The Overlake girls basketball team went on the road and continued their winning ways against a shorthanded Forest Ridge School in 1A Emerald City contest Friday night, claiming their fourth straight victory with a 46-24 blowout of the Ravens.
Forest Ridge School, located high atop a hill in the Somerset community near Newcastle, played without any bench players and didn’t stand much of a chance against Overlake’s fast-paced, pressure defense that prevented the Ravens from getting any good looks at the basket.
“Our defense really picked up, that’s one of the things we’ve been stressing in practice a lot,” said Overlake head coach Sara Wilcox. “We want to keep teams to a low score.”
Jessica Elliott led the Overlake charge with a season-high 19 points and 13 rebounds. Junior guard Maya Marder added 15 points.
Elliott and Marder are currently seventh and eighth in the league in scoring, with 10.9 and 10.2 points per game, respectively.
“(Being aggressive) is the game plan every game,” said Marder, who also had six steals and six assists. “This year especially we’re focusing on hard work up and down the court, all the time, and in practice. We practice the way we play.”
The Owls set the tone early with Marder draining a three-pointer for the first score of the game, and later the 5-foot guard hit another long-range jumper to cap a 9-0 run that put the Owls up 14-3.
While the Ravens battled back with two unanswered field goals to end the first quarter, the home squad struggled mightily on both ends of the court during the decisive second quarter, as the Owls limited the Ravens to just four points.
Overlake’s tough defense forced eight turnovers in the second quarter, twice leading to a fast-break and a Jessica Elliott layin.
The Owls’ aggressiveness was also apparent in their offense, as three different players, Marder, Elliott and senior forward Alex Mackenzie were able to set up three-point plays by drawing contact as they drove hard to the hoop.
Overlake looked to be one step ahead of Forest Ridge all night, with brilliant cross-court passing to create opportunities to work the ball inside.
“Offensively we were just trying to work the ball around to try and get a better shot, not settling for the first one,” Wilcox said.
Most significant was the Owls’ ability to stop Forest Ridge’s leading scorer and inside presence Aaron Kitchen, a 6-foot, big-framed post who is the league’s fourth-leading scorer.
Kitchen was held to just four points on 2-of-8 shooting.
After a tough stretch earlier in the season when the Owls dropped three of four including a heartbreaking one-point loss to University Prep, the Owls have turned things around under Wilcox, the first-year coach whose team just a week and a half ago was below .500.
Since then, the Owls have notched four straight victories to jump into a tie for third place in the league with a 5-3 record (7-4 overall), only a half-game behind second-place Seattle Academy (5-2, 7-5).
Although Wilcox was an assistant under former head coach Bob Wood, who went 29-13 in two years at Overlake, she said that being at the helm and getting to know each of her players well enough to take the program to a higher level has been a new and exciting challenge.
“Just learning how to coach each kid to get the best out of them, that’s been my focus this year,” Wilcox said. “My assistant coach and I have been really working to get that chemistry going… It’s a challenge for sure. The first year is never easy, but it’s just been so fun.”
Most importantly, the players themselves have gelled quickly with Wilcox’s coaching style.
“She was our assistant coach last year, so we had a lot of chemistry beforehand,” said junior Maya Marder. “With her moving into the head spot, it’s just like moving in with a stride.”
Although she may be new to the head coach position at Overlake, she has a vast amount of experience in the sport.
Wilcox played college ball for Centralia College for three years, where she was named to the all-league team and voted “Most Inspirational,” and later led Pacific Lutheran University to the NCAA Div. III Sweet Sixteen.
PLAYING WITH PASSION
Wilcox believes that her team is capable of making a run at the state tournament. She has observed that her team has been improving steadily each game, with the hopes that the Owls will peak in the playoffs.
What will it take for her team to make a deep postseason run?
“Consistency, and more than that, we want to be more solid each and every game we play,” Wilcox said. “It’s all about passion. You’ve got to come out and play with passion, and we’re seeing that more.”
But for now, Wilcox and her squad will head into their next game at 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday at University Prep riding a wave of confidence.
“Four straight wins, that’s just exciting,” Wilcox said. “It’s good because the girls are getting rewarded for their hard work, and I love that.”