GIRLS SAC TOURNAMENT: 5 stars to shine and 5 players to watch
For the first time in three years, the SAC Holiday Tournament on the girls side is not a mere formality.
While Homestead is still strong, quality contenders have emerged that could topple the Spartan dominance of the event.
Team success in the holiday tournament often comes down to the streakiness of an individual player or players. So let’s take a look at those who could have a big impact in the next few days at Wayne High School.
FIVE STARS MOST LIKELY TO SHINE
1. TANIECE CHAPMAN, SOUTH SIDE: Arguably the best player on the best team (maybe) in the area. The undefeated Archers have been paced by their senior center, who recently dropped 23 points and 16 rebounds on Northrop in a pivotal SAC showdown.
Chapman is a mismatch in the post against most teams. She thrives on the offensive boards, giving the Archers second- and sometimes third-chance opportunities to put the ball in the basket.
The Chapman vs. Ellen Ross matchup at 10:45 a.m. on Thursday will be an entertaining one.
2. SYLARE STARKS, HOMESTEAD: New team, same opportunities for Starks, who has settled in as the backcourt leader for the Spartans.
Starks has had big games in this tournament in the past with Concordia, something that no one else currently on the Homestead roster can attest to. The athletic and quick-shooting guard can find open teammates and pull up from the outside as good as anyone around. As the young Spartans find themselves early on in this tournament, the junior Starks is the veteran spark that will lead the way.
3. CARISSA GARCIA, CONCORDIA: A former teammate of Starks, Garcia is now the No. 1 scoring option for the Cadets, and she has fulfilled the role tremendously. She is averaging 20.9 points per game, the only player averaging double-digit points for the 11-3 Cadets.
Garcia has been particularly deadly from three-point range. The junior is 44-of-89 on the season, good for 49 percent. That accuracy from the perimeter coupled with her ability to find open teammates makes for a difficult player to defend.
4. ELLEN ROSS, BISHOP DWENGER: The senior has posted four double-doubles on the season and is nearly averaging one (15.8 ppg, 9.4 rpg) for the season.
Ross’ most recent effort on the court was a big one, a 19-point, 18-rebound performance in a 60-53 defeat of Norwell on Dec. 19.
The Saints are a sneaky team that could give the Archers a competitive game in the first girls game on Thursday. If Ross can post some big numbers, Dwenger could surprise.
5. BRE DOUGLAS, NORTHROP: One of the leaders of a senior-dominated group, Douglas has built upon last year’s 12-point, 8.6-rebound campaign of a year ago.
At 5-foot-9, Douglas at first seems undersized to compete in the post, but she makes up for her lack of stature with a tremendous skill set. She has energy in bunches and, with plenty of help around her, she could be a catalyst that helps the Bruins avenge the loss to South Side in a potential semifinal showdown on Friday.
FIVE BREAKOUT CANDIDATES
1. SHAMARI TYSON, SOUTH SIDE: As a sophomore, Tyson put up some eye-popping numbers at Wayne, including in this very tournament. But after a transfer and an injury, Tyson is on the periphery of many local basketball fans.
That will likely change this week. Tyson was huge to the tune of 19 points, four assists and four steals in last week’s victory over previously-undefeated Oak Hill. As one of South Side’s point guards, she will touch the ball on every possession, putting her in position to be a dangerous foe.
2. SYDNEY GRABER, HOMESTEAD: Many have already proclaimed Graber as Homestead’s on-floor leader despite the fact that she is only a sophomore. Graber did not play much in the way of meaningful minutes in this tournament last year. That makes for a bit of an unknown for Graber, who will be challenged by a host of talented players throughout the tournament.
There is no doubt that Graber has the capability to take over some games this week in some big spots. But let’s not put too much pressure on the player who is in many ways still searching for consistency at the varsity level.
3. LANEY STECKLER, CARROLL: After a mid-November slump that saw Steckler score just eight points in two games, the senior found her rhythm before Christmas. The solid run included a 16-point effort against Homestead, a game that the Chargers dropped by a single point.
Kelli Damman is the name many known, but Sreckler is averaging more points (12.3) than her classmate and has been more consistent.
Carroll is at its best when it has multiple players filling the bucket, but Steckler is capable of putting up a big game or two that could propel coach Mark Redding’s team to some big wins this week.
4. OLIVIA STERBA, BISHOP DWENGER: The senior frontcourt mate to Ross, Sterba is every bit as capable of being a huge thorn in the side of opponents.
Sterba has had some huge games already this season, with double-doubles against the likes of North Side, Columbia City and Snider.
With a player like Sterba sharing the post with Ross, Dwenger is a huge issue for opponents. If the guard play continues to get better, Sterba and Ross will have even more freedom to dominate up front.
5. KATHRYN KNAPKE, BISHOP LUERS: A young Knights team will look to Knapke for guidance and leadership this week.
Knapke has shown up against quality teams, evidenced by the 18 points she dropped against South Side and the 15-point performance earlier this month against Homestead.
Interestingly, it will be those same Homestead Spartans that Luers will likely play at 4 p.m. on Thursday. Could the Knights pull the surprise? If Knapke is on her game, anything is possible.