Natalie Galaida made her varsity debut for the Brunswick girls basketball team on Feb. 22, 2016. The first time she touched the ball, she attempted a 3-point field goal.
Little did anyone know at the time it was the beginning of a historic career.
Galaida has made a Medina County-record 71 3-pointers this season — breaking the mark of 69 established by Wadsworth’s Stephanie Martin in 1992-93 — while shooting .359 from beyond the arc. The Capital University recruit’s 139 treys over the last two winters also are the most in local history.
“I have never seen a girl put in more time in the gym than Natalie, so I know that she has earned everything she has accomplished,” Blue Devils boys basketball coach Joe Mackey said. “She never stops working and has dedicated herself to her craft.
“Nat’s goal has always been to become a great 3-point shooter. Anyone who watches her play can see that’s exactly what she is.”
The senior shooting guard is typically the smallest player on the court at 5-foot-3 but can match the tenacity of 6-footers — and willingly gets in the face of any defender who gets too handsy trying to guard her.
If Galaida gets open for a split second, she makes opponents pay with her lightning-quick release, whether she’s just outside the paint or 23 feet away on the wing. Few county players have possessed better shooting mechanics, which is the key to her success.
“From the time I started playing basketball in the driveway with my brother Nick, I always wanted to have good form,” she said. “I knew how important that was because I would watch a lot of NBA games, studying how the great shooters did it. If you have good form, there is a good chance you’re going to make the shot.”
Though Galaida says she didn’t pattern her skills after another player, she was inspired by current Lake Erie College small forward Farrah Benner. They were teammates three years ago when Benner made a school-record 68
3-pointers while shooting .360 from long range.
As a junior, Galaida tied the Brunswick mark with 68 threes, earning her recognition alongside Benner on the exterior of the gymnasium. The wall of honor will need to be updated following this season, perhaps in several categories.
“My freshman year, I was kind of intimidated by Farrah,” Galaida said. “But once I got to know her and we became friends, the success she’s had at Lake Erie has inspired me. After coming so close last year, I really wanted to break her record and be on that sign in the hallway.”
Benner visited her alma mater on Dec. 29 to check on Galaida’s progress and took part in an impromptu shooting contest, even though she was wearing high heels and a red cocktail dress.
The timing was perfect as one night earlier, Galaida had matched Benner’s school single-game record of eight 3-pointers against Valley Forge.
“You’re going to break all of my records, Nat,” Benner playfully kidded her. “Please leave at least one for me. I want to be remembered here, too.”
Galaida also has eclipsed Benner’s school standards for 3-pointers in a quarter with five and in a half with eight. With one game left in the regular season, she is taking aim at her most prestigious accomplishment.
Benner buried a county-record 177 3-pointers from 2012-16, while Galaida sits at 173 entering the Blue Devils’ matchup Saturday at Mentor. Both sharpshooters appeared in one tournament game as freshmen before playing three full varsity campaigns.
The similarities don’t end there, as both were unenthusiastic defenders early before blossoming under former coach Halle Schmidt, which prompted their stock to rise among college scouts.
“Natalie has had to work extra hard for everything on the basketball court because she hasn’t ever been the tallest or the strongest girl out there,” Brunswick coach Anthony Ocacio said. “But her heart and her competitiveness are as big as you’ll ever find.
“I know it’s frustrating being face-guarded as much as teams have been doing this season, yet Nat is still finding ways to contribute, even when she’s not getting open looks.”
Galaida, who is averaging 11.9 points, grabbed a career-high seven rebounds Monday at Strongsville and collected a personal-best six assists on Nov. 28 at Elyria. Additionally, she has upped her steals total in three straight seasons and owns a .742 lifetime free throw percentage.
With fellow seniors Angela Fink, Maddy Ramicone, Anna Krizsa and Morgan Novicky, the two-year starter also locked up a winning season for the Blue Devils as a result of their dramatic Wednesday upset of undefeated Medina.
“I wouldn’t have set any records without my teammates always finding me when I get open, even for a split second,” said Galaida, who ranks 18th in school history with 604 points. “We’ve accomplished a lot together, especially this season, and I’ll always be grateful for that.”
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