Cyprus has been a little short on athletic pride for a while now. But it is all changing with the emergence of the Pirates’ girls basketball team.
The Cyprus girls are off to a 15-1 start and have announced themselves as a 4A championship contender.
If the Pirates can raise that banner at the end of the season, they will have proved that defense really does win championships. Cyprus is the best team in the state in terms of steals, and it’s not even close. Junior Abby Barrett said the Pirates take pride in their defense. She said that mindset allows them to be successful.
“I think it is a mental thing, you have to want to get the ball,” Barrett said. “If I really want to get the ball, I will push myself and it happens.”
It is that aggressive attitude, by the whole team, that has put the Pirates in the position they are in. Currently, all five Cyprus starters rank in the top eight in steals in 4A. Along with Barrett, Lori Parkinson, Julie Caputo, Tori Dyson and Marquessa Gilson all are averaging at least 2.2 steals per game.
Coach Josh Adams said all five players have a unique defensive skill that allows them to cause turnovers, and combining each of those skills creates mayhem.
“Each of them has such different strengths that when you put them all together, it’s havoc out there,” Adams said. “And they never let up. We’ll be up by 30 points and they are still diving for loose balls.”
With Parkinson, Dyson and Barrett being the top three thieves, sometimes Gilson gets overlooked. Adams said Gilson is the main reason for the Pirates’ defensive success.
“She doesn’t get a lot of credit, but day in and day out, she guards the best player on every team,” Adams said. “Marquessa is the best defensive player in the state, hands down.”
Gilson said she prides herself on defense much more than offense.
“I would be much happier holding the player I’m guarding under her average than I would be reaching my own scoring average,” she said.
Adams said Gilson set a goal before the season to hold every player she guards to 50 percent of her season scoring average, and she usually reaches that goal.
Gilson was quick to point out that it isn’t just about her. She and her partners agree that it is a team effort. Caputo said each of them is a better player because of the others.
“What helps a lot is that we all have each other’s back,” Caputo said. “There will be times when my player gets past me, and there is someone inside to pick them up. It is really nice when you know your teammates have your back.”
Maybe it is that team-first mindset that has the stars aligning for Cyprus. The Pirates came into the week riding an 11-game winning streak. When asked, Cyprus players weren’t too superstitious to say that their goal is to win the state championship.
“It will be our defense that gets us there,” Dyson said. “If we keep playing defense, the rest will fall into place.”
Queens of steals
All five Cyprus starters rank in the top eight in 4A in steals.
The Pirates set a school record with 27 steals against Highland.
As a team, Cyprus averages just over 18 steals per game.