Adding a new, quality player to the roster is always a good thing.
But it is even better when that new player isn’t necessarily new.
Alaina Rongos grew up in Columbia City playing basketball in elementary and middle school. When it came time for high school, Rongos made the daily trek to Canterbury for academic opportunities.
Now she is back in Columbia City for her senior season, one year removed from leading Canterbury in scoring (17.5 ppg).
“Alaina grew up in our program, so it’s great to have her back,” Columbia City coach Amy Shearer said. “She gives us that inside presence. She is not a back-to-the-basket type kid, but she is 6-foot and long.”
Rongos may be the final piece for a team that is looking like a Northeast 8 contender. Olivia Shearer, Carly Mabie and Grace Schrader are a trio of juniors back after being the top three leading scorers for Columbia City last year. Shearer, a shooting guard, averaged 11.4 points a year ago. Fellow guards Schrader (8.0 ppg) and Mabie (7.9 ppg) give the Eagles plenty of scoring options on the outside.
With Rongos now in the mix, a player who can shoot from the outside, attack off the dribble and finish around the bucket, opportunities will open for the shooters on the perimeter.
“We don’t have a lot of size, a lot of guards and small forwards,” Shearer said. “We aren’t going to be a team that has a lot of flashy one-on-one kind of kids.”
The Eagles will also look to a pair of seniors – Grace Cotter and Hunter Alles – to be bigger contributors in their final prep seasons. Alles has battled back issues in the recent past, but Shearer hopes she can be healthy this season.
With so much production back, Columbia City looks poised to be in the thick of the NE8 race. Bellmont, Leo and Norwell are all expected to be strong, but arguably no team brings back as much proven scoring as the Eagles do.
“We have the potential to be a top 2-3 team in the conference this year,” Shearer said.
When you return your top three scorers and add Rongos, who averaged 17.5 points per game for Canterbury, you can see why expectations are high for the Eagles.
This team should be able to keep up in the scoring column with the majority of teams on its schedule.
Why not higher?
The lack of size up front is a concern, particularly when it comes to interior defense and rebounding. Rongos helps in that regard, but others will have to step up in the post for the Eagles to be a balanced squad.
You have to go back to the 2005-06 season to find the last time Columbia City defeated Norwell in girls basketball, a string of 16 consecutive losses. The Eagles travel to take on the Knights on Dec. 7 in a pivotal NE8 game. If Columbia City is truly a threat in the NE8, this is a game that it needs to win.