2022 GIRLS HOOPS PREVIEW: No. 2 Columbia City Eagles

Columbia City’s Kyndra Sheets plays defense during a game against Concordia. (Photo by Leverage Photography)

In the 2021-22 season, Columbia City earned its first 20-win season in seven years and earned a share of the Northeast 8 Conference title.

It graduated a few key seniors but a big chunk of its talented youth is back and ready for another 20-win campaign, take the conference outright and win its first sectional championship since 2000.

The Eagles are going to be a small team but have a lot of ferocious guards that make every opposing ball handler’s life very difficult. The leader of that aggressive style defense is sophomore Addison Baxter, who led Columbia City in points (11.7), rebounds (5.7), assists (4.5) and steals (4) per game as a freshman. Baxter is a very good creator, who knows how to get open and be strong enough to finish around the rim. On the defensive end, it’s that same ability to anticipate that helps create turnovers and help her team get in transition. 

Kyndra Sheets will handle the point guard duties for Columbia City. She averaged 3.5 assists last season while also scoring 10.6 points per game. She is well versed in the Eagles offense and knows how to get her teammates involved, as well as showcasing the capability to score in a few different ways. She’s also a menace on the defense end and is a willing rebounder. She ended up with 1.9 steals and 4.2 rebounds per contest.

Molly Baker is the inside threat for the Eagles but can also step out and knock down a jump shot. Baker will be key for the offense because if she can score consistently in the paint, it will open up the rest of the offense and give shooters on the perimeter more room to work with. Baker scored 10.2 points per contest and hauled in 5.5 rebounds per game.

Tessa Tonkel gives the Eagles another shooter to go to. She is the team’s leading returning three-point shooter at over 40 percent. Overall, she averaged seven points per game and 1.8 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game.

Faith Frey got some varsity minutes last season and is another capable shooter for the Eagles. 

Madi Gawthrop, Laney Ziliak, Anisa Tonkel and Megan Baxter are all newcomers for Columbia City and will be asked to help create depth, especially on a team that has no seniors.

“We will be a small team again this season, but we are hopeful that we can outwork and outhustle our opponents. We will want to defend aggressively and get in transition, and we have the guards to do this,” head coach Amy Shearer said. 

Why #2?

The Eagles made waves last season with its youth taking over and helping them win a lot of games. That youth is back and should take another step. Columbia City has three players in the top 26 of Outside the Huddle’s Top 50 countdown. Not many other teams have more than two.

The defense will be very stout and cause a lot of havoc, which will in turn into a lot of transition points.

Why not higher?

It’s the youth. While being extremely talented, it’s a young team with several players taking on new roles. Who steps up and takes over as the leaders? Also, after its top five players, it features no varsity experience. The Eagles will have to quickly build up some depth to ensure it stays as one of the top teams in the area. 

Crucial Game

Dec. 9 at Norwell

The Knights and Eagles are the two top teams in the Northeast 8. Both have a lot of young talent and are expected to compete for championships. Columbia City won this game by 21 last year, and it was then that everyone started to take the Eagles seriously. Norwell wants revenge for sure, and the winner of this game will be in control of the conference.

Critical Player

Molly Baker

The Eagles are a small team that has very few options to go inside, so Baker will have to continue to be a threat in the paint to not limit the offense. Her ability to stretch the defense and bring her defender on the perimeter will help open up driving lanes for her teammates. 

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