Focus on boards paying off for Maine South

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What makes the Maine South girls basketball team such a tough school to match up with? That’s simple enough: rebounding.

Although the Hawks don’t shoot a high percentage, they pound the offensive boards for second and third shots, which has enabled Maine South to post a 19-2 record and win the prestigious Dundee-Crown Charger Classic holiday tournament.

In a 39-38 victory Friday over Evanston, ranked No. 15 by the Sun-Times at the time, Maine South enjoyed a 37-19 advantage on the boards. That included one Hawks offensive possession that went miss-rebound-miss-rebound-miss-rebound-make.

“We emphasize rebounding in the most basic of offensive drills,” Maine South coach Mark Smith said. “For example, in pregame layups, we encourage rebounders to get the ball at its highest point and time their jumps correctly.”

Smith also takes a cerebral approach.

“We spend time watching film and understanding the likelihood for rebounds that end up on the weak side. It’s about 80 percent of the time,” he said.

In practice, Smith likes to emulate a rebounding drill used by defending Division III women’s basketball national champion Illinois Wesleyan. He has a lot of familiarity with that program since three Hawks have played there in recent years — Christina Solari, Karen Solari and Kaitlyn Mullarkey.

The drill begins with three offensive players charging to the basket from the three-point line. Three defenders in the lane have to match up quickly. Then it’s game on. An offensive rebound is worth two points and a defensive board counts as one.

“This drill is among our most physical of drills and we cannot do this drill daily, or we might lose half of our team to injury,” Smith said.

In the Evanston game, 6-foot-3 center Jacqui Grant pulled down a game-high 13 rebounds.

“It’s about making sure that my girl doesn’t get the rebound,” said Grant, a senior. “Getting rebounds is so important to the outcome of the game.”

Grant had plenty of support, as junior Hailey Schoneman accounted for six boards and junior Emilie McGuire came off the bench to grab five. Senior guard Erin Kieny had four.

“If I can secure a board and get the ball pushed up the floor we can get our offense going,” Schoneman said. “You can’t let the other team get second chances.”

Not mentioned thus far is one of the best rebounders of all, senior point guard Regan Carmichael, who averages over four per contest.

“She’s the best rebounding point guard I’ve coached in a long time,” Smith said. “Regan is athletic and she can jump.”

“I love to get in there and compete with the big girls,” Carmichael said. “If I can get the [defensive] rebound then I can get the ball down court faster than getting an outlet pass.”

Carmichael sums up the feelings of all the Hawks rebounders.

“I can’t put into words how important it is to sacrifice your body,” she said.

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