Despite injuries and long odds, Park City girls basketball team continues to battle
Brett Isaacson has been around basketball all his life, and understands the game well enough, to know that it was going to be a building season for the Park City High School girls basketball team.
A pair of injuries and a top player’s absence, though, have hampered the team’s hopes of getting on the right track as they stand 2-9 on the season and 0-4 in 5A Region 8 play.Armed with just one senior and a bunch of young returners whothat went 3-18 last year, Isaacson knew that the jump up to Class 5A was going to make this season extremely challenging.
“It’s extremely hard because we play in the toughest region in 5A, and we aren’t the most skilled team so things are sort of stacked against us,” Isaacson said. “We are probably the youngest team in the state, essentially a JV team playing at the varsity level. Not to make excuses, but things were already going to be tough enough for us this season without everything else going on.”
Freshman Ava Kimche and junior Ari Janssen, two of its top three players, have missed the past two games. And a third, Pederson, is battling a bad shoulder after taking a hard fall during a 53-25 loss to Springville last Friday. All three players are starters for the Miners.
“We already had a lot of things working against us, but when you throw in injuries and players unavailable to play, it just adds to our struggles,” Isaacson said. “The girls start to press more and put more pressure on them, and then in the game you can just see how it snowballs from there.”
Kimche, the team’s leading scorer, has missed the last few games for personal reasons, which Isaacson had planned for. There isn’t a date set for her return.
She is Park City’s best offensive player, able to create her own shot and bail out the team when they need a bucket. A threat to get to the basket and beyond the arc, Kimche has arguably the best understanding of the game according to Isaacson, making her absence crucial.
“It’s been a big loss with Ava, like, really big,” Isaacson said. “Any time you lose your leading scorer and the only person who can go out and get a bucket when we need it, it’s hard. She may be just a freshman but she can play the game, and that’s important for us.”
Janssen, meanwhile, is out indefinitely with a lower leg injury.
She is far and above the Miners best low-post threat. Third on the team in scoring and rebounding while leading Park City in blocks, Janssen brings a sort of calmness to the mayhem Isaacson’s likes to play with. Her ability to defend the hoop allows the Miners guards to gamble for steals on the perimeter, opting for a better flow of the game for Park City.
“Ari is out for an unknown period of time, and that’s all I can really say because it’s all I really know,” Isaacson said. “I know she’s frustrated about it because she was a big part of what we were doing and trying to accomplish. … “But when she comes back, I know that’ll be a huge help to us because she really does make us that much better.”
With Kimche and Janssen out, Pederson has taken over as the main defensive contributor. Gifted with athleticism and size, Pederson has helped calm the Miners when they tend to get out of control, an aspect that Isaacson says can’t be overlooked by the lone senior.
But in the fourth quarter of the game against Springville, Pederson went up for a rebound and was unintentionally undercut by a Red Devils player. She then landed so hard on the gym floor that Park City trainer Jared Romero immediately ran out onto the court to check on her.
After staying down for a minute, Pederson walked off under her own power.
She then played for nearly all 32 minutes during the Miners’ 54-13 loss to rival Wasatch on Tuesday, battling through the shoulder soreness to lead the team in rebounds.
“Without a doubt we are hurting as a team right now,” Isaacson said after the Wasatch game. “But Lauren fighting through that pain to play they way she did and be as physical as she was, it was something special to see.”
With no timetable for when Kimche or Janssen will return, or if Pederson will return to full health over the final month of the season, Isaacson is using the time to reflect on himself as a coach while relying on other players to step up.
As of late, sophomore Samantha Riely and junior Caroline Cook have helped carry the load for Park City. According to Isaacson, their growth throughout the season is a reason for optimism around the Miners.
“As a coach, I was too frustrated with everything and that just ended up compounding the problem with the team. … And I can do better than that,” Isaacson said. “This season isn’t about wins and losses. Our resolve has been tested like never before and our girls are sticking together, and I’m amazed at that. But I have to be better as well, so reflecting on me as a coach to help our team can only be a good thing.”
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