Mar 8, 2022
T-L Photo/SETH STASKEY UNION LOCAL junior Emily Kellaway drives to the basket during the first quarter of last Saturday’s regional championship game against Fairland.
MORRISTOWN — Aristotle once said, ‘the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.’
That quote perfectly describes the Union Local girls basketball team.
While some of the players on the team are more known for their scoring and have bigger statistics, it’s taken the entire six-player rotation and 10-player roster to get the Jets to the level at which they currently find themselves.
“These girls all know, understand and have accepted their role,” UL first-year head coach Scooter Tolzda said. “The best trait they have going for them is a mindset that they’re simply not going to lose.”
The well-defined roles and acceptance of them has resulted in the Jets reaching heights never seen before in the school’s history – regardless of sport or gender. For the first time in Union Local’s history, which stems since the doors opened in the fall of 1959, the Jets are preparing to take part in an OHSAA state semifinal. The historic game will take place Thursday at noon against Cincinnati Purcell Marian.
“The kids, the school and communities are all excited, but the kids aren’t overly excited because they know they have more in front of them,” Tolzda said.
Part of that mindset circles back to defined roles because of the leadership being provided by the Jets senior starters Hannah Merritt and Keira Gregor.
“We’re ready to get back at it and do everything we can do to win again,” Gregor said Monday afternoon prior to the Jets’ practice.
Merritt called the fact that the Jets are in the ‘Final Four’ “surreal” now even more than 48 hours removed from defeating Proctorville Fairland punching their ticket to the Division III state tournament inside University of Dayton Arena.
“When you think about how many other schools, teams and players would just die to have a chance to play (in the state tournament), it’s just insane to even think about,” Merritt said. “Being a senior definitely adds a lot to it. I am very proud of this group of girls and thankful that I’m able to go out with this type of season.”
On top of their roles as the senior leaders, Merritt and Gregor are also impactful on the court. Merritt’s contribution includes 10.2 points a night and she’s hit 61, 3-pointers. She had a huge game in the regional semifinal, scoring the first nine points of the game (all on 3s) and finishing with 16 points.
Tolzda also offered high praise for Merritt’s defensive prowess.
“A lot of people may not realize how good of a defensive player Hannah really is,” Tolzda said. “She does a lot for us to be successful.”
Gregor, meanwhile, is the glue girl for the Jets. She scores just five points a game, but she’s a very good post defender, pulls down 4.1 rebounds a game and leads the team with charges taken with four.
“My role means everything to me,” Gregor said. “People in this role don’t always get a lot of recognition because a lot of people don’t see it. But, a lot of lately, people have been seeing me do my job, and that means a lot to me.”
Junior Emily Kellaway has a vital role to the Jets’ success. After playing basically just reserve ball in 2020-21, Kellaway has become one of the chief ballhanders for the Jets. She is a pass-first point guard, finding scorers Torre Kildow, Reagan Vinskovich or Merritt, with regularity.
Kellaway is averaging just under four points a game, but she averages 3.3 assists and has almost a 2-1 turnover/assist ratio.
“We’ve been able to accomplish all of our goals and more,” Kellaway said. “It’s been an amazing experience. We all push each other and work really together. Handling the ball and stopping the ball (defensively) are the two biggest roles that I identify with. Especially taking care of the ball, if I don’t fulfill my role for this team, it doesn’t matter what anyone else does.”
Though the Jets aren’t blessed with great depth, no team can play only five players a game.
Sophomore Lauren Miller has shined in the role of sixth-girl all season. She’s become more than just a substitute. She’s basically a sixth starter. She averages five points a game, while collecting 60 rebounds, passing out 35 assists and recording 22 steals.
“That’s the role the team needs from me,” Miller said. “It’s an important role for a lot of reasons. I know I have to be ready because you never know when you may get called on to go in.”
STATE TOURNEY NOTES
SHOULD THE Jets win on Thursday, they’ll return to the court at UD Arena on Saturday at 10:45 a.m. to take on the winner of the second D-III semifinal between Worthington Christian and Apple Creek Waynedale.
UNION LOCAL will practice in its own gym on Wednesday morning and then depart for Dayton.
THE UNION LOCAL School District has already closed school for Thursday in order to give students and staff the opportunity to attend the game. Regular school hours will resume on Friday.
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Mar 8, 2022