Whiteland’s girls basketball program recorded nine victories last season, an eight-win increase over the year before.
Further proof that having a dependable interior presence can make a difference.
Mackenzie Blazek finished her freshman season averaging 12.6 points and 9.9 rebounds, numbers that earned the 6-foot-1 forward/center a place on the Daily Journal’s All-County Team.
“We knew that Mackenzie’s ceiling was going to be really high, but to be honest I think she exceeded expectations as a ninth-grader,” said fourth-year Whiteland coach Kyle Shipp.
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“Just as the season went on last year, not only did she get more confidence, but her teammates got more confidence in her.”
The numbers prove it.
Consistent the entire season with double-digit point totals in all but five of the Warriors’ 24 games, Blazek during Whiteland’s final 10 games upped her averages to 15.9 points and 11.8 boards.
“I feel like I had a really good season last year. More toward the end of the season my teammates started to learn more how to play with me out there and we all kind of gelled together,” said Blazek, who finished shooting .510 from the floor and led the team in blocks with 37.
“I was really blessed to have the opportunity to play a lot.”
Now an inch taller at 6-2, the sophomore stepped directly into basketball season from volleyball, where she led the Warriors in kills (178) and blocks (75) as a starting middle blocker.
Blazek said she thought playing volleyball helps strengthen her legs for jumping. Meanwhile, time in the Whiteland weight room over the offseason improved her ability to finish through contact near the hoop.
Another addition to Blazek’s offensive repertoire is the confidence to step out and shoot the 12- to 15-foot jump shot.
“Last year I did mostly post moves, and now I’m going the high post and taking the ball up the court sometimes instead of just passing it to a guard right away. I probably won’t shoot the 3-pointer yet, but I will a 15-foot jumper,” Blazek said.
Whiteland opened its season at home Saturday with a 48-40 loss to Greenfield-Central. Blazek scored 15 points, running her double-figure scoring streak to 11 games dating back to last season.
The loss to the Cougars might not be the start the Warriors envisioned, yet every game provides Blazek that much more varsity experience.
“Mackenzie is going to know exactly what’s coming at her from Game 1 to Game 22. I’m really excited to see the progression play out this season and see those expectations grow for her,” Shipp said.
“She’s now a better ball-handler who’ll be able to handle the ball a little bit more at times for us if we need her to, and she rebounds with the best of them. Mackenzie rebounds the basketball better than anyone I’ve ever seen.”
Already a master of the double-double, Blazek, who also is an outstanding student (3.8 GPA), is hoping this applies to Warriors’ eventual win total, as well.
“I definitely want to win more games than last year, and I feel like we have a good chance,” she said. “I want to win county and get a net for our seniors this year. They work so hard for us, and I would like to give back to them a little bit.”
THE BLAZEK FILE
Name: Mackenzie Blazek
Born: Palentine, Illinois
Family: Parents, Phil and Jen; brother, Colton, 13
Favorite TV show: “Big Bang Theory”
Favorite food: Macaroni and cheese
Favorite movie: “Pitch Perfect”
Favorite athlete: Tamika Catchings
Favorite team: Indiana Pacers