Sacred Heart Prep girls' basketball coach Ann Tafolla believes that her superstar player, Melissa Holland, has taken her game to the next level by tapping into her inner catcher.
In a sense, what has catapulted Holland this season is the cerebral.
"She sees everything,” Tafolla said. "She's managing people. She talks to players both on offense and defense. She's working that defensive side of the floor — playing big.
"She's a smart kid. We've actually made some adjustments based on who we're playing as to what side of the floor she's playing. Not just offensively, obviously her offensive numbers are big, but even more so, for me as a coach, she's manages the floor for us.”
There are no tools of ignorance necessary here. At least not ones that are visible. But when talking about Holland, Tafolla has noticed the senior wearing a certain "light” in her eye on and off the floor which has translated into a new level of basketball for No. 22.
"It's fun to watch,” Tafolla said.
Nowhere has Holland been bigger and more instrumental than the start of the West Bay Athletic League season. After back-to-back losses to begin the 2013 campaign, Holland has put the Gators on her back. In two wins last week, No. 22 averaged 26 points per game and played inspired defense along the way.
For her efforts, Holland is the Daily Journal Athlete of the Week.
"You can't see some things on a stat sheet,” Tafolla said. "In the last three games specifically, you see Melissa is rebounding, she's scoring ... but you can't see that intangible — heart and spirit. Our last three games have been determined by five points. You have to keep your head in the game — manage yourself. And that's what she's been doing.”
Holland has figured herself out and has turned that knowledge into leading her teammates in this her final run through the WBAL.
"I actually told some of the kids the other day, ‘Listen to Melissa. If she's managing that, you're managing this,'” Tafolla said. "She's not only really found a knack for defense, she's also sort of found her leadership in the communication in the right way — in the way that people listen because they want to follow her. It's a fun place for her right now. She's playing fun, spirited basketball. There's a light in her eye.”
That light was a fire against Menlo School. Holland scored 29 points in the win. More importantly, she was asked to guard Knights' superstar center Drew Edelman and limited her to 17 points.
"Melissa is considered one of the biggest players on the team,” Tafolla said. "So, she's playing big. Every game, she's in the middle of our zone specifically. She's managing anything that's coming through there. She's directing traffic.
"She definitely has had her games here and there, but that game specifically, with some of the defensive adjustments that we made, it ultimately put the game on her with Drew. We said, ‘Hey, you know where she's at,'” Tafolla added about that Menlo win. "It was one of the best games I've seen any kids play in a long time.”
Holland followed that performance with a solid 23-point one against Castilleja — upping her points per game average to 10 per during that effort.
"What she does on the offensive end is only because of how they play on the defensive end,” Tafolla said. "So, her defense has definitely pushed her offense. She's playing smart basketball right now. There's a spirit in her. She's sort of found this light in her eyes if you watch her play. It's very calm. She just knows what to do.”