MCS striving to raise bar in girls basketball program

02/01/2016

MCS striving to raise bar in girls basketball program photo

Aubriana Bellard

MCS striving to raise bar in girls basketball program photo

Makenzie Tolson

The goal was to make this a memorable season for Middletown Christian School’s girls basketball team.

So far, it’s working.

The Eagles are 9-3, the best start in program history, with a blend of veterans and newcomers under fourth-year coach Brent Tolson.

“They’re great girls,” he said. “God’s been good these four years. He’s blessed all of us, and hopefully that will continue.”

Sophomore Aubriana Bellard is the only double-double player in the Metro Buckeye Conference. The 5-foot-10 forward is averaging 13.4 points and 11.2 rebounds per game.

“We’re kind of like a rag-tag team that’s doing well,” Bellard said. “It’s because we all work hard and want to win and have unity. On a lot of teams, there’s a lot of drama. Here, we just kind of tell each other how we feel, and we’re all friends. When you work together and give a lot of effort, teams really work out.”

She’s one of five returnees who played major roles for MCS last season. Senior guard Makenzie Tolson, senior forward Brooke Richardson, junior center Jada Long and junior point guard Hannah Spahr are the others, with Tolson on the stretch drive of a record-setting career at the Division IV school.

“We’ve done better than we expected,” said Tolson, the No. 1 female scorer in school history with 1,246 points. “I’m having a blast. We take it seriously, but we’re always making jokes and having fun and messing with my dad.”

Tolson, a 5-7 shooting guard, is averaging 19.3 points, 9.3 boards, 6.0 steals and 5.3 assists per game, leading the MBC in the latter two categories.

Tolson and Bellard produce the bulk of the Eagles’ points. What Brent Tolson likes is the fact that his team has four of the conference’s top 10 rebounders in Bellard, Tolson, Long (8.6) and Richardson (5.4).

“Our rebounding is the key,” Brent Tolson said. “I would describe us as a defensive-minded team, very scrappy with plenty of leadership. I’ve got girls that I can count on.”

Bellard is the leader of the board crew. She’s grabbed at least a dozen rebounds seven times this season.

“I knew I was going to have to step up this year,” Bellard said. “In basketball, there’s always a lot of people diving on the floor and hustling all over the place. I don’t mind getting on the ground. I don’t mind getting in a little tussle for the ball.”

Spahr is recovering from a broken thumb and may return to action Thursday night at Yellow Springs. Middletown Christian is allowing 33.4 points per game.

“Defense — that’s our game,” said Makenzie Tolson, who’s played much of the season with a broken pinky on her right (shooting) hand. “Offense comes and goes, but we always hustle and play good D.”

She holds nine program records and is the career leader in steals (282), assists (296) and 3-pointers (87).

Tolson has nearly doubled the next-highest point total (663) and has set her sights on becoming the school’s all-time leading scorer. Tim Parks is No. 1 on the boys list with 1,401 points.

“He’s good with it,” Makenzie said of Parks, a 1981 graduate who still lives in the area and is a family friend. “I did not expect to have a chance to do this. It was my goal, but I never thought I’d go over a thousand.”

Brent Tolson said his daughter’s all-around game has continued to improve.

“Every year she’s seen, ‘The more I pass, the more points I end up with,’ ” he said. “She’s not as worried about making points now. If she plays the whole game, whether it’s assists or steals or handling the ball, everything else will fall into place.”

Makenzie has verbally committed to play NAIA ball at Cincinnati Christian University, where she plans to major in early childhood education. Earlham, Capital and Milligan (Tenn.) were among the schools she considered.

“I’m so excited to go to Cincinnati Christian,” Makenzie said. “I just loved all the players and the coach the best there. It was close to home, but still far enough way. It was the perfect fit for me.”

Her dad plans to be right there watching her. Brent Tolson has already told the MCS administration this is his last season.

“God and family are first, so I want to watch her play,” Brent said. “There’s no way I could do that and be the full-time varsity coach, in my opinion. But I’ll miss these girls.”

There’s still a lot of season left for MCS, which is 2-3 in conference play. The Eagles had never won an OHSAA tournament game before Tolson became head coach, but they’ve won four in the last three seasons and reached two D-IV sectional finals.

The team will prepare for the tournament with a weekend trip to Gatlinburg, Tenn., after the last regular-season game. It’s become an annual event under Tolson, and basketball isn’t on the agenda.

“We don’t even really talk about basketball,” Makenzie said. “It’s just team bonding. My favorite memories have come from that trip. We get to know each other that much more.”

“You would think taking nine girls to Tennessee would be chaos, but it’s a great time,” the MCS coach said. “We have a cabin in the mountains that sleeps like 18. We do the aquarium, go-karts, WonderWorks, restaurants, shopping … we’ll take it easy and come back and get started for the sectional.”