Mikala Morris is on pace to make history this season.
Through three seasons, the 6-foot-2 Kenton Ridge High School post player wracked up 1,249 rebounds. In the Cougars’ season opener, the senior pulled down 23 boards in their 47-27 victory over Westerville North, tying her with Massillon Tuslaw’s Mayci Sales for 10th the Ohio High School Athletic Association all-time list at 1,272.
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As of Dec. 4, Morris needs 418 more rebounds to the break the all-time record of 1,690 set by Eastlake North’s Kaayla Chones from 1996-1999. Last season, Morris finished the season with 495, the second-best rebounding season in state history — meaning the record is within reach. But it’s definitely not something she’s thinking about, Morris said.
“I just out there and play,” she said.
The goal is to win as many games as possible, including the Central Buckeye Conference Kenton Trail Division title.
“It’s going to take a lot of hard work and being super disciplined and playing really good defense,” Morris said. “There are a lot of great players in our conference. We’ll have to shut them down one game at a time. It’s going to take a lot of hard work.”
Morris had 17 points, 23 rebounds, six steals and five blocks in the victory over Westerville North, which beat the Cougars a year ago.
“It was a tough loss,” Morris said. “To beat them by such a good amount, it shows our potential this season. I’m really excited.”
The Cougars have four seniors this season — Morris, Kirsten Wiley, Mariah Baker and Mallory Armentrout, all four-year varsity players, said Kenton Ridge coach Matt McCurdy.
“The defense sets the tone for us,” McCurdy said. “All the girls are unselfish. We move the ball well offensively. To be able to compete in the conference at the level they want to compete at, we have to take care of the basketball every game.”
On the floor, Morris described herself as a physical presence who works hard in the paint. She’s worked hard on her perimeter game over the last few seasons, she said.
Morris is often attracting double-teams and triple-teams, McCurdy said, which helps her get her teammates involved.
“Her basketball IQ is just so high,” McCurdy said. “She’s typically in the right spots. By being in the right spots it allows her to get a lot of rebounds.”
The Cougars have beefed up their non-conference schedule this season to prepare to make a run in the tournament, McCurdy said. They’ll face D-I teams in Centerville and Northmont, as well as Chaminade-Julienne. They’re also playing in the Bragging Rights Challenge later this month.
Morris’ future is set as she signed with Division I Quinnipiac University, located in Hamden, Conn., last month. The Bobcats finished 28-6 last season, falling to UConn in the second round of the NCAA tournament.
“It’s a lot of stress taken off my shoulders,” Morris said. “I can just enjoy the rest of my senior year without having to worry about anything.”
It’s a journey that started when she was 5 years old when her parents first signed her up for basketball. Eventually, she grew to love the game, she said. She’ll go down as one of the best players in Kenton Ridge’s tradition-rich history.
“(Basketball) is somewhere I can go when I’m having a bad day,” Morris said. “It’s my stress reliever. It’s somewhere I can go and be free and have fun.”
Early leaders: Springfield sophomore Mickayla Perdue is leading the 20-team Greater Western Ohio Conference in steals at 5.3 per game through Dec. 4. She’s also tied for the league scoring race at 20.7 points per game with Lebanon’s Kendall Foley and Fairmont’s Maddy Westbeld.
Springfield sophomore guard Jada Bass is leading the GWOC in assists at 7.3 per game for the Wildcats (2-1, 0-1 GWOC National East).
Hot start: Cedarville is off to a fast start this season and the Indians (2-0) are doing it with defense.
Cedarville, a Division IV district finalist last season, is allowing 14.5 points per game. The Indians beat Madison Plains 58-11 and then beat Troy 57-18 last Saturday.
The Indians travel to Greenon on Thursday night for an important early season Ohio Heritage Conference South Division game.