Mariner off to promising start | Girls basketball

Marauders aiming to make playoffs for 3rd straight season
By David Pan | Dec 06, 2017
Photo by: David R Pan Mariner freshman Taliyah Clark attempts a shot against the Mavericks.

Mariner’s season opener showcased a promising freshman and offered the Marauders a learning opportunity.

Freshman Taliyah Clark made one of two free throws with about two seconds left in the fourth quarter to lift the Marauders to a 49-48 victory over Meadowdale in a non-conference girls basketball game Wednesday, Nov. 29, at Meadowdale High School.

The Marauders’ season opener didn’t seem like it was going to be determined in the final seconds. Mariner led 33-23 at halftime and headed into the fourth quarter with a 42-31 advantage.

But the Mavericks started chipping away at the Mariner lead and tied the score on a shot by sophomore Alicia Morrison, who finished with a game-high 22 points.

Mariner coach Corey Gibb hoped that the Marauders noticed the difference between playing to win versus playing not to lose.

“You could see us kind of tighten up when the game got close,” Gibb said. “Instead of playing relaxed (like) the first 28 minutes, you could see everybody stiffen up. It’s a learning process. ... I’m proud of the girls. They came together as a group and did well in the first game.”

The Marauders’ revamped starting lineup includes two returners and three new players.

Returning senior starters Hannah Hezekiah and Denisa Grebovic are joined by Clark and seniors Evangelina Gonzalez and Nia Hawkins. Gonzalez saw significant action coming off the bench last year, while Hawkins is moving up from the JV team.

Hezekiah scored 11 points and Grebovic added nine points in the victory over Meadowdale.

Clark brings versatility to the lineup.

“Taliyah is tough,” Gibb said. “She gives us another shooter, another ball handler. A big who can shoot.”

The younger players won’t have to look far for veteran leadership, as Hezekiah and Grebovic both have been on varsity since their freshman seasons.

Hezekiah excels both as a ball handler and one of the league’s top shooters. Gibb relies on her consistency from game to game.

“Hannah is Hannah,” he said. “Hannah is going to give us what Hannah gives us.”

Grebovic enters into her senior season with a more steady approach to the game.

“She has been much more under control in the fall and in practices,” Gibb said. “I think just maturing as a player and settling into her role better has been huge for her. I’m excited to see what she can do this year.”

At various times, both Hezekiah and Grebovic have run the offense as the point guard. Both will be handling the ball, though Gibb expects Grebovic to assume more of the point guard duties, at least to start out the season.

“They’re really interchangeable as far as running the point, which is nice if one gets into foul trouble,” Gibb said. “We still have an experienced point guard to run the show.”

Hezekiah is surprised by how well the new players have fit in with the returners.

“We have a lot of chemistry coming in, even with the new faces,” she said. “We’re doing fine. We’re passing the ball. It’s not a problem where we’re playing like strangers. We’re playing like we’ve played with each other for a long time.”

Clark and Hawkins, both of whom are 5-feet-10 give the Marauders some decent height, a quality Mariner hasn’t really had in recent years.

“It’s more of a threat to have taller people inside,” Hezekiah said.

Even with the loss of Zaria Smith, one of the team’s top scorers from last year, Gibb isn’t too concerned about Mariner’s offense, especially with the return of Hezekiah and Grebovic and the addition of Clark and Smith.

“I think we can score with just about everybody,” Gibb said. “Defense is where you win games.”

Defense is the part of the game Grebovic enjoys the most.

“I love playing defense,” she said. “I think overall being a great defensive player is just knowing, at all times, where the ball is. What hustling means is staying on your feet, being fast and conditioning helps out a lot.”

Defense, Gibb said, is going to be a major factor in Mariner’s success this year.

“That’s going to be the big test – if we can keep our heads on and move our feet and not reach, and be in good position,” Gibb said. “It takes a lot of heart to play defense.”

Mariner has advanced to the district tournament the last two seasons but has gone two and out both times.

“It would be nice to get that first playoff win,” Gibb said.

The Marauders have high expectations this season.

“We believe in our potential and what we can do,” Grebovic said.

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