Defensive-minded Wildcats eye WRC title

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Jules Consolo

With four returning starters, Mayfield’s girls’ basketball program is ready to make some noise in the Western Reserve Conference this season.

The Wildcats finished 11-12 overall last winter but return the bulk of its production on both ends of the court and head coach Ryan Looman is confident his squad can compete with any team in the league.

“We bring back an experienced group who has a very strong work ethic,” said Looman, who is 25-21 in his third year as Mayfield’s head coach. “We are more athletic than in years past and possess pretty good team speed and quickness. Bringing back 90-percent of our scoring, rebounds, steals, and assists from a season ago has us with some high hopes for this season. How we rebound, play in the paint, and defend on the perimeter will be key points going into our first game.”

Mayfield’s success hinges on the Wildcats’ effort on the defensive end of the court.

“It all starts defensively,” Looman said. “We have to be consistent on the defensive end in our communication, energy, and effort.”

Fortunately, the Wildcats’ projected starting five averages nearly 10 steals per game and can hold its own on the glass.

The Wildcats are projected to start two seniors, two juniors, and a sophomore this season.

Seniors Julia DeBaltzo and Hannah Fredrickson are among the most experienced of the Wildcats.

DeBaltzo, who played in the Ohio Varsity Underclassmen Showcase last March, averaged 14.6 points, 4 rebounds and 2 steals per contest in 2016-2017 on the way to earning all-WRC, all-district and News Herald All-Star honors.

The small forward/shooting guard combo also is closing in on the 1,000th point of her career.

Julia DeBaltzo“Julia is a complete scorer for us who has the ability to put the team on her back,” Looman said. “She can attack the rim, shoot the 3, and shoots over 83-percent from the foul line. She has worked to improve on the defensive end and we are counting on her to be a leader on both ends of the court.”

Fredrickson, a forward and three-time team captain, averaged 2 points, 2 steals and 2 assists per game last season in earning all-WRC honors.

“Hannah is the epitome of a junkyard dog,” Looman said. “She does all the little things that go unnoticed. She is our best defender, can play on the perimeter or in the post, and can rebound. She is not only a great person but also a great leader and example for our younger players.”

Junior Katelyn Kinczel, a forward, averaged 11 points, 8 rebounds, 2 steals and 2 blocks per contest last fall. She was rewarded with all-WRC honors and an appearance in the Ohio Varsity Underclassmen Showcase.

“Katelyn is a versatile forward for us who can play inside and out,” Looman said. “She can really shoot the ball, but her work in the offseason will lead to more post touches as well. She can defend multiple positions and has a knack for reading shots, leading to blocks and rebounds.”

Juliana Consolo, a junior shooting guard, recorded 7.2 points and 3 rebounds per game for the Wildcats last season.

“Juls is a well-rounded guard who can score, handle, and defend,” Looman said. “She will be counted on to play a bigger role as a junior and we hope to see her continue to grow as the year progresses.”

Sophomore point guard Catherine Rock rounds out the projected starting lineup.

She earned honorable mention all-WRC honors last season after dropping six points, 3 rebounds, 3 steals and 3 assists per game.

“Catherine is as smooth as they come with the ball in her hands,” Looman said. “She sees the court very well, is an explosive scorer, and very quick in transition. She runs the show for us.”

Looman also expects major contributions from senior guards Leah Nerone (6 ppg, 1 rpg, 1 spg) and Bela DeJohn (1 ppg, 2 rpg) and junior forward Samone Sturkey (2 ppg, 6 rpg).

“Experience, athleticism, and toughness are keys for us this season,” Looman said. “We also have multiple players who can step up and lead the way for us offensively on any given night. From a coaching standpoint, we need to put our players in the position to succeed. We really work on getting out in transition, but also finding a balance in our sets to allow our players the freedom to utilize their abilities while stressing ball and player movement. Working in different looks to get different players shots in their sweet spots is also key for us.”

Looman and the Wildcats have high expectations for the 2017-2018 season and they’re ready test themselves on a nightly basis.

“We added some tough non-conference opponents and the WRC proves to be rugged year in and year out,” Looman said. “If we can navigate our non-conference schedule and win some hard-fought conference games, there is no reason to think that we shouldn’t improve on last year’s win total.”

The Wildcats open the season at Hudson on Nov. 25.

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The creator and publisher of OhioVarsity.com, Hare has covered high school sports in Northeast Ohio since 1997. He began as a correspondent for the Lake County News Herald, where he contributed until 2011, primarily covering high school football and wrestling. In 1999, Hare began writing for IrishIllustrated.com, a member of the Scout.com network of high school and college sports web sites. He focuses on covering Notre Dame football recruiting. OhioVarsity.com was created in 2004 and was a member of the Rivals.com network until 2012. The site's original purpose was to cover Ohio high school football and recruiting news but since has grown to cover all sports and to provide sports information services to high school athletic programs and individual teams. Hare attended Willoughby South High School through the middle of his senior year, then graduated from Berkshire High School in Burton in 1986. He played football, wrestled and was an all-Geauga county baseball player (1986). He lives in Chardon with his wife Paulette and their children.