Abby Smith isn’t a scoring machine.
She’s not a shutdown defender, nor is she a ball-handling wizard.
Smith isn’t phenomenal at anything. But she is pretty good at everything.
Her versatility and senior leadership are two key reasons why the Staples-Motley Cardinals were back in the Section 6-2A final Friday.
“The last two weeks she has just been dialed in,” said Cardinals head coach Arden Beachy. “She’s had a different look about her. The way she has practiced and played she’s just real sharp and has cut down on her turnovers.
“Against Long Prairie, she hit five mid-range jumpers in the first half and led the way for us. She always hustles on defense and plays hard and she doesn’t worry about stats. She knows she doesn’t have to be the leading scorer.”
Smith is averaging 7.7 points, 3.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 3.0 steals a game. None of those stats leads the team, but combine them and they show Smith’s knack for being around the action.
“I don’t feel a lot of pressure to be a leader because everyone on the team has played a lot of basketball,” said Smith. “I don’t feel I have to lead them that much. We all play well together and we all do our thing. I guess my job is to keep everyone excited and lead by example and hard work.
“I’m happy I started shooting more and being more aggressive with the basketball, though.”
During the Cardinals’ West Subsection 6-2A opening-round victory over Long Prairie-Grey Eagle March 3, Smith scored 12 points. She added five points in S-M’s 66-55 win over Breckenridge in the subsection semifinals March 5. She followed with six points in the Cardinals’ subsection final victory over Benson March 8.
Beachy called Smith the best mid-range jump shooter on the team. She’s extended her range into the 3-point area, but said she’s money from 10-to-15 feet away. But her best attribute is a stat that isn’t talked about, but one many coaches have started keeping track of — deflections.
“They aren’t really turnovers or steals, but she leads our team in deflections and it’s not even close,” said Beachy. “In three-fourths of our games she’s been in double digits in deflections. She’s around the ball. She helps on defense, on our press and helping double team someone. That’s nice to have. She really sets the tone with her mind-set and her defensive edge.”
It was Smith’s work ethic and hard-nosed mentality that helped S-M through a 3-8 start to the season. Since then the Cardinals have gone 14-4 and found themselves facing second-ranked Sauk Centre in the Section 6-2A final for the second year in a row.
“We were all kind of iffy at the start,” said Smith. “We couldn’t seem to play a full game. We would have one good half and then one bad half. Now we’re all bringing it together. Some of the younger players lacked some focus, but everyone is getting used to each other and we’re playing a lot better.
“Right now, I’m very confident in this team.”
Other notable performances:
Basketball: Shauna Maurer, Pillager, scored 19 points against Swanville.
Jackie White, Pillager, scored 13 points against Swanville to become school’s all-time leading scorer.
Whitney Weisz, Little Falls, finished with 21 points and 10 rebounds against Detroit Lakes.
Emily Lueck, Pequot Lakes, finished with 30 points and six assists against Wadena-Deer Creek.
JEREMY MILLSOP may be reached at email@example.com or 855-5856.