-Clay City places three on All-County Team, Knights two-
Statistics alone don't win basketball games, it's the intangibles coupled with the numbers that put wins on the board.
Northview's 6'5 junior Julie Whitted provides the numbers in the boxscore and has the ability to alter game plans for opposing teams, which is why she is the Clay County Player of the Year for the 2004-05 season.
Whitted is joined on the All-County team by teammate, senior forward Laura McCrea, along with Clay City's Cameron Gerber and Whitney McWilliams who are repeat selections, along with first timer, Bryleigh Schopmeyer.
While her size alone strikes fear into opponents driving into the paint, it's her increasing ability to stay out of foul trouble and remain a factor throughout the entire game that has helped make her a much more dangerous player.
In past seasons she was susceptible to opponents who had scrappy forwards who liked to draw contact underneath. Oftentimes Whitted was overaggressive with her attempts to block the shot and would draw unnecessary early fouls, negating her effectiveness by heading to the bench for long stretches.
"She did a much better job this year of not getting in foul trouble," agreed Northview head coach Bob Medworth. "She was able to stay in the game and pull down a few more rebounds."
This season, Whitted has maintained her rebounding average with just under 10 per contest (9.5 rpg.), which is quite modest a total considering Northview stat keepers don't credit her for rebounds of her own missed shots. Whitted also provided 15.9 ppg. an increase from last season and blocked four shots per game.
"On defense, Julia can provide us with a cushion that if we get beat on the perimeter, (opponents) still have to shoot over her, which is something they are not used to doing," noted Medworth. "Julia also totally consumes at least one or two players on the other team. Many times our opponent is so focused on stopping Julia that they lose track of the rest of our team."
Whitted continues to add different elements to her game which will be necessary if she is to move on to the collegiate level.
She added a short jumper to her repertoire that she debuted to sterling reviews in the Clabber Girl Classic quarterfinal game versus Terre Haute South when she knocked down a 15 footer at the buzzer for a 62-60 victory. That shot and some new inside moves caught the eye of many and will need to become more consistent for success at the next level.
While a handful of schools have made the visit to see Whitted play, Medworth believes there is plenty of upside to her with hard work in the offseason.
"She needs to improve her foot speed, conditioning and post moves. She still relies on her height to get her shots and at the next level she is going to have to be able to play with her back to the basket and have post moves to succeed. She needs to become quicker and more mobile so that she will be able to play the college game which is a lot more up and down versus halfcourt."
If that improvement comes in the offseason, opponents across the midstate will certainly have their hands full.
While Whitted was certainly a force for the Knights this season, Northview was charged with replacing last season's P.O.Y. in Whitney Medworth along with All-County player Erica Koehler who provided nearly 10 points a game along with five boards.
McCrea boosted all of her numbers this season and became just as valuable on the offensive end as in the defensive halfcourt.
"We are going to miss (McCrea) and Casey (Challandes) a great deal for their defense," commented Medworth. "Both of them really figured out what they could do to be an offensive threat and both were great defenders. We always put Laura on one of our opponents' best players. She slides really well and rarely lets her player drive to the basket."
McCrea was second on the team in steals (29) with Jennifer Gregg leading the way (36) and McCrea also raised her rebounding (4.3 rpg.) and scoring (8.5 ppg.) stats this year.
As the season progressed, she displayed a deadly baseline jumper and was almost automatic within 10 feet of the basket and posted a career high-scoring game of 23 this year.
The Clay City Eels have tripled their win total since two years ago, winning nine games this year despite a late season losing streak.
Much of that credit goes to a trio of experienced veterans who have continued to improve over their Clay City career.
McWilliams and Gerber are repeat members of the All-County Team with this being McWilliams' third year on the team. Schopmeyer makes her first appearance on the squad after playing a very key role in this year's squad.
Schopmeyer increased her averages across the board in a starter's role this year. She nearly doubled her scoring average to (8 ppg.) and pulled down more than three rebounds per contest. "I've known Bryleigh since she was just a little kid on YMCA teams," commented Medworth of the Eels' senior. "She's a fierce competitor."
Schopmeyer's grit on the inside coupled with her shooting ability, gave Clay City a second inside/outside threat along with McWilliams and her performance in the White River Valley Sectional was perhaps her best effort of the season, an 18-point effort in a close loss.
Gerber returns to the All-County Team after another solid, consistent season for Clay City. She averaged nearly double-digits in points and was one of the squad's leading rebounders as well. Her hustle and effort typically resulted in an extra possession or two each game for Clay City. "Cameron is a great kid who I have enjoyed watching," noted Medworth. "She not only plays hard but you can see her brain working the entire game."
Part of that court intelligence is what drew coaches from Grace College to offer Gerber a basketball scholarship to the northern Indiana college.
McWilliams, a junior guard, increased her scoring average to 17.2 ppg. after tallying 15.7 ppg. as a sophomore. She is the team's point guard and leads in assists. The Eels look to her as a go-to player. She's got the ability to knock down the 3-point shot and slash to the basket, which keeps defense's honest.
"Whitney is a gym rat and you have to love that," commented Medworth. "She lives to play and it shows. Her game continues to improve every year and she should be looking forward to a great senior year."
Clay County hoops fans will get to see both Whitted and McWilliams next year since both are juniors. Each could also reach the 1,000 point mark for their school's and Whitted may also take over the Northview career rebound mark as well.