Ella Bontrager (photo by Ryan Kerwin, JTV Sports)
By Mike Moore
Jackson — Ryan Carroll has a straightforward goal for the rest of the regular season.
Sure, it may seem a little lofty.
No doubt, it wasn’t something he envisioned when the 2017-18 season began for his Northwest girls basketball team.
But things, including expectations, can change as a season takes shape.
“We want to finish the regular season 19-1,” Carroll said with a rye laugh. “We feel we can compete with and beat anybody on our schedule. With that said, we have to play to our full potential every night. That’s the goal. Play our best basketball every night when we step on the floor. If we do that, we like our chances to win a conference title, a district title and then see what happens.”
The laugh wasn’t so much about what he said, but more of how it would be perceived.
This is Northwest, not Beverly Hills Detroit Country Day or some other power.
But hey, based on what his girls have done so far, why not dream big?
Following a win Tuesday night over Hastings, the Mounties were 7-1 on the season.
Few games have been close, and the lone setback was a 56-53 loss to Harper Creek in the third game of the year.
And there’s little doubt to why the play has been so strong.
“The experience is so key,” Carroll said. “It really helps in a number of ways. The kids have learned to handle situations and do things at such a higher level. They’ve put the time in, and they are really playing at a high level together.”
Last year’s squad went 13-8 but returned eight girls to the team this winter, including all five starters.
Ella Bontrager (11 points per game with five assists this year) and Sydney Shafer (16 points and six assists) have led the way.
But it’s been a complete effort to get to this point.
“I mean, we have starters back, but we have starters back who are better than they were last year,” Carroll said. “There were times they played well, but didn’t put it all together last year. I think they’ve come a long way to play as a team and use all 10 girls to beat teams as a group. … Depth is so key for us. We have five or six different girls who can be our go-to player every night.”
And that’s what makes Carroll so intrigued about the rest of the season.
With this group, almost anything is possible.
“It is, without a doubt, one of the best teams I’ve had here,” he said. “Whether or not this will be the best in my seven years, we’ll find out.”
Mike Moore is a play-by-play commentator and Sports Writer for JTV Sports.
He’s also a Realtor with Real Estate One, specializing with buyers and sellers throughout Michigan, from the Jackson area to metro Detroit. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling (313) 770-6365 with any inquiries.