The self-described "goofball" that is 6-2 center/guard Maya Jonas of the Whitefish Bay girls basketball team is playing a very serious role in the otherwise young Blue Dukes run towards a North Shore Conference title.
She grabs rebounds with strength, leaps out of the blue to deflect passes and block shots, can hit jumpers as well as post shots and can bring the ball up the floor as well as any guard.
In short, the knee injury that robbed her of much of last season is 18 months in the rearview mirror and is of little concern to her right now.
She's playing with freedom and energy and so are her teammates, as the Blue Dukes ran their win streak to nine games with a decisive 51-27 victory over a good Homestead Friday night.
The win kept the Blue Dukes (10-2 overall, 6-1 in North Shore play) just a game behind Germantown (7-0 in league play) as they prepare for a rematch at home next Friday with the Warhawks. Germantown beat Bay, 82-77, in the first league game of the season in December.
It remains the Blue Dukes last defeat.
Jonas, who had 12 points in the win over Homestead, can't wait for next week.
"Everyone is excited," she said. "It should be a good game. ...and I'm excited to play in it. I'm feeling great which is largely due to my trainer Sue Reed. She really has me ready.
...We're also just having fun as a team. We're very close with each other. It's like we can read each other's minds (laughs)."
Jonas, whose sense of playfulness and freedom is also helped by the fact that she long ago settled on a scholarship offer from Northwestern, is looked on as the big sister on a unit that has only one other senior (Catie McBride).
They play at a faster pace than that of the last few years under first-year coach Dave Markson, using lightning quick sophomore guard Kaitlyn Jackson as "pest in chief" on the opposing team's ballhandler, as she forces bad passes and turnovers in bunches.
"She's a one-person wonder on defense," said Jonas.
That theory worked wonders again for the Blue Dukes Friday night, as they used their length and speed to totally take a talented, but young Highlander team (3-3, 6-5) out of its game immediately.
Junior forward Ashley Reed (game-high 16 points) was the immediate beneficiary as Bay went up 8-0 with Reed scoring the first six points. She would finish with 11 points in the quarter as Bay went up 19-6 at tis end.
Junior forward Emma Jankowski added two 3-pointers in the period.
The lead would be as great as 20 in the first half as the Blue Dukes never let the advantage dip below 14.
"It was disappointing," said Highlander coach Matt Heuser. "We could never get five people out there at one time who would put out maximum effort. We just weren't competitive. They went up 8-0 and we became totally intimidated.
"We have similar length to them, but we were totally outhustled and outplayed."
That was by design, said Bay coach Dave Markson.
"I think we've done a nice job of establishing our identity," he said. "We have an aggressive mindset that we bring out onto the floor. I credit coach Schumaker (assistant coach Kelly Schumaker) for helping to create that. It was one of the things we wanted to bring in this year."
And it has been effective, as Bay turned in its second big-time win of the week, after overpowering defending league champion Cedarburg, 56-42, on Tuesday.
Friday night, the Blue Dukes forced the Highlanders into numerous turnovers, and were totally dominant on the boards, getting as many as four and sometimes five shots at a time.
As Heuser indicated, they initimidated the Highlanders.
"Our defense and rebounding have definitely led the way so far," said Markson. "Having Kaitlyn (Jackson) on whoever has the ball has also been a very effective tactic for us too. We also had a good night passing the ball."
Jankowski added eight points for Bay as both she and Emma Jonas had two 3-pointers each. Kaelee McIlwraith led Homestead with seven points.
Maya Jonas said the Blue Dukes are ready for the challenge of Germantown, which features a high-octane "Grinnell-style" press, run and shoot philosophy.
"It can be a little initimidating at first," said Jonas. "but then you get used to it. They (the Warhawks) do some really good things, but then you get into the flow of the game and it becomes just more of a competition.
"I'm jacked up for it."
So, in his own way, is her low-key coach.
"We have this tough little run with Cedarburg, Homestead and Germantown," he said, "but we've played well in the first two games.
"...That was a good team that beat us the first time around (Germantown). This game has real implications (for conference) and I think we'll be more ready for them this time.
"We hadn't established our identity at that point (it was only the team's third overall game), but now we have. You can't help but look forward to it."
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