PENNSAUKEN –It seems basketball coaches are always looking for a player who understands the team’s objectives – one who can execute what’s needed before being told.
Junior point guard Naomi Shorts fulfills the role of that player for Paul VI High School girls coach Lisa Steele.
“She sometimes calls plays that I’m thinking before I even call them out,” said Steele, “It’s really nice to have a player like that who is an extension of me on the floor.”
On a team filled with very good, multi-talented players, Shorts – more often than not – is the one who is called on to hold things together for the Eagles.
She fulfilled her role nicely on Thursday night when she led her No. 2 ranked squad to a hard-fought defense oriented 39-29 victory over No. 6 Bishop Eustace in an Olympic Conference National Division game.
Shorts not only controlled the tempo of the game, but she put in a game-high 12 points eight of them coming in the fourth quarter, to help run her team’s record to 8-1.
However, she said that, in order for the Eagles to pile up consistent victories, it takes the efforts of a lot of different players.
“We have people who can do anything,” Shorts said. “We have people who can shoot, drive . . . we have various different positions. And the thing is, we’re young too. We’ve had a good run on and off the court and I think that’s made us better.”
Shorts believes one of the things that’s made Paul VI successful is the fact they play as a team.
“Coach makes sure we always make the extra pass,” she said. “We make sure if we have a good shot, we pass it and get a better shot.”
Steele agrees that team chemistry, rather than having one go-to player, has fueled the Eagles’ this season.
“We have a really talented bunch,” she said. “We have a really energetic bunch that puts time into (improving) their games.
“A lot of girls have bought into it. They’re playing off each other. And we’re executing the game plans so that we can succeed.”
Despite the early wins, the Eagles start three juniors, and Sekya Campbell is the only senior starter.
A number of players who come off the bench also are underclassmen, which is why, Steele said, it’s good to have a nucleus of experienced players to build around.
“Naomi, Carly Stroemey and Amanda Gosemello have been key players since their freshman year,” she said. “On any given night any of our girls can be a star.
“I always harp on that with the team. You might not shine every night, but any night you can shine. Pretty much everyone is capable of doing that.”
It was a tough night for most of the offensive players, but Abigail Babore followed Shorts with 10 points, six of them coming from the foul line in the fourth quarter.
The Eagles put up 19 of their points in the final session after both teams had difficulty scoring in the first three quarters. Shorts helped the effort along, hitting a three-point goal and added two other baskets as the Eagles pulled away.
“I think I just had to really step it up and take a leadership role,” she said. “Even though we didn’t pull away until the third or fourth quarter, I thought we had control the whole game.”
At the same time Shorts was leading the offensive surge in the fourth quarter, Paul VI extended a 24-17 lead by holding Eustace without a point until late in game.
Babore said the defensive effort was the key to the outcome.
“We always say defense wins games,” she said. “It starts on the defensive end and we get our offense locked in from there.”
Kate McShea ended up leading Bishop Eustace with seven points.
Paul VI 9 6 9 19 -39
Bishop Eustace 4 6 7 12 -29
PVI: Naomi Shorts 12, Maniya Custis 5, Sekya Campbel, 7, Abigeal Barbor 10, Carly Stroemy 2, Aamanda Gosebelle 3.
BE: Julia Radley 4, Katie Kempter 6, Katie McShea 7, Meghan McLaughlin 6, Laura Punk 4, Kaitlyn Deiter 2