Girls Basketball: Marian Catholic’s ‘three-guard monster’ scary for opposition
By Tony Baranek firstname.lastname@example.org March 4, 2014 8:54PM
Marian Catholic's Gabrielle Cooper (from left), Mercedes Winfrey and Jerell Matthews. | Supplied photo
Updated: April 6, 2014 6:18AM
Gabrielle Cooper, Jerell Matthews and Mercedes Winfrey.
You might not even notice when any one of them steps on the court for Marian Catholic. Preoccupation tends to gravitate toward Teniya Page, Ashton Millender, Kauai Bradley and Dajhae Mullins.
But they’ll sting you. They’ll bite you. They’ll beat you when you least expect it.
“We kind of call them our three-headed monster rotating out of the guard spot,” coach Dan Murray said. “We have a great third guard spot with the three of them.”
In Monday’s 71-45 victory over Edwardsville in the Class 4A Illinois Wesleyan Supersectional, the trio combined to play 34 minutes — most of them one at a time.
Their presence left a mark.
Cooper hit two key three-pointers during an early Marian runaway, while Matthews contributed a three and a layup. Winfrey played a big part in helping the Spartans defense keep Edwardsville in a constant state of frustration.
“I think they have done a fantastic job with it,” Murray said of the sharing-minutes system. “We really have asked them to embrace this concept. It’s not an easy thing to ask three kids to do, but they’ve really come through for us.
“One thing it allows us to do — and it showed again (against Edwardsville) — it allowed us to keep fresh bodies on the floor and continue to play at that pace, with that defensive intensity.”
Their talents are pretty diverse.
“Mercedes is really our defensive stopper,” Murray said. “She’s a senior. She’s the one out of the three who does the little things so well. She executes the offense really well, she knows all the sets, she just knows what she’s supposed to be doing out there.
“She sets good screens, she rebounds, and blocks out even if she doesn’t get the rebounds. Mercedes doesn’t shoot much, but she takes good shots when she takes them. She just really understands her role.”
Matthews, a junior, gets a lot of her minutes when opposing teams play a zone defense.
“Jerell is our shooter. She can flat-out shoot the basketball,” Murray said. “You could see her speed in being able to run the floor (against Edwardsville) and get ahead of people. And she’s really good at finishing around the basket when she can get out in transition.”
Cooper, a sophomore, has sprung a few surprises on opponents during the playoffs. Against Lincoln-Way East, it was her two three-pointers early in the third period that started Marian on a big run that allowed the Spartans to expand what was a one-point halftime lead.
“Gabby has all the ingredients, she’s just raw,” Murray said. “We’ve just really seen her come on as the year progressed. I think she’s getting more comfortable within the system, and it’s starting to allow her talents to flourish within the structure and everyone has been able to see what she can provide for us.”
Together, they conquer.