This is an important year for freshman Emma Barney as she will play a lead role on the varsity basketball team.
So Oak Harbor girls basketball coach Tom Kontak must be pulling out his hair waiting impatiently for Barney to finish her soccer season so she can get to Kontak’s practices.
Wrong. The opportunity to play in the regional environment while winning and producing under pressure is impossible to teach, and has crossover appeal for Barney’s other sports.
“He wants us to go as far as we can,” Barney said.
The Rockets (18-1-1) have advanced to the regional finals for the first time in program history and play Liberty-Benton at 3 p.m. Saturday at Clyde.
“It means everything to this team to accomplish one of our major goals,” forward Paige Velliquette said. “We hoped to make it to state and we look forward to the next game.”
Barney is a cerebral player despite her age. She understands spacing and knows when a pass is easier than trying to dribble through the opposition.
Barney knows making such a pass does not eliminate her from the play, as touches or short passes are the best way for a team to maintain possession. She tries to best utilize space to get the ball back, attract attention or simply present a threat to create room to operate for others.
“She’s a great freshman,” Velliquette said. “She has the foot skills to play up top. She’s great at midfield. She knows where to put the ball at the right time. She opens things up and spreads the field.”
Barney is usually the first to know when she’s made a mistake and works to avoid repeating it. She has already grown more comfortable trying to share her knowledge and instruction vocally. She is tall, but still quick and can use her body as a shield, able to respond when defenders are physical and sees the field at an advanced level.
Barney is dangerous with both feet, has range on her shots and can handle the ball like it’s on a string at times.
“Especially in the middle, finding open players is easier than going through everybody,” she said.
Barney does not feel extra pressure with her prominent role as a freshman. Instead, the mindset is the same as the entire group enters uncharted territory with the chance to advance to state together.
Kontak would love for Barney to one day have the same grasp on basketball that she does on soccer. In the meantime, what the Rockets are getting is more than anything Kontak could offer.