December 14, 2016

Using Hustle to Overcome Lack of Height, PDS Girls’ Hoops Tops George, Moves to 2-2

COMING THROUGH: Princeton Day School girls’ basketball player Brooke Smukler drives through two defenders in recent action. Last Saturday, sophomore guard Smukler scored nine points to help PDS defeat the George School (Pa.) 42-26 and improve to 2-2. The Panthers play at Stuart Country Day on December 15. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Although the Princeton Day School girls’ basketball team doesn’t have a player taller than 5’9 on its roster this season, Kamau Bailey believes the squad can still do big things.

“My theme this year is hustle versus height,” said PDS head coach Bailey. “I told the girls that since we are not the tallest team, we are going to have to outhustle teams and out-think teams. We need to use our speed and athleticism to push the ball and hopefully get some of the other teams’ bigger players in some foul trouble by taking it to the basket.”

Last Saturday, the Panthers applied that formula with precision, defeating the George School (Pa.) 42-26 as they improved to 2-2.

“The team played very well; Bridget Kane had a great game, she hit some big shots at crucial times,” said Bailey, who got 11 points from junior guard Kane in the win with junior forward Ryan Robinson scoring 14 and sophomore guard Brooke Smukler chipping in nine.

“The thing that actually helped us out in the last couple of games, especially in the game against George, which I think will be our key this season is the way we play defense with our tenacity, the way we press and the way we get after it.”

The Panthers are also getting some good looks on the offensive end. “We didn’t move the ball as well as I would have liked in the last couple of years,” said Bailey.

“This year the girls have done a much better job of moving the basketball, finding the open and much better shot, which has really helped us out. We had to work the last couple of weeks on doing a better job on our execution.”

Bailey credits senior guard Shayla Stevenson with getting the ball moving for the Panthers.

“In the first few games, Shayla has been leading the girls, facilitating, and making sure that she is getting the girls good shots,” said Bailey.

“Her ability to call plays is a big help. She is really doing a great job leading these girls this year. I am really proud of her stepping up and being a leader.”

Junior forward Ryan Robinson has been stepping up offensively. “Ryan has come a long way in the last couple of years, she has emerged as one of our go-to players in terms of getting the big shot,” said Bailey.

“She is shooting the ball a lot better this year, she did a lot of work in the off season with her three point shot. She is putting it up, she is our leading scorer at this point.”

Another player emerging as a go-to threat is sophomore guard Brooke Smukler.

“Brooke has come along, she is progressing great,” added Bailey. “She is going to have a great season for sure. She is taking the ball to basket strong and shooting the ball very well.”

With its lack of height, PDS is depending on 5’9 junior Kate Bennett to provide strong play in the paint.

“Kate is a fantastic lacrosse player and she has done some work on her shot as well,” said Bailey.

“Kate is our tallest player and she is long. She has long arms and is very athletic so she tips a lot of balls, gets a lot of rebounds, and is really aggressive defensively. She is a very smart defensive player.”

A trio of newcomers is helping PDS out on the defensive end. “We have some freshmen who came up from middle school who are really making a nice impact in Riley Felsher, Maggie Amaral, and Carly Kunkle,” said Bailey.

“They still have some work to do but I can throw them in there and they will grab some rebounds, be scrappy, and play some great defense.”

Bailey is expecting a scrappy effort from his players when they head across the street to play at Stuart Country Day on December 15.

“It is the Great Road rivalry, the girls always get excited for that game,” said Bailey.

“I know Stuart has got some players in. We have a bunch of new plays and the girls are doing a much better job of finding each other.”