Clay coach Roger Achter can count on, from left, Melissa Bowie, Kristin Crawford and Kate Achter. Crawford is the top rebounder and Achter leads in scoring.
Finding fault with what his team has accomplished up to this point in the season would be difficult for Clay girls basketball coach Roger Achter.
Through nine games, including three Great Lakes League contests, the Eagles have been unbeatable.
They've been impressive every step of the way - efficient on offense, suffocating on defense.
The defending GLL champions, who went 9-1 in the league last season, appear on course for one final romp through the GLL. Clay is leaving the GLL for the City League beginning next fall.
“If we stay focused and injury free, I think we have the ability to be stronger this season,” Achter said. “It's really a matter of wait and see.”
The Eagles have played some of the best basketball in the area this season. With six returning letter-winners back from a team that finished 16-6 last season, the closest a GLL opponent has come to playing with the Eagles was Fremont Ross, losing by 19 points. Clay defeated Findlay, a team that figured to contend for the league championship, by 23 points. The most lopsided win over a GLL opponent was a 29-point rout of Sandusky.
Winning the league title is just one of the goals the Eagles hope to accomplish.
“We want to win league and win district this year,” Achter said. “We feel we can compete with all the teams in this area. We have to go out and prove it.”
Kate Achter, the coach's daughter, is the most skilled player on the team, and the most important.
The point guard is averaging 19.8 points, which leads the team and is exactly what she averaged a year ago when she was the team's leading scorer. The 5-7 junior also leads the team in assists, six per game, and steals, also six.
Kate Achter benefited by playing over the summer on an AAU team that included some of the area's top talent, including Perrysburg's Laura Markwood, Northview's Nikki Smith and Eastwood's Jessica Schultz. The group finished tied for ninth overall in an AAU national tournament for 16-and-under teams held in Arlington, Texas.
“Her game has improved tremendously because she has gotten a lot stronger physically and mentally since last year,” Roger Achter said.
The coach said playing AAU basketball gave Kate the opportunity to play most of the summer in the shooting-guard spot, which has helped her become a better perimeter shooter. She's made 7 of 13 3-pointers (53.8 percent) this season.
“Overall, it was phenomenal. And the competition [Kate] played against was unbelievable,” the elder Achter said. “She has increased her range on the outside shot because she played two-guard most of the time. That worked out really well for her because she could work on her shot.”
The Eagles' success last season and this season isn't due entirely to the Achters. Plenty of players deserve credit, including 5-11 forward Kristin Crawford, 5-8 guard Melissa Bowie, 5-7 guard Rachel Moore and 5-9 forward Nina Mylnek - all starters. Diana Wasserman and Kristin Habegger, a pair of 5-9 seniors, are dependable backups.
Crawford is averaging 14 points and a team-leading nine rebounds a game.
“I think the key has been the unselfishness of the team,” coach Achter said. “Kate has nice stats, but she wouldn't have that without help from the rest of the team.
“Basically, I feel we have seven starters. We're playing like that right now and hopefully we can keep it that way.”
Where the Eagles have impressed their coach the most this season has been on defense - a “run-and-jump” defense, a form of fullcourt pressure that emphasizes double-teaming ball-handlers.
The run-and-jump defense was most effective in a come-from-behind win over Anthony Wayne in which the Eagles overcame a 24-6 deficit after one quarter.
“I think what that game proved is we don't give up easily because we came back and won the game,” Achter said. “We also proved that if you stay with the run-and-jump defense good teams will have problems with it.”
Good and bad teams have found playing with the Eagles rather challenging this season.