March 13, 2013

Patriots need Strong effort


— The AuSable Valley girls’ basketball team earned a spot in Saturday’s Class C final four after defeating No. 1-ranked Hoosic Valley.

Sophomore Meghan Strong, the Patriots (19-2) leading scorer on the season with an average of 14.1 points per game, only accounted for nine points in the victory; however, her ideal ball-handling ability and defensive leadership helped her team to victory.

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“We definitely played a strong defensive game (against Hoosic Valley),” Strong said. “I don’t like to focus on my points so much, I think me driving to the hoop allowed us to get better shot opportunities.”

Although Strong is only a sophomore, she is the team’s most vocal player on defense, and handles the majority of the ball-handling duties. She has also excelled at connecting on shots from behind the arc, as she is one of the best in the Champlain Valley Athletic Conference with 42 made 3-pointers. In a victory against Lake Placid this season she hit a season-high five 3-pointers.

The majority of Strong’s offensive opportunities; however, come from her ability to drive to the basket. When she gets into the lane she is able to go all the way for a layup or find a teammate for an open look.

“She’s very confident as our main ball handler,” fellow sophomore Madison Rondeau said.

“She is the main part of our team, it wouldn’t be the same without her,” junior Logan Snow added. “She is a great ball handler and 3-point shooter.

Coach Roger Long believes Strong is the “glue” to his team because of the way she runs the offense and leads his defense.

“Everyone has lapses on defense, but with Meghan she always seems to be in the right place at the right time,” Long said. “And she is great at controlling the tempo throughout the course of the game.”

Long added that Strong’s best asset is “her will to compete” and her ability to “process the game.” The coach was adamant about how smart his young player is on the court, and her “ability in understanding what’s going on in the course of the game.”

“I’ve had great scorers,” Long added, “But she is a great basketball player.”

As for Saturday’s game, he needs his starting guard to do what she does best, which is control the tempo of the game for his team.

“I’m hoping and expecting her to control the tempo of the game,” Long said. “She has a great knack of seeing the floor and knowing when to attack it, but is smart enough to know when to pull it out and set up the offense.”

As for Strong, her own goals for Saturday’s game are similar to her coach’s expectations.

“My goal is to play to the best of my ability, to execute everything, see everything on the court, and have no hesitation,” Strong said. “Defensively, I need to move my feet and stay strong. No matter how big the girl on the other team is, that doesn’t mean I can’t guard them, and I need to work as hard as I can.”

This week she expects to work on more zone defense and boxing out. Strong attributed execution of Long’s defensive game plan and a good day on the boards as two keys to victory.

“Roger has done a great job with us, but he can only do so much, it’s up to us to execute.” Strong said. “And even though we are a little undersized we do a good job of getting rebounds, and we need to keep that up.”

Strong feels very confident in her team’s chances in the final four and their ability to compete for a state title.

“I think we’ve proven that just because we come from a small area doesn’t mean we don’t have the skills,” Strong said.