Prep girls basketball: Cyprus relies on defense to spark offense
Magna • The Cyprus girls basketball team had a simple game plan last season: "Feed the beast." When the Pirates needed points, the ball went to their star player, Lori Parkinson.
But with Parkinson graduated and playing for Southern Utah University, Cyprus' philosophy has changed. This time, the beasts are feeding themselves.
"Our significant offense comes off our defensive, creating havoc and turnovers," Cyprus coach Josh Adams said.
Nobody is doing that better than seniors Marquessa Gilson and Abby Barrett.
"If there could be co-defensive MVPs, it's them," Adams said.
Barrett plays in the post but has the quickness to get into the passing lanes and the speed to beat players the length of the floor after a steal. She had five steals her average on the season to go with 14 points and 22 rebounds against Hunter on Friday.
"The coaches I've talked to all say she has a motor like they've never seen before," Adams said. "Whenever she is in the game, the energy level goes up."
Gilson, meanwhile, shadows the opposing team's best player each game. It doesn't matter if she's a point guard or a center.
"I just go out there and play with heart," Gilson said. "Try to hold them below their average."
That's usually the case.
Last season, Gilson blanketed Hunter star Dezz Ramos, who now plays at Weber State. Earlier this season, Cyprus held Hillcrest's Whitney Nemelka to 15 points, which was 4 points below her average. But 8 of those points came in a span of about two minutes when Adams gave Gilson a breather.
Neither was more challenging than the player Gilson guarded every day in practice last season.
"I think Lori was by far the hardest. She was big and quick and smart, too," Gilson said. "She challenged me."
Gilson's offense has improved this season, and she's averaging better than 10 points a game for the Pirates, who entered the week 6-2. She filled up the stat sheet with 14 points, seven rebounds, eight steals, three blocks and four assists against Hunter.
But defense still is her hallmark.
"Marquessa's nickname is Crouching Tiger because she's everywhere," Adams said. "She's unique that way. Most of the players are looking to score, and I think Marquessa would much rather have a stop."
Losing Parkinson left Cyprus with a void, but Gilson and Barrett have helped fill it.
"We all had to work on our game and step it up," Barrett said.
"I'm more confident this year than I was last year," Adams added. "We have some work to do, but with our defense, we can go a long way."