With Seneca East, it’s all about team
Don Vogt has an analogy he likes to use about basketball teams.
The second-year Seneca East coach said that when you take five fingers separately, each one is easy to bend.
But on the other hand …
“When you make a fist of five fingers together, it’s hard to un-pry those fingers,” he said.
Vogt relates it to his basketball team.
Seneca East is enjoying a fantastic season, one that has seen the Tigers go unbeaten in the Northern 10 Athletic Conference and finish the regular season with a 20-2 record.
It’s hard to see how sophomore Jessica Bowerman won’t be the conference player of the year. She’s averaging nearly 15 points a game, and is the conference’s leading rebounder — she has 43 more boards than anyone else in the league.
And Marina Adachi is one of the area’s best point guards. She is the conference’s leader in assists, and is averaging better than six a game. She’s doing that while averaging nearly 14 points a game.
Meanwhile, senior Caylin Quiggle leads the league in field goal percentage. Adachi, Bowerman and Emily Siesel are among the league leaders in steals, and Adachi and Siesel are two of the best 3-point shooters.
So there’s individual success. But no matter how hard I tried when I interviewed Adachi, Bowerman and Quiggle, they wouldn’t talk about themselves.
It all came back to team.
Adachi related it to a few years ago, when Seneca East made a run to the Division III regional finals. That team’s catalyst was Adachi’s older sister, Seina, a lightning-quick point guard who could score, steal, dominate, and smile to everyone while doing it.
“I feel like when my sister was a senior, she was the main one,” said Adachi, who was a freshman in her sister’s last prep year. “I don’t want to say it was all her, but it was pretty much like that. Now it’s a team. It’s not like one person is sticking out.”
Now that sounds good, but it also doesn’t sound that different than what most players say when a team is rolling.
But with the Tigers, it’s more than talk.
Look at the Feb. 7 game at Buckeye Central. With the outright N10 title on the line and down by two points in the final seconds of overtime, it was Alexis Hicks who hit a key basket to extend the game. Hicks was scoreless in the game to that point. Seneca East won the game in double overtime, and claimed its first league title in 37 years.
Vogt said the players did understand, and appreciate, the moment.
“It is hard to reflect as a coach when you’re in the middle of everything. I don’t even know that it’s sank in,” Vogt said. “But I do know this: When we were at Buckeye, and I had put on the board that it had been 37 years, and that literally means that hundred of kids — hundreds of Seneca East kids — never got the opportunity that they got, then you started to see eyes open. ‘Oh, I get it.'”
Quiggle affirmed that belief.
“It’s a great feeling,” she said. “We’re making memories we’re never gonna forget.”
And now, the focus turns to the postseason. The Tigers will begin their run Saturday, when they travel to Lexington to play either New London or Plymouth.
The Tigers know how quickly that can end. Last year, after winning 18 games, the Tigers fell in their postseason opener — by a point to Western Reserve in the district quarterfinals.
Bowerman said focus is key.
“We can’t stop. We can’t let up at practice, even though we have a full week of practice ahead,” she said. “We have to stay focused the whole time, knowing that it’s all on the line.”
Vogt said it’s the focus and desire that has turned the 5-foot-9 sophomore into one of the area’s best. In a loss at Margaretta Tuesday, Bowerman had 20 points and 20 rebounds.
But numbers are only part of the story. Watching Bowerman play basketball is something else. She plays with an intensity that practically is unmatched.
“I think she’s a great role model in that regard, and only being a sophomore, you know, kids already look up to her, because of the things that she can do for herself and for her teammates, just because she puts a little more energy and effort into it,” Vogt said. “That’s a key to her game, and I’m really glad that that’s her personality. I really appreciate seeing players like that, that will give that extra effort, that just come in every day focused, working their tail off. Sometimes, that becomes a watered-down phrase, but for Jess, it’s not. That’s true. She is in the game as she is in practice. But to me, that’s important, because I think you play as you practice.”
Of course, Bowerman said there’s another reason for her success.
“Most of it is my teammates,” she said. “Those guys, Marina, Caylin, Alexis and Bailey (Hamilton), and everyone on the bench too, those guys … I don’t know. It’s a team effort.”
In Adachi, Vogt has a player with immense talent who has grown into a leader.
“There have been times where she’s a soft spoken … she’s not a boisterous leader, although she’ll direct people with what to do and where to go and stuff,” Vogt said. “But she’s very encouraging, too, and she’s very selfless. You know that, because you can see her assist stats.”
Adachi said the team is ready for the district tournament.
“I feel like we all get pumped, like, last year we were all pumped about it,” she said. “The Buckeye game was like a tournament for us, we were all nervous, but I feel like being nervous is good.”
When asked about postseason goals, Bowerman said it was simple.
“Just get as far as we possibly can. As far as we ever could,” she said.
But they emphasize that it will be done as a team.
“I had fun last year, too, but this year it’s just different,” Adachi said. “I feel like it’s more team. We’re one.”
“We’ve gotten definitely stronger as a team over the years,” he said. “When you have four or five players scoring double digits, and rising up, it just brings us together.”
It’s something that people outside the program have noticed.
“I love the way they play together, and I get a lot of comments about how enjoyable they are to watch, because they do play together,” Vogt said. “They don’t say, ‘I’m coming to watch somebody score 20 points,’ or, ‘I’m coming to watch this girl play.’ I’ve never heard that. I’ve only heard, ‘They play so well together.’ That’s the ultimate compliment I think you can get as a coach.”
And a promising sign for a big postseason.
Zach Baker is the sports editor for The Advertiser-Tribune.
Contact him at:
firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Zachthewriter