Basketball Preview: Eden looks to get back to playing on the big stage
Eden has the feel of a young team, so head coach Marisa Fallacaro can’t kick the feeling that she’s starting somewhat over.
After all, in the past three seasons, the Raiders have graduated four of the best players to ever set foot in the program, first with the Herc sisters, forwards Hannah and Hailee, in 2010, then shooting guard Cassie Smythe in 2011 and last year, point guard Jenna Phillips. Those players invested in the program and brought it to a new level.
So one could see where Fallacaro is coming from. But in reality, Eden actually is not rebuilding, instead trying to fill some gaps, mostly with seniors who have worked hard waiting for their opportunity.
The only starter back from last season is three-year varsity senior Emily Carias, who will move from shooting guard to the point, replacing Phillips, Eden’s all-time scoring leader. Phillips, a five-year varsity starter, helped the Raiders to a sectional title in 2010-11.
“Emily is our one staple to the program but other than that, it’s anyone’s guess,” Fallacaro said. “I feel young looking at my team, but I’m really not that young.”
A quiet leader with a motor that keeps moving, Carias is a good ball handler who will look to drive to the basket and many times kick it out.
“It’s been interesting so far,” Fallacaro added. ‘Jenna has been my point guard and leader for five years. Emily has come on strong. I wasn’t sure if she would be my answer. Jenna isn’t replaceable, but Emily is doing a great job.”
Fallacaro said her seniors have worked very hard in trying to fill some big shoes, playing AAU, summer ball and attending clinics.
Hanna Zittel will take on the role of defensive specialist but she’s also improved her offensive game in only her third year of playing basketball. Forward Erin Dix has gotten stronger in close to the hoop and is now more willing to drive to the basket, while center Megan McCarthy looks good in the middle and can also hit outside shots.
Moving up are a pair of sophomores in Sabrina Kraska and MacKenzie Biastre, who Fallacaro may start or use as one of the main players off the bench. Biastre will play at the guard, serving as the understudy to Carias at point, while Kraska will add depth at forward.
Also looking to contribute are juniors Katie Campbell, a guard, and Haley Breier. Norwegian foreign exchange student Marit Mellemseter will try her hand at the sport after coming off a big soccer season, while senior Courtney Cross returns and classmate Cassidy Genco is back with the basketball program.
Eden will continue to play an up-tempo style that will be difficult to defend, especially in an ECIC IV which has not been particularly strong in recent years. Fallacaro believes it is to her team’s advantage that it runs, presses and pushes the ball up-and-down the court.
“I keep telling the kids that you don’t have to over think the offense if we can play in transition,” Fallacaro said.
Opponents that have been able to slow down the game have given the Raiders trouble. Tonawanda went into a 2-3 zone and gave Eden fits last year. She’ll rely on the dribbling skills of Carias and Kraska and even some of the bigs who can handle the ball like Dix. Holland should also compete right with Eden this season in ECIC IV.
“We should be a front-runner in the division again despite the losses that we’ve had to key players,” Fallacaro noted.
When the playoffs come around, Fallacaro wouldn’t mind seeing Olean, which as a five-seed came to No. 4 Eden last year and won a tough quarterfinal playoff game. Perennial-power East Aurora also moved back down into Class B-1. Eden lost to East Aurora in the sectional semifinals in 2009-10. Fallacaro believes Springville could also be tough in Class B-1.
“They missed not going last year (to NCCC for the finals, previously held at ECC),” Fallacaro said. “Most of my team is soccer kids (who finished as sectional finalists) and they really wanted it. I told them, ‘girls, you have another shot. Your senior year is not over.’ Their chances might be even better at basketball.”
Eden will start a tough stretch of three out-of-league games starting at the Roy-Hart Tournament.
Eden girls 2012-13 schedule
Fri., Nov. 30 Roy-Hart Tourney 5 pm
Sat., Dec. 1 Roy-Hart Tourney 5/7 pm
Thur., Dec. 6 at Cheektowaga 6:30 pm
Fri., Dec. 14 vs. Cleveland Hill 7 pm
Mon., Dec. 17 at Lackawanna 6:30 pm
Thur., Dec. 20 vs Tonawanda 7 pm
Thur., Dec. 27 Springville Tourney 1:30 pm
Sat., Dec. 29 Springville Tourney 3/4:30 pm
Fri., Jan. 4 at Holland 6:30 pm
Thur., Jan. 10 vs Alden 7 pm
Wed., Jan. 16 vs JFK 7 pm
Fri., Jan. 18 at Cleveland Hill 6:30 pm
Mon., Jan. 21 vs Lackawanna 7 pm
Mon., Jan. 28 at Tonawanda 7 pm
Wed., Jan. 30 at Immaculata 6:30 pm
Fri., Feb. 1 vs Holland 7 pm
Tues., Feb. 5 at JFK 7 pm
Thur., Feb. 7 at Alden 7 pm