Oconto's extra-special senior
James leads Blue Devils in rout of Marinette
Monday, February 24, 2014 6:00 PM
OCONTO - Turns out, Laken James' intangibles are even greater than her immense basketball skills.
Oconto’s Laken James shoots over Alex Cording of Marinette Monday night in Oconto. James scored 20 points in Oconto’s win.
The Wisconsin-Green Bay recruit led Oconto to a 60-32 nonconference victory over Marinette Monday night.
Her shooting, ballhandling, passing, rebounding and defensive skills set her apart. So does her knowledge of the game and quest to improve.
"Watching her for four years has really been a special thing," Oconto coach Russ Young said. "Her attention to detail is probably the most impressive thing about her."
James scored 20 points and Jaelyn Jicha added 16, as the Blue Devils dominated from the start. Seniors Amber Westphal, Carli Meyer, Jicha, James and Mariah Pointer were honored on senior night, and Young kept them in the game a little longer than he normally would so that they could each get a rousing sendoff.
"They're a special group," Young said. "They transformed the program."
The lead grew to 31-5 on a pair of free throws by Kelly Stewart with 3:27 in the first half.
A spectacular five-point play helped widen the lead. Pointer scored inside, was fouled, missed the free throw, and James came flying through the lane for the rebound. While hanging in the air, she made a reverse layup while getting fouled, and sank the foul shot.
Marinette's man-to-man and zone defenses were unsuccessful in trying to contain James, who diced them with drives to the hoop and slick no-look passes for layups.
"Best player I've seen this year by far," said Marinette coach Luke Maulding, who has seen some very good ones in the Bay Conference. "She can create her own shot."
Jicha, who also excelled, had several blow-bys through the lane for layups.
It was a step backwards for the Marines, who have been improving. Marinette was missing starting guard Teya Lambie due to illness, and the energy level wasn't there.
"We got down by a few and kind of got ourselves in a hole we couldn't get out of," Maulding said.
Lexi Bohan led the Marines (3-17) with 10 points. Alex Cording and Cassie Hilbert added eight apiece.
Oconto improved to 18-3.
Marinette's junior varsity won 41-39 in overtime. Jordan Miller scored 10 and Makayla Bell added eight for the Marines. Alyson Nerenhausen scored 13 for Oconto.
MARINETTE (32) - Bohan 10, Cording 8, Dufranew 5, Hilbert 8, Corry 0, Metzner 0, Veriha 0, Kuffel 1. FGs: 12-42; FTs: 6-112
OCONTO (60) - Moes 0, James 20, Shallow 7, Behnke 2, Stewart 7, Westphal 0, Meyer 6, Jicha 16, Pointer 2. FGs: 20-54; FTs: 16-24
Marinette 4 8 15 5 - 32
Oconto 17 17 14 12 - 60