SIGHTS FROM THE SIDELINES: NEB'S SOPHOMORE GUARDS MAKING THEIR PRESENCE FELT
(2021-02-15)BY CHRIS MANNINGNorthern Tier Sports Report
Despite missing three starters from last year’s team, Northeast Bradford was able to roll to another NTL Division-II title this season.
They did so by remaking their team, from one with size and length, to one with speed and defensive pressure. And they were able to do this due to the improvement of sophomore guards Alena Beebe and Kayleigh Thoman.
“Those two have been playing together for some years now,” said NEB coach Ben Beebe. “They’re both competitors, and they complement each other really well. Adding those two to my backcourt is just phenomenal.”
They came off the bench as freshmen, but stepped into starting roles this year.
Thoman is one of the best defensive guards in the league. She may be small, but is very fast, with quick feet and hands, which she uses to pick up steals, or simply keep opposing guards from driving into the paint. She’s also a surprisingly good rebounder for her size, important for a team that likes to play small.
“It makes me feel more positive about myself,” Thoman said about starting now. “Plus, playing with the girls I get to play with last year really makes me excited.”
Alena is the point guard and does a good job running their fast paced attack, along with hitting her jump shots. She’s also been clutch down the stretch, going 4-for-4 from the free throw line to beat Sullivan County 63-62 last week.
“It’s been really different,” said Alena. “It’s been really good to be starting this year. Our team’s a lot different.”
The two girls are in a familiar spot being back on the court together.
“We’ve played years, and years with each other,” said Thoman. “We know how each other works, and how each other thinks.”
That chemistry is evident on the court, especially on offense as Beebe likes to find Thoman for lay-ups.
“We’ve been playing together for so long the we play really well together,” added Alena.
This season they’ve used defensive pressure, run outs, and a motion style offense get the most out of their roster. Starting holdovers Maisie Neuber and Lauryn Jones went from guards last year to two of the taller players on the team - but now they boast a 4-guard line-up that’s proven difficult to guard.
Even last year coach Beebe knew this is what this year’s team would look like.
“We had to play more of a slowdown game, and these girls are all about the up pace game,” explained Beebe. “We’ve been really hounding on it. These masks don’t really help our up pace game, but that’s what we’ve been working on in practice. They want it, so we’re going to play it.”
Thoman has been the center point of their defensive pressure, using her bulldog instincts to force opposing point guards into uncomfortable situations.
“It’s a lot of pressure on you, but it’s fun,” she said.
Alena has a little bit of pressure on her, too, being not the just point guard, but also the coach’s daughter. However, her father says she’s taken it in stride.
“Sometimes I feel I’m a little hard on the kid, but she is my daughter, and I feel like she has to prove herself,” he said. “She does it night in and night out. I couldn’t be prouder of her. She takes it really well, and I couldn’t ask for anything different.”
With one goal out of the way, NEB is focusing on the big picture - a district title. They went 0-2 at districts a year ago, something they would like to remedy this season.
“Our big goal is districts,” said Alena. “We’ve been practicing running the ball a lot, and getting faster.”
This year they have Loyalsock, Athens and Towanda on the docket still.
“We purposely scheduled good teams at the end of the season, because last year we didn’t get those games. We went into districts not ready,” explained coach Beebe. “Playing good teams going into districts is going to help us compete more at the district level.”
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