By Jeremy Schneider
When Maumee played its last varsity girls basketball game on December 3, coach Rafael Soler said the break couldn’t have come at a worse time. He was excited about some of the growth his team had recently shown and was worried the time away would stunt their growth.
Based upon the results of their first game back, the Panthers growth under their first-year coach might have stalled during the six-week break.
Springfield came out in its usual form in a 61-24 win, pressuring every ball handler and pass, forcing Maumee into 33 turnovers and 19 percent shooting from the field.
“It is a little frustrating,” Soler said. “It was hard to gauge where we were during these last few weeks of practicing without any competition, without any teams coming at you full go.”
The Panthers dug an early hole, trailing 19-2 after one quarter. Three straight 3-pointers from the Blue Devils opened up the lead midway through the quarter. After those shots, Soler said he saw some of the intensity wane from this team.
“I need that intensity 100 percent of the time,” Soler said.
To their credit, Maumee stepped up on defense in the second and third quarters — getting out-scored only 26-18 in those frames — but the damage was done.
“These girls are sticking with me, they are not quitting,” Soler said. “I’ve seen the head go down a little bit, a here-we-go-again, but I haven’t seen a quit. That’s keeping me motivated.”
With the loss, Maumee fell to 0-5 while giving up 314 points and scoring 134. And even though the last two games before the health department-mandated break were lopsided loss to Wauseon and Southview, Soler felt his team was showing glimpses of what they could become.
The Panthers returned to practice the week of Christmas, using the gym at Perrysburg Junior High. So it was about three weeks of no basketball followed by another three of practice. At the very least, Soler admitted it was good to back in a game situation.
“This is a good starting point again for us,” Soler said. “We did a lot of work on ourselves. With a shortened offseason, this was a time to look at ourselves more.”
Sophomore Katelyn Owens once again led the charge for Maumee, scoring eight points, grabbing seven rebounds, and two steals in a team-high 33 minutes. She went 4-for-6 from the free throw line.
Sydney King came off the bench to add six points on 2-of-4 shooting from the field.
Jessica Roper added five points and seven boards, and Lynkin Williams had four points and five rebounds.
“In practice, when we don’t have that pressure, we look pretty good, we look like we know what we’re doing,” Soler said. “As soon as we get out here and we get that in our face right away, it goes out the window and your brain scatters a little bit.
“No spot is completely locked down. I’m going to put the hardest workers, the people who are going to do the little things, those are the people who are going to play. They all know that, they’re working very hard. I need to get them to work harder on specific things.”