All Basketball - Girls StoriesFor the past few years, a Woodhaven and Anderson girls’ basketball match up has been the game to be at. The games, especially the district matchups, seem to draw the entire Downriver area and for good reason. This year, each team was full of talent up and down the court, but three seniors stood out a bit more than others. And next year, Downriver’s biggest rivals will be donning the same colors on the same side of the ball. Anderson’s Tinara Moore and Amani Corley and Woodhaven’s Cassie Breen will all move on to play Division 1 basketball at Central Michigan University. The three each have a unique background in the sport and will be pooling their talents in Mt. Pleasant as part of the Chippewa team. Tinara Moore has been playing basketball for six years and was inspired to become involved in the sport after watching her brothers play on the court. She was only on Anderson’s varsity squad for three full years, but was pulled up at the end of her freshman year and since then has led her Titans to great accomplishments. The tall and lanky player puts up shots and grabs rebounds so fast you sometimes wonder what happened, and nothing seems to stop her. During a bout of pneumonia this past season, Moore spent some time on the bench, but still managed to tally 24 points during the game. It’s just what she does. The captain’s desire to win helped her develop into a team leader and left her with endless memories. “Wanting to win motivated me to be a leader and losing motivated me to get the team together,” she said. “The best memory I am going to take with me is (that) hard work does eventually pay off and to never forget that.” Various accomplishments stand out for the senior and her last season as a Titan was a memorable one. During the year, Anderson beat Woodhaven three times including in the district final and moved to the regional final. “My favorite experience during my high school career is beating Woodhaven three times in one season and beat them at districts at their place,” Moore said. “My favorite memory is scoring 1,000 points the same exact game as Amani.” Anderson Coach Larry Sakalas has been with Moore her whole career and said she has definitely grown as a player thanks to hard work and dedication. “Tinara started off pretty skinny and not as talented as she was this year,” Sakalas said. “She’s put in four hard years of work and basically has probably grown three inches from her freshman to her senior year and just basically worked her butt off to get to where she’s at.” It was a longer process in Moore’s trek to the varsity squad, but the last four games of her junior varsity season started to pave the way for the future. “She played in her first regional game and district championship game and got her feet wet and kind of grew from there,” Sakalas said. Moore realized her desire to play collegiate basketball when she was a sophomore in high school, saying she was a late bloomer. Amani Corley’s basketball career extends way back. She started playing the game in her backyard when she was just two years old and started organized basketball when she was eight. Her desire to play stemmed from watching basketball games on TV with her dad when she was younger. Watching her on the court, it’s easy to tell there are years of experience and hard work under her belt. The 2013-2014 season was Corley’s fourth year on the varsity squad and, like Moore, the captain has endless memories. “It was honestly a great experience for me because I learned a lot of leadership skills,” she said. “And having the underclassmen look up to me for advice was great.” Like her teammate, Corley’s best memory from high school includes the Woodhaven rivalry games. For two years prior, the Warriors had knocked the Titans out of the state playoff run and turning the tables was high on Anderson’s list this season. “My favorite experience will have to be beating Woodhaven this year after losing to them two years in a row,” Corley said. “Sak (Sakalas) told me that we’re going to get them next year; just work harder and never give up and he was right. “Beating them three times this year was just the cherry on top of my senior year.” Corley said her best memory would be when she scored her 1,000th point this year. Corley has known for quite some time that she wanted to play basketball in college. “(My) eighth grade year, watching the UConn girls’ basketball team (and) seeing them celebrate after the championship honestly made me excited for college ball,” she said. Sakalas was equally as proud of his other senior captain and said she has grown tremendously over her four-year varsity career. “She’s gone from a girl who was very quiet and very hidden, who didn’t want to say anything, to a girl who became a pretty good leader this year,” he said. “She’s worked her butt off both on and off the court to make herself better.” Sakalas watched Corley when she was in eighth grade and knew her potential immediately. “I thought, wow, she’s gonna be really good,” he said. “In between eighth and ninth grade, I watched her play in a summer league and I thought, there’s a girl who’s as good as anyone else on the floor.” Sakalas said the work ethic of his two stars is not lost on him. “Both of them have grown tremendously,” he said. “Their work ethic on the court and their willingness to do whatever it takes to win has been really kind of a guide for everyone else.” And the desire to win helps things out. “They’re competitors,” he said. “Both of them have earned every accolade that they’ve gotten. “They’ve earned their scholarship because they work hard at home. Tinara’s been a basketball player and Amani’s love and passion is basketball; that’s all she does. “When you commit to that, that’s the result that you get. Those two, their main focus was basketball and basketball was a big part of their lives and that’s why they’ve earned what they’ve earned.” Sakalas has enjoyed coaching the girls over the years, but doesn’t take all the credit for their success. Joe Greene and Kristen Kwiatkowski are varsity assistant coaches and Sakalas credits both with helping the girls over the years. Greene was Moore’s junior varsity coach and helped teach her the basics of the game and was also instrumental in the development of Corley’s ability to drive to the basket and handle the ball. “Joe has been my assistant for the past two years and he taught the girls how to play defense and ran our defensive game plan,” he said. “Kristen is our strength and conditioning coach. She was invaluable in preparing the girls for the season by running all the off season workouts, along with the in season conditioning. “Kristen developed their bodies, along with giving them the mental edge to compete each and every single night.” Breen Breen’s career started nine years go with a desire that grew from watching her brothers play. After a four-year varsity campaign, the Woodhaven star has grown to arguably the best all-around basketball player in the area. Her knack for flying up and down the court, grabbing rebounds and sinking triples is almost unmatchable. And the half court shot she sunk in districts this year, well, you just had to be there. Going to a Woodhaven game, it’s easy to see why Breen is a captain to the team. A seemingly natural leader, it’s her voice you will hear all around the gym, setting