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January 14, 2014

Balanced scoring, superb defense has Marian unbeaten, rolling

By Mike Moore
C & G Sports Writer

» click to enlarge «
Marian’s Samantha Thomas drives the lane during a Jan. 10 win at Regina. Marian is unbeaten and ranked No. 1 in Class A.

BIRMINGHAM — The holiday break had come and gone.

The polar vortex, as we have all learned, had come and gone.

And lost in the middle of it was five straight days the Birmingham Marian basketball team couldn’t practice or play.

So things were a bit intense at the team’s Jan. 9 workout in the school gym.

“They’re still on vacation with the way we look today,” coach Mary Cicerone said with a rye smile. “This hasn’t been a great day. But that’s all right. I know how to get after them.”

She also knows how to get them going, and since the season began, Marian’s been powering full-steam ahead.

The girls were 9-0 at press time, the top-ranked team in Class A in the latest Associated Press poll, and a favorite to repeat as Catholic League champs.

And hardly any of this is a surprise to Cicerone.

“When you have as many girls that have played for us for a year or more, you can move so much faster,” she said. “You don’t have to spend extra time working on the minor things. You’re able to put more focus on exactly what you want to do or how you will change the plan from a team-by-team approach. … With the experience we have, with the core we brought back, we kind of expected a strong start.”

“The chemistry is so strong,” said junior Brittany Gray.

Their play has been, too.

The Mustangs are averaging 57.9 points per game, but are allowing just 37.4 on the other end.

“Defense is the mindset of this team,” Gray added. “That’s fed our offense.”

And the offense has had a scary balance to it, which is why it’s been so tough to stop.

Kara Holinski leads the team in scoring, averaging 10.6 points.

The next three leading scorers are Bailey Thomas with 9.3, Gray with 8.9 and Laura Bruton with 8.3.

“We don’t have that superstar,” Cicerone said. “It’s just a good group of kids that have come together really well.”

In a way, a group that brought back a core of six players is just continuing what it started last year.

The 2012-13 Mustangs finished 21-4 and earned a trip to the Class A quarterfinals.

They also grabbed the program’s 13th Catholic League title, the first since 2010.

“Last year was kind of the surprise for all of us,” Bruton admitted. “I don’t think we all expected to be as good as we were.”

As for this year?

“It’s getting to the state finals, or nothing else,” she said quickly. “We’re good enough to do that.”

“The potential of this team is great,” Cicerone said. “Their potential is an easy thing to like. This is a good group of girls with the chance to do some good things.”

You can reach C & G Sports Writer Mike Moore at mmoore@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1038. Twitter Follow Mike on Twitter.