Drills with grandfather, leadership prepare Lady Flyer (w/video)
Video: St. Joseph fly past John Paul II
Thrown elbows and aggressive defense do not deter veteran player Kensey Marshall on the basketball court.
The St. Joseph junior has gotten used to holding her own when referees miss fouls.
"It's pretty normal," Marshall said about hard hits and bad calls in high school basketball. "You just get used to it, and if the ref doesn't call it, you go with it. You have to ignore the elbows and hustle after the ball, no matter what."
The Lady Flyers (13-4) played Corpus Christi John Paul II on Monday at home and won 53-37 after taking the lead early in the first quarter.
Marshall was the first to score in the game and ended up making 14 points and four 3-pointers.
Though she didn't join a team until elementary school, Marshall started running drills with her grandfather, Dennis Leita, early in life.
"He coached at Nazareth (Academy) and played with me at home; he loves basketball," said Marshall, whose favorite NBA team is the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Moving to the A-team in middle school basketball helped her transition from eighth grade to varsity play as a freshman, Marshall said.
St. Joseph coach Carrie Myers said it takes a special kind of athlete to adjust quickly to a faster and more intense game.
"Every now and then, you will find a girl who can make that huge jump and who has the maturity it takes to do that," Myers said. "The girls look up to Kensey to get the ball down the court and to hit 3's. She and Kalyn (Hempel) work well together and lead the team in the right direction."
Marshall plays on the varsity softball team, too, but said basketball is her stronger sport.
"Just skill-wise, I'm better at basketball," she said. "I feel like I was born for this talent, born to be on the court and communicating with my teammates so we can all be better."
The Lady Flyers are ranked No. 20 for the small private schools division in the latest Texas Association of Basketball Coaches' poll.
However, Myers doesn't put much clout in rankings.
"It all depends on who you have played up until that point," Myers said. "It's great to be honored, but we take it one game at a time. We work on the game as individuals and as a team - that's what is important."
St. Joseph played in a three-day tournament in Industrial last week and ended up losing to Schulenburg in the consolation final.
"They are a very good team," Myers said about Schulenburg. "It was back-and-forth, and we were tied at the end of the first three quarters."
Fourth-quarter fouls gave Schulenburg extra opportunities to shoot from the freethrow line - something it excels at, Myers said.
"We try to set up a tough schedule at the beginning of the season, going up against teams that are better than us," Myers said. "We have a tough district this year, and getting that experience early is a huge benefit."
For Marshall and the rest of the Lady Flyers, playing ranked teams can only make their game better.
"Our coach says that a ranking isn't what a team is," Marshall said. "If you play to the best of your ability, you can beat them."
The Lady Flyers will travel to Goliad on Friday.