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Basketball Preview: Immaculata plans to turn youthful excitement into more Ws

SENIOR LEADER — Four-year varsity guard RayAnn Call will lead a younger Immaculata team. Photo by Michael Petro.
With four sophomores, at times, on the court all at once and five seeing playing time, it’s no wonder Immaculata is competing so far with some youthful exuberance.

Head coach Andrea Drabik said she’s been impressed with the energy shown by her team, which has gone to more of a guard-oriented transition game than last year’s forward-heavy team which made it to the New York State Independent School Tournament Class C championship game.

She also has liked what’s she’s seen in the performances from a young team, with only three seniors. Going into a tough game Dec. 2 against Aquinas of Rochester, Immaculata had started the season 2-1, finishing as a finalist at the Iroquois Tournament, after a win over large school Lancaster in the opening round, and beating Maritime Charter.

“We’re running the fast break and the girls are finding each other well,” Drabik said. “We’ve been pleasantly surprised and excited about just how excited the girls have been. It’s a young group and they’re taking their lead from our seniors and also being aggressive and fighting for loose balls. Most of the time, you couldn’t tell their age.”

But with that youth, also comes some rookie mistakes, like there were in a one-point overtime loss to Iroquois as the host held on for the tournament championship game win. “We weren’t able to finish,” Drabik noted.

Leading this group is the most experienced player of the bunch, four-year varsity point guard RayAnn Call, who more than ever has been asked by Drabik to lead and be a team quarterback. “She steps on to the court with a sense of calm, which is great for the sophomores who look up to her,” said Drabik, whose team comes off a 21-4 season in 2012-13.

Bringing some fire to the team has been Immaculata’s other senior starter, Grace Coughlin. Stepping into a larger role after three starters were lost to graduation, Coughlin, who’s playing on the wing, has been able to get to the basket, find the passing lanes and play solid defense, while bringing intensity to the floor.

Among the starting sophomores, only Jordan Heinold played significant varsity minutes last season. The younger sister of Taylor Heinold, who became Immaculata’s all-time leading scorer in 2012-13, Jordan averaged 10.8 points and grabbed a team-leading 278 rebounds.

At 5-foot-10, she’ll continue to be a threat in the post, but Drabik said the sophomore adds another dynamic with her ability to also dribble and shoot.

Heinold has joined Call and Coughlin as a captain this season. “Although she’s a sophomore, we refer to Jordan as a sophomore veteran,” Drabik noted.

Kayla Prentki steps into the post as a sophomore starter, while classmate Kristen Kline, a transfer from Mount Mercy, provides the Bears with a speed element in the backcourt. Fellow sophomores Alyssa Choboy and Emilee Chiavetta come off the bench to help add to the quickness of this year’s run-and-gun team.

Also seeing time off the bench is 6-foot-1 senior Abby Wind — who comes in to help at forward, after making improvements to her game in the offseason, Drabik noted. Adding depth to this year’s team are varsity newcomers in juniors Alexa Stachowski and Katie Simon at guard and Ivana Perez at forward.

The Bears will once again look for a bid to the state tournament, after playing a challenging schedule with a several tournaments and games against large schools from throughout Western New York.

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