Port Clinton coach Toby Bickel has encouraged Sydney Alexander to be assertive for a few years now.
Alexander scored the Redskins’ first 10 points in the second half Wednesday for an 11-point advantage as Port Clinton defeated Margaretta 51-46 in the Sandusky Bay Conference. Alexander, who had nine points in the first quarter, made consecutive 3-pointers and added a reverse layup and drive off her own offensive rebound early in the third as the Redskins outscored the Polar Bears 10-2 for a 30-19 lead.
“She’s starting to get there,” Bickel said. “She still has moments where she defers to others. She has to score and rebound and be a leader on the floor. She and Marissa (Day) have to carry a big load. Sydney has the potential to score. She had the ball in her hands at the end. She played a great overall game.”
Port Clinton’s leadership roles were largely occupied by graduates Hannah Weaver and Emily Ashley last season.
“My mentality has changed from last year,” Alexander said. “I need to be a leader. I’m a senior. I felt I needed to (step up) for the team. I need to take charge. Coach has been saying that all through high school. I’m trying to act on it.”
Alexander learned from observing Ashley and Weaver.
“I stayed in the background,” she said. “It’s time. I think about what they would do. I look up to them. I think about what they would have said.”
Port Clinton (1-5, 1-1) might have also taken cues from Paige Steyer on Wednesday. Despite her status as a sophomore with limited experience, Steyer had three assists early in the game and another to set up Ebony Kleinhans and establish a 39-29 lead in the fourth quarter.
“She was the calmest of all of us,” Alexander said. “It was nerve racking at the end. She surprised me. She didn’t rush and she listened. She has potential. She was a leader on JV.”
Rebecca Denman canned a 3 before freshman Kennedi Hilton added two more as Margaretta (3-2, 2-1) cut a deficit to 41-38 in the fourth quarter. Denman drove for a bucket for a 45-43 deficit with 54 seconds left but the Polar Bears got no closer.
“We’re young,” Margaretta coach Tim Tucker said. “We make a lot of mistakes. On the road, we haven’t come ready to play. Alexander hurt us inside early. We have a lot of lessons to learn. We missed too many layups. We stood around too much. You can’t miss shots and then slack off. We’re not far off from being very good. I see us getting better and learning how to win. Hopefully, in the second half we compete with everyone.”
The Redskins also got a boost as Bethany Urban returned to the court after offseason knee surgery. Urban, who only played a few minutes, split two free throws off her own offensive rebound in the second quarter and made two free throws for a 49-43 lead late.
“When she first came in and everybody was cheering, my heart dropped,” Alexander said. “She’s not at her full potential, but I just felt something change. She’ll get better every time. She has that will. She loves basketball and hates to be out. This group of seniors has been together since the fourth-grade. Our chemistry came together (Wednesday).
“We struggled at the beginning. We still have our struggles. We’re improving every game.”
Margaretta scored 21 points in the fourth quarter. Alexander, however, regrouped from the free throw line to answer Denman’s late basket with two free throws for a two-possession lead at 47-43 with 41 seconds to go.
“Coach looked at me,” Alexander said. “The team knows I’m a good free throw shooter. Just like practice.”
Port Clinton 15-7-13-16-51
Margaretta: 3-point goals: 6. Scoring: Paige Black 0-2-2, Alex Michel 1-5-7, Rebecca Denman 4-2-12, Emma Denman 1-0-2, Rebekka Wobser 1-0-2, Kristen Yost 2-2-7, Grace Bias 1-1-3, Kennedi Hilton 4-0-11. Totals 14-12-46.
Port Clinton: 3-point goals: 2. Scoring: Kasey Swander 1-0-2, Bethany Urban 0-3-3, Ebony Kleinhans 4-1-9, Sydney Alexander 10-8-30, Marissa Day 2-0-4, Delayna Laurel 1-0-2, Paige Steyer 0-1-1. Totals 18-13-51.