Baranek: With King, Bloom eyes crowning glory
By Tony Baranek email@example.com January 26, 2014 10:06PM
Bloom Township's Danielle King (1) puts a shot up against Stagg's Ali Conrad (2) during the Hillcrest Holiday Classic girls basketball tournament in Country Club Hills Thursday, December 27, 2012. | Brett Roseman~Sun-Times Media
Updated: February 28, 2014 6:19AM
Early in the season, Bloom girls basketball coach Ron Newquist presented a challenge to junior Danielle King to step up and take over a team that because of injuries, youth and the lack of a leader was spinning out of control.
She accepted the role. Embraced it. Thursday, she demanded it.
The Blazing Trojans point guard suddenly seized up during the third quarter of Bloom’s game against Rich East. It looked serious, according to Newquist.
“Her knee locked up on her,” he said. “We had to call a timeout to get her off the floor. She barely walked off the floor.”
Two minutes before the end of regulation, with the game very much up for grabs, King was ready.
“She said to me, ‘Coach, I’m good to go,’ ” Newquist said. “I was like, ‘Dani, you’re still limping. This isn’t that important.’ And she said, ‘No coach, are you serious? You’ve got to get me back in the game. We’re not losing this game.’ ”
King went on to be a major factor in what turned into a double-overtime nailbiter, finishing with 28 points, eight assists and eight steals as Bloom prevailed 88-85.
“She wills herself to win,” Newquist marveled. “That is what you get when you come to see her.”
Earlier in the week, King had 26 points in a thrilling come-from-behind 65-60 win over Pickerington North (Ohio) at the Willowbrook/McDonald’s Classic. The 5-foot-5 dynamo, who returned to the lineup on Jan. 16 after a month-long battle with turf toe, is averaging 19.5 points, 9.8 rebounds, 6.5 assists and 4.8 steals per game.
Bloom is on a late-season surge, and King is the main reason the 9-12 Blazing Trojans might be setting up to be the surprise Southland team of the state playoffs.
“It’s getting a lot better. We’re improving as a team,” she said. “When we went down to St. Louis (Jan. 18 for a game against St. Joseph’s Catholic Academy) the attitude changed. We talked, and planned on making the season better. We now have a better chemistry on and off the court.”
Bloom already was facing the prospect of rebuilding after the graduation of SouthtownStar Player of the Year Bria Gaines when Katherine Strong (14 ppg) was lost to a knee injury during the summer.
With a roster that included seven sophomores, three juniors and just one senior (Samantha Realford), the Blazing Trojans got off to a slow start. It led to a heart-to-heart between King and Newquist during which he stressed that her words to the team would be as important as her points.
“I told her, ‘Kid, you’re going to have to open your mouth. With such a young team, they’re going to follow your lead and you’re really going to have to be more than just a captain. You’re going to have to be a big sister.’ And she did,” Newquist said. “She really mentored Jailyn Lumpkin and Anika Johnson a lot. Even when she was hurt, she was still encouraging them at practice every day and on the sidelines.”
Sophomores Johnson (17.6 ppg, 12.4 rpg), and Lumpkin (8.7 apg, 4.5 spg) obviously paid attention.
Still, King would rather walk the walk.
“(The injury) frustrated me a lot because I couldn’t help,” she said. “I could talk to them, but it’s harder to talk to them than going out and helping them out on the floor. But I feel excellent, 100 percent now. I definitely think we can win another regional if we keep bringing it out like this.”