Area Female Athlete: Davies' toughness, versatility helping Aitkin
Well-rounded, versatile and tough were words Rob Williams couldn't stop using. The Aitkin Gobblers girls basketball coach was describing his senior post player Kaija Davies, who enjoyed four straight double-figure games last week to help the Gobb...
Well-rounded, versatile and tough were words Rob Williams couldn't stop using.
The Aitkin Gobblers girls basketball coach was describing his senior post player Kaija Davies, who enjoyed four straight double-figure games last week to help the Gobblers rebound from an 0-4 start to the season to get back to 4-4.
Davies dropped 18 points on Virginia Dec. 10 to lead Aitkin to a 52-47 victory against a Section 7-2A opponent.
The Gobblers made it two straight a night later as they dispatched Mid-State Conference foe Park Rapids 73-63. Davies scored 12 against the Panthers.
"She's a more well-rounded player this year," Williams said. "She's been a good shooter. She's had the height and the length and she's done a lot of good things for us for two years, but this year her toughness in the lane and defense is better. Her post defense is better. Her post finishes are better and then when you combine that with her shooting and her ability to run the floor, it's really elevated her whole game."
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- Year: Senior
- School: Aitkin
- Sport: Basketball
- Position: Center
- Highlights: Finished with 23 points against Rocori, 18 points against Virginia and 20 points against Columbia Heights
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Davies' versatility was on full display during the Gobblers' 67-38 win over Rocori Dec. 14. The Class 3A Spartans never had a chance as Davies dropped 23 points in the win. "She got a lot of rebound putbacks and she did a great job within our offense of sliding into the post and really bodying up and owning space," Williams said. "Out of her first 10 or 12 points, eight of them came in the paint. Once that happened, it allowed us to open up the offense and she could drift out and she hit a couple of 3s late in the game because she's a balanced scorer inside and out."
Davies said she knew some of the Rocori players through AAU, but wasn't sure what to expect from the Spartans team.
"We were expecting fast-paced and amazing ball players, but they couldn't find their groove on our court," Davies said. "Coming out with that win was just phenomenal. I was so proud of all the girls and the effort they put in. We just never stopped. We never let Rocori come back into the game."
The Gobblers evened their record Monday, Dec. 17, with a 52-23 win over Columbia Heights. Davies drained 20 points in the win.
"Being 6-foot, when we're playing teams that are playing man-to-man defense, she's going to get the biggest, strongest post player," Williams said. "Many of those post players are not good perimeter players. Being able to flex and stretch her out into a perimeter position often times does two things for us; One, she gets some nice open looks off it because they don't want to come out on her and they sag down into the paint and, two, if they come out and tighten up, she's athletic enough to take them off the dribble.
"Or, three, they just took the biggest shot blocker and rebounder out of the paint for us. That helps us both for her and our entire team on the offensive end."
Just in the Mid-State Conference, however, talented bigs are plenty and almost commonplace. Davies had nothing but praise for her opponents, but knows her play against them is key to Aitkin's success.
"Those girls are absolutely amazing basketball players," she said. "They are really tall. Sometimes they surprise me how much taller they are compared to me, but going up against them we always have a set plan. We know where they are at all times on the court. You can't really miss them, but we've been playing against each other since fourth grade. I know these girls and I know what I can do and can't do against them so I always have a mindset against them that I have to get these rebounds against them or we're going to lose. I set these mini goals throughout the game."
Davies is no stranger to setting lofty goals either.
"I set my goals pretty high," she said. "I have pretty high expectations of myself. My first goal was double-doubles every game. That's my goal. I'm the tallest girl on the court. I should be scoring, putting back rebounds.
"Another goal of mine was to be the captain. I did get that and I'm very proud of that and I'm very thankful for my teammates to have the belief in me to lead this team to hopefully a conference championship and possibly state."
Williams has faith that Davies' basketball IQ, her leadership and her determination to be a better player by the time playoffs hit.
"She understands that she hasn't hit the ceiling yet," Williams said. "She's still hungry to improve. She wants to go on and play collegiate ball and she understands she needs to keep working on the little things in her game to continue to improve. It's been a pleasure to coach her and I'm excited to see what the rest of the season will bring."
Other notable performances:
Basketball: Olivia Lane, Pequot Lakes, finished with 25 points against Crosby-Ironton and 21 points against Pine River-Backus.
Tori Decent, Crosby-Ironton, finished with 21 points against Mesabi East.
Karli Nixon, Crosby-Ironton, finished with 20 points against Mesabi East.
Hockey: Allie Lemke, Prairie Centre, finished with three goals against Morris-Benson.
Kylee Hopp, Prairie Centre, finished with five goals against Austin.
Ally Ecker, Prairie Centre, finished with four goals against Austin.