WATERTOWN – Libby Heilman is a problem for the Watertown-Mayer girls basketball team in the best of the ways. The versatile senior guard can do it all for the Royals on both ends of the floor, and was instrumental in W-M’s 60-39 victory over Southwest Christian Tuesday night.
“That makes it easy and it makes it complicated at the same time,” W-M coach John Rosholt said about Heilman’s versatility. “We’d like to have Libby play the point, but we’d like to have her play the post at the same time. You get those versatile girls and you have to figure out what position we would benefit the most from her. You wish you had five Libbys. You wish you could have her everywhere. She’s really making some strides this year. We like what we’ve seen from her.”
Whether it was rebounding, leading the fast break as the point guard, or finishing the fast break with a layup, Heilman gave the Royals a much-needed spark late in the first half. With W-M trailing 19-12 early, Heilman and the Royals finished the half on a 24-6 run to take an 11-point lead over the Stars at the half.
“It was definitely a frustrating start,” Rosholt said. “We finally got going a little bit and started to defend. We got some tipped balls and started to feel a little more confident that we can play defense against them. Then they got the transition game going and that helps a lot. That got us going with us being athletic and getting up and down the floor.”
SWC refused to go away easily after the big run by W-M to close the half. The Stars opened the second half on a 7-0 run to get back within four, but the Royals got back to their aggressive defense and it worked to perfection. A steal and layup in transition from Heilman gave the Royals a 46-33 lead, capping a 10-1 run to push their lead back to double digits.
“Steals are actually super fun,” Heilman said. “I’d rather have a good steal than a really nice shot. It allows the whole team to transition. Our coaches really like defensive stops.”
W-M’s defense was their spark plug all game long, helping them get their transition game going.
“Our defense helps our offense,” Heilman said as she finished with nine points. “We started communicating more. Once we got our defense going, it helped our offense. I think our team really likes to run. We know our plays and stuff, but we just like to play basketball, so that allows us to play basketball when we transition like that. We’re able to share the ball all the way across the floor because we trust each other. It’s really helpful that we all can handle the ball. We really don’t worry about getting it to one specific person.”
The Royals also got a spark from sophomore guard Carly Killian throughout. Killian knocked down three 3-pointers in the first half, and finished with 12 points for the game. W-M also got a game-high 23 points from Maggie Czinano, while Mercedes Burmeister and Megan Barnhart both added five points.
“Everyone has improved so much this year,” Rosholt said. “From the beginning of the season, our pace is up. Our practices are solid. Everyone from the starters, down to the end of the bench, have been really solid. Even those kids that don’t get much playing time, they make us better by practicing hard. We’ve got seventh and eighth graders out there, and they’re all making us work hard.”
While Czinano certainly draws the attention as the team’s leading scorer, Rosholt and his team know how important the play of everyone else is to their success.
“With the competition we’re playing, one player isn’t going to do it,” Rosholt said. “You’ve got to play as a team. You’ve got to share the ball. You’ve got to make a good shot into a great shot. Things like that are important. We’re slowly getting there. It’s been fun.”
Trust has been a big thing the Royals have been working on all season long. While the season got off to a rough start with a 26-point loss to Providence Academy, W-M is finding their groove at the right time. The Royals have won 14 of their past 15 games, with their only loss coming to New London-Spicer, the No. 4-ranked team in Class AA.
“I think in the start of the season we struggled with trusting each other,” Heilman said. “This is a younger team. We haven’t played together as much. Now that we’re getting used to each other and we trust each other, it’s helping us through the whole game.”
For the complete story and more HJ sports coverage, check out the Friday, Feb. 7 edition of the Herald Journal. Click here for subscription information.