up plays and encouraging the younger players from the sidelines when she takes to the bench. “Being a captain was an amazing experience,” Breen said. “It meant a lot to be picked to represent the team. The motivation came from my love of the game.” Breen has wanted to play collegiate basketball since she was just 10 years old and says there are endless memories she will take with her as she furthers her playing career. “My favorite experience was our first district championship game,” she said. “The most exciting thing about moving forward is that I finally get to experience this goal I have been chasing for so long. “But the memories I will take with me is where I came from; Woodhaven high. The people there and the program, it was amazing. “The coaches and my teammates were always there for me. Also, I will take with me my experiences in AAU and the people that would be in the gym with me for hours on end.” Woodhaven Coach Rodney Scharboneau has coached Breen at the varsity level since she was a freshman. “Cassie came to us with great basketball skills and she just got better and better, eventually growing into a leader in all areas,” he said. “She grew tremendously in that she used to let the game circumstance get to her too much. She is now so much better at looking forward to the next play.” Scharboneau said he knew when he saw Breen play as an eighth grader that she would be instrumental to the team and deserved her spot as captain. “She certainly earned a captain spot this season because she has been such a big part of our success since her freshman season,” he said. “She helped the team in the best ways over the years through leading by example with her effort and competitiveness on the floor and in the classroom.” Breen is a tough opponent but an enjoyable player to coach. “I’ve said before that I’ve never coached a tougher player,” Scharboneau said. “When the play heated up on the floor, Cassie would take her game to another level and attack with new found energy. “She is a great competitor. She worked to become a terrific ball handler, has always been a great shooter and when she decides to rebound she can board with anyone.” The Rivalry The matchup between the Warriors and the Titans is an exciting one and Scharboneau said developed naturally over the years. “It’s a great one because it’s filled with what is right about the game- tough, clean play, outstanding sportsman ship, fantastic student sections- and it will continue,” he said. “We all want to win every game, especially the big rivalry game, but in the end, it’s not the most important thing.” Sakalas said the rivalry was everything you’d expect from a great rivalry and credits Breen and the Warriors for making it a great one. “Cassie is probably one of the best all-around players I’ve ever coached against in my time I’ve been at Southgate,” he said. “She does everything from rebounding to playing defense to shooting to handling the ball; she does it all. “I think she’s a phenomenal player and I’m personally glad I don’t have to play against her anymore and I can now root for her. She’s a very good player and a classy girl as well.” For the girls, it was a rivalry unlike any other. “The Woodhaven-Anderson rivalry is something you see on TV,” Breen said. “It was like our own little North Carolina versus Duke game. “We always knew each game was going to be close and intense. There was so much emotion that went into those games. It was definitely not just another game.” Sakalas enjoys the respect that comes from Downriver’s biggest rivals. “They (Moore, Corley) respect her (Breen) because she works just as hard and plays AAU with Amani so they know what each other are doing; they know how hard each other are working,” he said. “During basketball season, when you’re playing at opposite schools, you wanna get the better of the other person. Cassie got us for two years and we got her this year. “I think that they respect her; I think that they respect each other. I think on the courts, they just want to win; whether it’s Cassie or Amani or Tinara, they wanna win.” The Friendship As big of competitors as the girls were while the clock was running, as soon as the final buzzer went off, the three were right next to each other, chatting hugging and congratulating each other on a job well done, no matter the outcome. “Our relationships on and off the court are awesome,” Moore said. “Off the court we are best friends and on the court I guess you could say we are the friend-enemy. “We like each other to death and want the best for each other, but once we get on that court, may the best win.” Breen said it’s almost a love-hate relationship. “My relationship with Amani and Tinara is great,” she said. “They are both great people and good competitors, but when that game starts, all of us just want to get the win for our team. Then we can be friends again.” Scharboneau said the relationships will help them going forward. “When Cassie, Tinara and Amani played against each other, they played their hearts out in the game and then embraced and appreciated each other in the end,” he said. “They needed each other to have those great rivalry games, to be pushed to higher levels, so they knew how important they were to each other. “Now, they are going to be teammates at CMU which is fantastic for them and girls basketball in this area because they came from basketball programs in the Downriver League.” The girls are more than excited about the future together. “I think it is awesome than I am playing with a teammate and a competitive rival,” Moore said. “We are all going to have so much fun looking back on these years and talking about how we beach each other and obviously the district title.” The girls will bring endless memories, experiences and superstitions with them to Central. Corley and Moore have a dance they do together before leaving the locker room. For Breen, it’s all about eating the same Subway sandwich before each game. Each will be studying a different area as well. Moore will study sports management, sports broadcasting and marketing, Corley is looking into sports management or accounting and Breen will enter the medical field. Corley says taking this next step with Moore and Breen next to her is going to be reassuring. “I feel like going to college with two of my best friends is going to make the transition from high school to college easier for me,” she said. “Knowing I have two other people going through the same experience that I am is just a breath of fresh air.” The coaches couldn’t be more excited for their star players. “I think at Woodhaven, it started with Brianna Brennan and her will and commitment to playing college basketball at a high level,” Scharboneau said. “Cassie had that same commitment (and) wanted it badly and worked very hard to put herself in a class of players that will play college basketball at the highest level. “I’m so proud of her and know she will be great in everything she decides to focus on. There will be no stopping Cassie Breen.” Sakalas said it just shows the type of friendship and the type of talent that comes out of the Downriver League. “It’s a nice feather in the cap for our league,” he said.
Basketball - Girls
Trio of DRL hoopsters headed to CMU as teammates PHOTO GALLERY
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Last Updated: 4/25/2014 9:08:36 PM EST