Area Female Athlete: No quit in Aitkin's Nordean
Bailey Nordean is on the move.
Always on the move.
Aitkin Gobblers head girls basketball coach Rob Williams said his point guard’s best physical attribute is her endurance.
“Endurance is the perfect word,” said Williams. “That’s a great word to describe Bailey. In key games, she may only sit for a minute or two minutes because we need her stability at the point guard. She really allows our offense to bloom. Our other players don’t have to worry about turnovers and our rhythms stays in check.
“And then defensively, she is staying out there long stretches of time if there is a great perimeter player on the other team, who is coming into the game hot. We need Bailey to shut her down. We’ve put a lot of pressure on that young lady and she handles it. She has handled the wear and tear of the long season and the pace of the game very well.”
More remarkable is Nordean is learning a new position. The senior has played four varsity seasons, but this is her first as point guard.
“In the past I was more of a shooting guard, but I wanted to take on more of a leadership role,” said Nordean. “It was hard for me at first, but I am older and I had some experience at it. I really like it. I like taking charge of the game.
“I don’t get very many opportunities to shoot. In love to shoot and drive to the basket so that was hard at first. Now I have to set up our offense so it’s a lot different. I still try to find my way into the offense.”
The two-year starter is finding her way of late. She knocked in 22 points in the Gobblers 82-28 blowout of Onamia Feb. 3. She led the Gobblers with 17 points in Aitkin’s 56-45 win over Rush City.
Nordean and the Gobblers handed Braham its first conference loss of the season with Tuesday’s 59-58 victory.
“The adrenaline was pumping before the game,” said Nordean. “We were all ready to play. We didn’t have a doubt in our minds. We set our goal and we knew what we needed to do to win. Attitude is so important and that’s what is really cool about our team. We’re so tenacious. We played our hearts out.”
Nordean totalled 20 points in that game and then led the Gobblers again with 14 points in a 66-32 win over Mora Thursday.
“Bailey played AAU over the summer and her self-confidence is the biggest change in her game,” Williams said. “I’ve always felt like she’s had this talent and we’ve seen flashes of it. Now she has the self-confidence and understanding of when to take it and when to distribute the ball. She understands that now. The Braham game was a prime example of that. The two girls that were guarding her had three and four fouls and she recognized that. In Braham’s spread, trapping defense she was the best option and she took it to the basket three straight times. Her defender couldn’t stop her because she didn’t want to pick up her fifth foul.
“That wouldn’t have happened in the last couple of years. She wouldn’t have wanted to be seen as a ball hog. She has really matured in that sense.”
Nordean is averaging 12.1 points, 4.4 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 3.0 steals a game while shooting 70 percent from the line, 40 percent from 2-point range and 42 percent from 3-point range.
Last season she averaged 9.3 points and 4.6 rebounds a game to go with 74 assists, 75 steals and seven blocked shots.
Williams said Nordean’s best stat is 27. That’s how many turnovers she has this year.
“That’s the big one,” said Williams. “She’s averaging nearly four assists per game, but she’s not even at 1.5 turnovers a game and she handles the ball 80 percent of the time in our offense. That’s been a huge benefit for us. Her turnover to assist ratio is amazing.”
Other notable performances:
Basketball: Vanessa Lane, Pequot Lakes, finished with 24 points and 10 rebounds against Wadena-Deer Creek.
Cassie Sandberg, Aitkin, finished with 26 points and 12 rebounds against Onamia.
Kayla Carter, Pierz, finished with 31 points against Melrose and 21 against Paynesville.
Megan Felthous, Pine River-Backus, finished with 20 points and 13 rebounds against Park Rapids and 29 points against Kelliher-Northome.
Elyssa Kern, Verndale, finished with 20 points against West Central.
Carly Bell, Pillager, finished with 20 points against Sebeka.
Sarah Moenkedick, Verndale, finished with 26 points against Henning.
Meredith Silgen, Crosby-Ironton, finished with 12 points, seven rebounds and six assists against Roseau.
Gymnastics: Rachelle LeBlanc, Little Falls, won all four events for an all-around score of 37.05 against Long Prairie-Grey Eagle and captured the Granite Ridge Conference all-around title with a 37.325.