Girls basketball: Ramblers offense flows through ‘coach on the floor’ Mary Morgan
The score was 24-20 and the Cotter girls basketball team had the ball holding on for the last shot before the half in their Tuesday showdown with Southland.
Out past the three point line, junior point guard Mary Morgan surveyed the Southland zone defense, dribbling nonchalantly to her left before rifling a bullet that seemingly passed a sea of hands before it found her sister Megan Morgan for an easy layup to give Cotter a six-point advantage.
It was a play that Mary Morgan made look simple and one that many around the Cotter girls basketball program have grown accustomed to.
Mary’s vision, court awareness, and basketball IQ are what separates her from the other point guards around the area.
It helps that she had a really good teacher growing up in the form of her mother, Rita Miller. Miller was a former college point guard at Saint Benedict from 1986-1990 where she currently sits third in school history in assists per game (3.5) and fifth in total assists (285). She was Mary and Megan’s coach throughout elementary school. She installed early on in Mary’s career that a point guard’s job is to pass and distribute first with scoring coming second.
“It started in the third grade,” Mary said. “With my Mom being a point guard it’s been since day one that you have to see the floor. Getting teammates open is the job of the point guard. You are going to score maybe 10 points and maybe have a game-high but at the end of the day it comes down to who makes the plays and who makes the assists. You have to do the little things to lift your team to the victory.”
In the current age of basketball, this has seemingly become a rarity. It’s also why she is so valuable to a team like the Ramblers who have multiple shooters in Jordan Rubie, Isabel Northrop, her sister Megan Morgan, and Ella Reilly.
“Tonight’s a perfect example, seven assists and one turnover,” said Ramblers coach Pat Bowlin about how valuable Mary is to the team after Cotter’s 59-33 win over Southland on Tuesday. “Mary does a terrific job taking care of the basketball. She makes a lot of good decisions...She does a great job of getting us into our stuff. She’s one of those kids that knows everybody’s job on the team. You love to have those kids that have the big picture in mind. They not only know their position, but they know everyone’s position. That’s really want you want in a point guard.”
Whenever Mary is on the court she is in total control. She seemingly knows all of the different offensive sets like the back of her hand and it leads to an efficient Cotter offense. Being in control was just another lesson that was installed early in Mary’s playing career by her Mother.
“It comes down to you have to be the leader on the floor,” Mary Morgan said. “You have the mentality that you kind of own the court. It’s whatever your pace is your teammates pace is. You have to lead by example. Once my level of intensity goes up usually the team follows. I’m lucky to have such a great team around me.”
Nothing happens without her knowing. The offense starts with her and that means good things for a number of reasons according to her coach.
“She’s definitely one of the more creative point guards as far as finding open players and things like that,” Bowlin said. “She just plays with a lot of poise. She doesn’t get rattled, she’s very poise and finds open players. She has a good group to work with as well. We have a number of good players and a number of good three-point shooters so we are able to space the floor, but none of that matters if you don’t have a point guard that can get them the ball and Mary does that really well.
“It’s her passing that really sets her apart and it’s what we need on this team...She understands the game really really well. It’s the classic coach on the floor which is a really nice thing to have as a coach. You just love somebody that can see the big picture and understands too who to get the ball to.”
Through 15 games Mary Morgan has 63 assists good for an average of just over four per game while averaging about nine points a game, but she is also the vocal leader both on and off the court.
“It’s awesome playing with Mary,” Northrop said. “She’s definitely the leader out there. We will come in for halftime and she will just tell us what we need to do. What we are doing wrong what we are doing good. Her leadership is amazing. She just has a really good sense of the court and really good basketball IQ. That’s definitely a really good to have in a point guard.”
Morgan has really found her groove the last four games. Entering Thursday night’s game, she was averaging close to 10 points and six assists per game. It started with an impressive showing against St. Charles at the Holiday Basketball Classic. She had 13 points, six rebounds, five assists, and three steals to help lead the Ramblers to a big win over the Saints. Cotter has won three of those four games defeating really solid Lake City and P-E-M teams with their only defeat coming by four against Rochester Lourdes. The Ramblers currently sit at 13-3 with their losses all coming outside the conference.
“We still have 10-11 games left before playoffs,” Morgan said. “We need to stay focused on two goals, first, to be undefeated in conference and second to play the section final game. I am so lucky to have the opportunity to play the game I love, but also compete with a team I love with with the ultimate goal of making the state tournament.”