North Central girls basketball preview

By Jon Young

For The Daily News

POWERS – North Central may look young on paper but the Jets are bringing back plenty of experience from a team that finished 16-9 as regional runners-up in 2012-13.

North Central will have their work cut out for them as they look to fill the gap left by five graduates from last year’s team.

The return of senior Morgan Wells and junior Baylee Wells should make the transition easier. The low-post duo paced the Jets offense last season as Morgan earned First Team All-Skyline Conference and Second Team All-U.P. honors and Baylee was named Second Team All-Skyline.

First year head coach Tyler Swanson said the offense will run through Morgan and Baylee, who both had multiple games of 20-plus points last season.

“Offensively we’re going to rely on Baylee and Morgan Wells,” Swanson said. “Kennedy Faccio is going to be our point guard, really get everything going for us. We’re athletic, quick, so we’re going to have to get out in transition and hopefully play our style of game.”

Along with Morgan, Faccio and Kelsey LaBonte are the seniors for the Jets. Swanson, a 2006 Escanaba graduate, said he expects the senior trio to be leaders on this year’s squad.

“We’re pretty excited, we’re a pretty young team,” he said. “We lost five seniors from last year so we’re going to go through some growing pains a little bit but we’ve got some pretty good senior leadership with those three; so were excited about what’s going on and hopefully we’re ready to go.”

The Jets will start the season with seven players on their varsity roster. Joining the seniors are juniors Audra Granquist, Sierra Carley and Baylee Wells and sophomore guard Jaycee Faccio rounds out the lineup. Though his team is athletic, Swanson said the limited number of bodies could play a role in what they do defensively.

“We’re going to have to change it up because we only have seven girls on the varsity,” he said. “It’s going to be tough for us to press the whole game, so we’re going to have to play in spurts there, try to capitalize on as much as we can and back off of it before we get too tired. We’re going to run some different things this year. It’s going to be changing all the time to keep other teams on their toes.”

Swanson said the Jets offense will change depending on what match-ups the opposing defenses present.

“We’re going to have to really play the match-ups,” Swanson said. “If we have the advantage athletically we’re going to go for those transition points but obviously if we’re outmatched athletically we’re going to have to slow it down as well.”

North Central caught fire in the postseason last year as they upset Bark River-Harris (18-5) 70-68 in the district final, and knocked off a previously undefeated Superior Central team 53-48 in the regional semifinal. Swanson hopes the returning players bring that big game experience to the table.

“We have those three seniors coming back so that’s going to be huge for us to lean on them as far as the experience factor,” he said. “I know they have high goals and hopefully if we can get some good leadership out of those three we’re going to be pretty successful.

The Jets will get a good gauge of where they stand in the first game of the season, as they take on Lexi Gussert and the Forest Park Trojans, who were 23-2 and state quarterfinalists a year ago.

“Lexi Gussert is the best of the best, it doesn’t get any better then that,” Swanson said. “At the end of the day we’ve really got to be on top of our game. She’s going to get hers, she’s going to score, so you’ve got to try and limit her as best you can and hope we can shut everybody else down, so at the end of the game we can be in it at least.”

While the roster is set at seven right now, Swanson said there is a handful of players who could be making the jump from jayvee to varsity.

Swanson and his assistant Ross Rahoi have coached the Escanaba Explosion (AAU) for the last five years. Swanson has also coached at North Central’s junior high for three years.