She is barely 5-feet tall, is often the game's smallest player and yet is a starting forward. She is fearless and so are her teammates.
And there was Katherine Mertes Wednesday night, wrestling with the game's tallest player and forcing a jump ball that went to St. John Neumann and led to two points.
Welcome to Neumann basketball. The Knights do not have a player taller than 5-6, but they all play big and relentless. They are not intimidated, either. How good they become remains to be seen, but this is a team that will never be outworked or outhustled.
St. John Neumann’s Meghan Trenholm tries to shoot over Sullivan County’s Shelby Zeller on a fastbreak in the third quarter on Wednesday night at the Catholic Community Center. The Knights defeated the Griffins, 44-16. View additional photos at cu.sungazette.com
Neumann rode that dogged determination, along with some stifling defense, to a convincing 44-16 home-opening win over Sullivan County last night. Emily Sholder and Meghan Trenholm combined for 27 points, 17 rebounds and 13 steals while eight players scored and nine made at least one steal.
"We're definitely seen as the underdog, being a small, Catholic school," said Sholder, who had 15 points, eight rebounds, six steals and three assists. "When we play with our heads on straight and put our minds to it I think we can accomplish anything."
The Knights (2-0) struggled mightily from the field but it did not matter. They made up for it by forcing 42 turnovers and making 31 steals. They shut out Sullivan in the second quarter and ended the half on a 17-0 run that put them up 21-6 at halftime.
A year ago, Neumann had only nine players and no JV team. By season's end players were bruised and battered but reached districts for a fifth straight year. This season, there are 18 players but the team's style has not changed. All the Knights play with reckless abandon and seem to spend as much time hitting the floor as wrestlers while fighting for loose balls.
And despite the lack of height, Neumann rebounds well as a team and aggressively attacks the boards. Trenholm and Sholder blocked four shots between them and even Mertes blocked a shot. The shots might not always fall, but Neumann's will is tough to break and often creates points and opportunities.
"It's contagious and it's a fun way to play when you're doing it well," Neumann coach Steve Sholder said. "I know we can play better and shoot better but we have to take on that badge of being a scrappy team that every loose ball is ours and we have to play the full 32 minutes. We can't take any time off."
Neumann never did last night. Sullivan pulled within 12 early in the third quarter but never threatened after that as the Knights responded with an 8-0 run. Sholder and Trenholm dominated the first half and had 18 of the team's 21 points. They ended it with a text-book give and go as Trenholm (12 points, nine rebounds, seven steals) found Sholder for a buzzer-beating baseline jumper.
"We've been playing together since John Bower League in kindergarten," Emily Sholder said. "We can't really explain it, we just know where each one will be and what which one is thinking. We play really well together."
Everyone played well together in the fourth quarter when Neumann outscored Sullivan 18-6 and had seven different players score. Starters and reserves made an impact and Rachel Danneker made five steals while forcing many more turnovers. Emily Sheleman defended and passed well while Mertes made several hustle plays and Stephanie Fernandez added three steals.
The reserves drove home coach Sholder's point about playing hard all 32 minutes, making big plays on both ends. Fernandez made a nice steal and layup in the final seconds while Megan Helminiak converted a 3-point play off a turnover.
"We're trying to get the girls in and give them some time and have some good things happen to them and the girls did some really good things," Steve Sholder said. "Everybody put their hands in there and got a hold of it and made some steals. That's the way we have to play. That's who we have to be."
"It's definitely a team effort," Emily Sholder said. "We're getting a lot from everyone."
Sullivan County (0-2) struggled through its second straight double-digit loss. The Griffins biggest problem thus far has been turnovers. They are a young team that was dealt a blow when starting point guard Shelby Zeller was lost to a concussion. Zeller returned last night but did not start, leaving the Griffins with only one returning starter on the court.
Addie Jordan played a strong game, scoring 10 points and grabbing seven rebounds. Her two early 3-pointers put Sullivan up for the only time, 6-4 but she picked up her third foul soon after and Sullivan struggled mightily in her absence, going 13 minutes, 5 seconds from the first to third quarters before scoring again.
"They have to learn to play under pressure. That's my job to get them to work a little harder in practice and go at each other a little harder in practice," first-year Sullivan coach Glenn Trick said.
Addie Jordan 4 0-2 10, Cortney Rupert 1 0-0 2, Shelby Zeller 0 0-0 0, Nicole Burt 1 0-0 2, Mackenna Bagley 1 0-0 2, Alexis Kiess 0 0-0 0, Ysabela Bialer 0 0-0 0, Torrie Shultz 0 0-0 0, Kelly Kramer 0 0-0 0, Crystal Riebe 0 0-0 0. Totals 7 0-2 16.
Meghan Trenholm 4 4-6 12, Emily Sholder 7 1-3 15, Rachel Danneker 1 2-2 4, Emily Sheleman 1 0-0 2, Katherine Mertes 1 2-4 4, Baylie Gerrity 1 0-0 2, Billie Strickler 0 0-0 0, Rebecca Helminiak 0 0-0 0, Stephanie Fernandez 1 0-0 2, Megan Helminiak 1 1-1 3. Totals 17 10-16 44.
Sullivan6 0 4 6-16
Neumann10 11 5 18-44
3-pointers: Sullivan 2 (Jordan 2).
Records: Neumann 2-0, 1-0 HAC-III. Sullivan 0-2, 0-1.
JV Score: Sullivan 15-14, OT.