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Timeout girls basketball: Behind Beal, Flaharty, Roach, Hobart’s press wreaks havoc on foes

Hobart's Autumn Beal blocks Portage's Kaitlyn Steers basket second quarter Hobart High School Tuesday evening. | Jeffrey D. Nicholls~Sun-Times Media

Hobart's Autumn Beal blocks Portage's Kaitlyn Steers at the basket in the second quarter at Hobart High School Tuesday evening. | Jeffrey D. Nicholls~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: January 1, 2013 6:36AM



HOBART — At some point, you can probably expect Hobart’s defense to come after its opponents.

This year, it’s the junior triumvirate of Autumn Beal, Morgan Flaharty and Grayce Roach that are leading the defensive charge for the Brickies, who have held their opponents to an average of 34 points in their first seven games this season.

“This group plays team defense,” said Hobart head coach Mike Hamacher. “We have a commitment to playing defense as a coaching staff. We preach and practice it every day.”

It’s when Hobart’s defense switches to its full-court press—which Hamacher said the Brickies use “about 50 percent of the time, but it depends on the opponent”—that it can cause offenses to buckle under the pressure.

“It just gives us more intensity,” said Flaharty. “We’re putting more pressure on them, making them more discombobulated, and it adds more excitement to the game for us.”

Added Beal: “It fires us up, especially when we can get an early stop. It’s good motivation for us.”

Beal is the primary antagonist of the Brickies’ press, the player who is usually the first to greet opposing guards as soon as they receive an inbounds pass.

“She’s by far our best defender,” Hamacher said of Beal, who leads the team with 33 steals. “She’s very good on the ball, and she has great awareness, anticipation and quickness. She has a knack for when to shoot into passing lanes and when to play it safe.”

If Beal doesn’t make the steal herself, her next mission is to force the opposing ball handler into the waiting arms of the 5-foot-8 Roach or the 6-foot Flaharty for a stifling trap.

“They both have length and they both have good anticipation,” Hamacher said of the two players. “They’re both very smart basketball players, too.”

Said Beal: “We always know where each other is going to be and I trust that they’re going to be in the right spots in any situation.”

Constant communication is another crucial part of this attack, as Roach explained.

“It takes a lot of practice to know our rotation,” she said. “That’s the most important thing: communicating with other players. You have to let them know where you’re at so they’ll know where to go.”

It doesn’t hurt to make sure a team is well-conditioned, either.

“Towards the end of a game it can get pretty tiring,” said Flaharty, “especially after everything else we do in a game. We don’t just run sprints all the time in practice but all of our drills have some conditioning in them.”

Whether leading or trailing in a game, the Brickies can use their aggressive defense to quickly shift the tide of a game.

“Sometimes we’ll use that press when we’re down to get some momentum and get back in the game,” said Roach. “Every time we get a steal, it pumps up everyone else on the team. When we’re ahead and start pressing, I think it makes us feel like we have control over the game.”

Against EC Central three weeks ago, Hamacher employed the press in the second half and, after trailing by two points at halftime, Hobart pulled away for a 47-38 victory.

Defense keyed that win, but these three juniors are also the leaders when Hobart has possession of the ball. Flaharty is averaging 10.3 points per game, leading the Brickies, while Roach and Beal are tied for second with an 8.0 PPG average.

“I think they’re all multi-faceted players,” said Hamacher. “Flaharty is a good all-around player. She’s about six feet tall but she can still shoot the three or play in the post. Roach has the size and strength that most point guards don’t have. She controls the floor for us. Beal is a real good outside shooter, with a quick first step that allows her to beat people off the dribble.”

After a quick start to the season, which saw the Brickies win their first five games, Hobart has dropped a pair of games in uncharacteristic fashion: 51-30 to Northridge on Saturday and 51-42 to Portage on Tuesday.

“We got into some bad habits,” said Hamacher. “I think the biggest thing is effort. Those were two games where we’ve been outworked. We’re going to have to clean up that effort because we’re going to keep facing good teams from here on out.”

Hobart has that opportunity on Friday, when the Brickies will take on NCC rival Munster at home.



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