SYCAMORE TWP. – Not being a girls high school basketball head coach for the past two seasons has allowed Paula Hayden free time to enjoy the fruits of her labor.
Now, after retiring from her teaching job at Edwin H. Greene Intermediate School, Hayden has more time to enjoy and look back at her “stable of stars” from her years at Sycamore High School.
The 2012 team tied Princeton for the league championship when Kelsey Mitchell and Sycamore’s Chloe Pavlech shared Player of the Year honors. Mitchell went on to Ohio State and Pavlech to Maryland, where she’s been part of two Final Fours. Hayden also won GMC Coach of the Year for a squad that went 23-2.
From her final three seasons, eight former Lady Aves play college basketball. The most recognizable would be Pavlech, who was starting at guard for the Terrapins in the ACC, just months after playing in the Greater Miami Conference.
Pavlech has seen her playing time reduced over the years after she was hit by an injury bug, but could still be seen cheering with great intensity from the Maryland bench in their most recent semifinal.
“In high school, I literally played about every minute and my freshman year (at Maryland) I was the starting point guard at first,” Pavlech said. “My sophomore year, I was a little injury-prone with concussions. It was a big setback. It was hard to adapt to. At the end of the day, I want my team to do well.”
Hayden has always advised her players to “take the high road” and is happy to see her player get her degree paid for and a master’s (next year) paid for. That said, she was as giddy as anyone when her former sharp-shooter made a cameo in March Madness.
“She hit a three in the national semifinals,” Hayden said. “She was in for about a minute and buried a three. I was getting a bunch of text messages.”
Hayden has seen many of her players and hopes to be at Pavlech’s Senior Day at Maryland. It will be the culmination of a career that blossomed in junior high.
“During study hall she would always let me come down and I’d bring a couple of my guy friends and we would go full court,” Pavlech said. “It was around the same time that I was in band class trying to play the trumpet. My band instructor would always be looking for me.”
Though she never succeeded at trumpet, Pavlech was eventually able to make sweet string music for Hayden, just as many of her teammates did.
Pavlech and Lex Newbolt were backcourt mates and still remain close friends. Newbolt transferred from a junior college to Indiana State.
“I got to see her in Indianapolis,” Hayden said. “She got to play in half of the games. She had a really good year.”
Pavlech and Newbolt were also friends with Keri Kleist, but don’t see the former post player as much since she’s transferred to Cal State-Bakersfield. Also from the 2012 team is Lauren Hancher, who has wowed them in Wooster.
“She was second team all-league and set the scoring record there with 40 points in one game,” Hayden said.
From 2013, Kelly McDonald was on Thomas More’s Division III national championship team, Imani Outlaw has seen increased minutes at St. Bonaventure and Brianna Ruffin plays locally at Cincinnati Christian University.
From 2011, Ashley Schaefer is at Christian Brothers in Memphis after transferring from NKU.
“When they’re in high school, I’m their coach,” Hayden said. “When I see them at the next level, I kind of have that sense that I’m a parent. I want them in the game every minute!”
Though officially retired, Hayden will still have a grasp on the area talent for a little while as she’s agreed to coach the eighth-grade girls in the Sycamore School district.