In Play with Tom Markowski


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Northern’s girls basketball program continues to thrive despite just one senior and little experience

By: Tom Markowski, January 3, 2016, 5:37 pm



Port Huron – The team Port Huron Northern was in December won’t be the team one sees in late February and March.

Northern wasn’t ranked in the preseason and hasn’t cracked State Champs’ top 10 in Class A but that doesn’t mean the Huskies won’t again be a factor in the Class A tournament.

Coach Mark Dickinson’s teams have steadily improved since he took over in 2008. Northern was 1-20 in Dickinson’s first season and the Huskies’ win total has increased every season since.

This season Dickinson has nine players on varsity and just one senior. Junior Kendyl Keyes, a one of two starters returning, has yet to play a full game following knee surgery in July.

Nevertheless Dickinson is pleased with the effort his team has displayed so far knowing full well the best is yet to come.

Northern (6-1) opens play in the highly competitive Macomb Area Conference Red Division on Friday at home against Grosse Pointe South. Game by game, week by week Dickinson is looking to see improvement from his players.

Northern reached the Class A quarterfinals in 2014 and lost in a regional final to Waterford Kettering last season finishing 21-4. Expectations are high despite Northern’s inexperience and that’s just the way Dickinson wants it.

“We’ll be good in the future, and we’re good now,” Dickinson said. “We’re just inconsistent. We look great at times and other times it’s just not there. We’ve struggled offensively. We’re missing free throws and not hitting the outside shot.

“(Success) does carry over. We took these young players to team camp with the older players so they could see the level of competition.

“It’s different, though. It’s their team. They are the ones who have to step up. They aren’t lacking in confidence. We look at a high ceiling. It’s not so much a lack of leadership as it is making that big free throw at the end of a game or getting that key rebound. It’s part of growing.”

Kiana Vottava (5-9) is a three-year starter and the player the eight underclassmen look to for leadership and to take the clutch shot when needed. Vottava is averaging 14.5 points and eight rebounds and is undecided on what school she will attend in the fall.

“She’s athletic and a real jumper,” Dickinson said. “She’s a complete player and more of a slasher than a perimeter shooter. And she guards the other team’s best player. She didn’t play a lot of AAU and really was more of a soccer player before she figured out basketball was her best sport.”

 Sophomore Sammi Klink (12 points) and junior Bree Bauer (11 points) are the other two players who are averaging in double figures.

Keyes is an important link. She’s a three-year varsity player and that experience is so valuable when most of those surrounding her have little.

“Our program is in fine shape,” Dickinson said. “I have four or five on the junior varsity, including three freshmen, who could be up with us but I want them to gain playing time. I could being a couple of them up as the season goes on.”