- Jeff Gilbert Contributing Writer
Five years ago Beth Marks was coaching seventh-grade basketball, and Hayley Suchland was on her team. Marks, now in her first season as the varsity girls coach at Northeastern, is not surprised by what Suchland has done since.
“I knew she was a leader, she was a scorer,” Marks said. “She could always make things happen, not just for herself but for her teammates.”
As Marks said, Suchland was a scorer. As the only senior for Northeastern, Suchland is the scorer for the second straight year, averaging 35 points through five games. And she’s become the most prolific girls basketball scorer in school history.
Suchland entered a home game against Mechanicsburg on Dec. 7 only 12 points from surpassing the school record of 1,169 set by Nancy Keith in the early 1980s. The goal was to make it happen in the first quarter. That was no problem for Suchland. She finished with 31 points and enters Thursday’s game with 1,265.
“My freshman and sophomore years I had no clue that I was going to get close to scoring a thousand points and breaking the record,” said Suchland, who is likely to finish with over 1,600 points.
Suchland didn’t have to be the go-to player her first two seasons. The Jets had lots of good, older players leading the team to winning seasons under former coach Cindy Erwin. Suchland was a key member of the team, but it was last year when the Jets became young and won only five games that Suchland had to take on the scoring load. She averaged 29 points to earn first-team honors in the Ohio Heritage Conference, second team on the Division III all-Southwest District team and honorable mention all-Ohio.
This season Suchland is shooting 46 percent from the field, 70 percent from the free-throw line and averaging eight rebounds, five steals and two assists.
“We couldn’t do it without her,” said junior Bryn Dawson. “Offense and defense both, we need her. She’s very vocal on both ends of the court. If something needs to be done, she’ll step up and say it.”
Suchland has to say a lot on a team that is half sophomores. Her high game is 49 and her low is 30, but scoring average is not her focus. Suchland, Marks and the rest of the team just want to win. They know that rebounding improvement and cutting down on turnovers are the keys to reaching the goal of at least a .500 record.
“We definitely have a lot of potential, we just need to figure that out in each person,” Suchland said. “Once we bring that out, we’ll be fine and get some wins.”
The achievement will require Suchland to keep scoring, but Marks also wants more players to step up and score and take some pressure off Suchland. Sometimes, Marks said, the other players depend too much on Suchland.
“She is a role model,” Marks said. “The girls can look to her and learn how to be a scorer. She’s very helpful in helping some of our younger, less experienced girls. She doesn’t put anybody down. She has a very positive attitude.”
When the season ends, Suchland will focus on her future as a student-athlete in basketball and possibly softball as well. She’s had several college offers to play basketball and is considering schools in Ohio such as Wilmington, Bluffton, Capital and Ohio Northern. She’s had out-of-state offers and was recently contacted by Division II San Francisco State.
Suchland is one of three who have a chance to be Northeastern’s valedictorian, so academics will guide her college choice more than anything. She wants to get a doctor of physical therapy degree, so the school she chooses has to either offer that extended program or have a four-year program that sets her up to finish at a partner school.
“I don’t think I can ever not be involved with any athletics,” Suchland said. “It’d be really hard. It makes it more fun that way rather than just a job.”
For now she has a job. And that’s to score and lead a young team to victory.