frog thinks that it is a far more endearing quality. In fact, I don’t just throw my stamp of approval on anyone.

But after watching the Cadets’ systematic approach to defeating Bellmont on Tuesday night, consider Carissa Garcia stamped. Right there in the middle of her forehead: “Approved by Shooter.”

The talent level of Garcia has never been deniable. You don’t get Division 1 scholarship offers by being another run-of-the-mill player. But in the past, she was a role player, even if a very good one. She wasn’t the star of the show, and everything about her game and demeanor said, “I’m OK with that.”

She was a freshman on Kelly’s team and then a sophomore on a team starring Kelly and featuring Starks. Garcia was always going to be the most important second option, but there is a chance (that we will never know the heights of) that she always was going to be a second option.

Then Concordia handed Kelly one of those confound it diplomas, and Starks popped up at school registration across town. And Garcia, well she didn’t get to be a second option anymore.

This has happened to kids over the years — acquisition of a program as your own. By hook or crook or whatever you want to call it: You are now the man (or woman). And then you get to be judged and remembered and lauded or condemned for how you handle a pressure that can only be described as unique and somewhat terrifying for a teenager.

And folks, if you don’t know where Shooter is going with this, let me spell it out: two games, 56 points, 11 three pointers. That is how Garcia has responded. Most kids can’t do that.

Now I am not going to diminish the contribution of the Cadets team. Freshman post Chanteese Craig has been a revelation, and their defense has looked stifling to start the season. But Garcia has embraced this team as her own and took off to the races without a second guess.

They way she commanded respect in Tuesday’s win over Bellmont was impressive as she scored 29 points, hitting five of her seven 3-point attempts and nine of 12 from the free throw line. Traps, different defenders, exuberant yelling from coach Andy Heim about not giving her too much space to work with — the Squaws tried everything to make Garcia less impactful.

And it failed.

No disrespect to Bellmont; they are still one of the area’s very best teams. But Garcia from February 2017 went away. And Garcia from November 2017 just doesn’t care what you toss her way. This Garcia, she is on a whole new level, easily the biggest surprise in the infancy of the season.

Even better yet for Concordia: A team full of girls are falling into their roles behind Garcia, just as she fell into her role in the past.

Garcia has taken control of her program. Yes, her program. And by doing so, she has probably taken control of the scouting priorities of opposing coaches and has surely taken control of Shooter’s focus. Concordia Lutheran now belongs to Carissa Garcia, and she intends to drive it fast. Her performance against Bellmont is the only warning that you are probably going to get.

For more on prep hoops, follow Shooter on Twitter at shooter_ns

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