Wednesday, July 24, 2019 Medina 62°

High School Basketball

Medina senior guards show smarts in class, skills on the court

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    Medina's Abby McMullen.


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    Medina's Madison Luthy.


  • mgc1nau3xcolorCUTOUT-jpg

    Medina's Alexa Nau.



Abby McMullen carries a 4.3 grade-point average, scored a 29 on the ACT and plans to become a pediatric surgeon after completing her undergraduate degree in biomedical sciences at Ohio State or Dayton.

Madison Luthy sports a 4.4 GPA, got a 27 on the ACT and plans to major in biomedical engineering, either at a big school or while playing basketball at Mount Union or Ohio Northern.

Alexa Nau has a 4.2 GPA, scored a 30 on the ACT and plans to double major in pre-med and Spanish at Toledo or Westminster (Pa.), with the goal of going to medical school and becoming a neuroscientist.

The three seniors also are great friends and multiyear starters for the Medina girls basketball team, which will bring a 23-2 record into its Norwalk Division I Regional semifinal game against Toledo Notre Dame Academy (21-5) tonight at 6:15 at Norwalk High.

“They’ve been playing together for such a long time, and they’re similar kids as far as basketball IQ,” Bees coach Karen Kase said Monday afternoon. “They feed off each other and have great attitudes. They don’t care about stats. They only care about the team.”

McMullen, a versatile 6-footer who has played all five positions for Medina this season, Luthy, a 5-8 shooting guard who can score in bunches, and Nau, a 5-5 point guard who knows the playbook inside and out, started playing together in third grade, when they were on a travel team that also included current senior backup point guard Katie Neate and was coached by Nau’s father, Tom.

“Those third- and fourth-grade games were some of the best times of my life,” Luthy said. “We were pretty good, too, so we won a lot. Growing up with them was amazing.”

When the Bees did suffer a rare loss, a small asterisk could have been attached because they played up a grade level their first three seasons.

“I used to be super short and little,” McMullen said. “We always lost to Wadsworth, but having that competition made us better.”

Once in middle school, Nau and McMullen attended A.I. Root, which always lost to Luthy’s Claggett team, but they were reunited at the high school level.

Luthy, a four-year letterwinner, moved into the starting lineup midway through her sophomore season when Delaney Cullen suffered a broken wrist and has served as a team captain the last two years.

“She hasn’t left the starting lineup since (replacing Cullen),” Kase said. “She is quietly solid and probably the hardest worker on the team.”

Not as outgoing as Nau or the even more gregarious McMullen, Luthy is third in scoring on a very balanced team with a 9.0 average. Arguably the Bees’ second-best shooter after sophomore Elizabeth Stuart, she’s also averaging 3.6 rebounds, 1.2 assists and 1.3 steals for a Medina program that is making its first regional appearance since 1993.

“She’s my best friend,” McMullen said. “She’s so hard-working and driven and kind. She wants the best for me personally and our team.”

Added Nau: “Madison is more quiet. She’s super sweet and nice to everyone she meets.”

McMullen, a three-year letterwinner and two-year captain, grew from a 5-5 freshman to a 5-10 sophomore — she says the latter or “maybe 5-11 with basketball shoes” is her true height — and plays primarily small forward.

“She has grown into her body,” Kase said. “She’s our vocal leader. She’s really passionate about rooting for this team. Everybody is, but she leads the charge.”

At 4.8, McMullen’s scoring average is only 0.5 higher than her GPA, but that’s misleading because her production has increased, especially over the last month. Extremely long-limbed, she’s also averaging 3.0 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 2.4 steals and 0.7 blocks.

“She’s loud and outgoing,” Luthy said with a smile. “That helps on the court because she’s a leader. Her No. 1 strength is defense. She’s always up in your face.”

Added Nau: “She’s hilarious and I love being around her. She has a great personality and is there for everyone on the team.”

Nau, a three-year letterwinner, second-year starter and the third of four team captains (6-3 junior center Lindsey Linard is the other), got a taste of varsity action as a sophomore and was sometimes overwhelmed but worked hard in the offseason and earned the starting job as a junior.

“She’s learned the varsity game,” Kase said. “She knows our plays like the back of her hand. She knows where everyone is supposed to be. She’s small but mighty.”

Nau, whose least important job is to score, averages 3.9 points, 1.9 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.7 steals while spearheading Medina’s great defense with relentless on-ball harassment.

“She’s hilarious, but she’s a great leader on and off the court,” McMullen said. “She has great poise and is very smart when it comes to directing our team.”

Added Luthy: “She has to be a leader because she’s the point guard. She has all the plays down to a science. It’s really important to have someone like that on the team.”

Nau, who started playing basketball when she was 5, has been around the Medina program for 10 years, as she was a team manager from third through eighth grade, with her dad also having previously served as one of Kase’s assistant coaches.

“It was really cool,” Nau said of getting to be around the varsity players from the time she was 8 years old. “They were like older sisters to me.”

Luthy, McMullen and Nau are now among the big sisters for the Bees, who will be attempting to win at the regional level for the first time since 1982 when they meet Notre Dame Academy tonight.

Extremely smart players and even more intelligent off the court, the seniors know the stakes are high and are aware they can set a school record for wins in a season with one more victory, but they are doing their best to treat tonight like the next game on the schedule.

“This entire season — and especially this tournament run — has been amazing,” McMullen said. “It’s just so exciting to be on our team. We’re super excited to play. We know if we play to our potential, there’s no doubt we can be successful.

“It’s definitely going to be heartbreaking when it’s over, but I’m glad this season has been what it’s been. Not many teams get to be this successful and have this experience.”

No Medina girls team has experienced a regional semifinal game since 1993, when Kase was a sophomore guard, so, win or lose tonight, the Bees have made their mark.

“I just didn’t want to lose and cry at Valley Forge again,” Luthy said of Medina’s district tournament site. “That’s where we lost the last three years. It’s insane to think that it’s all about to be over.”

A victory tonight would bring a Saturday meeting against the winner of the other Norwalk semifinal between Canton McKinley and Avon Lake. Lose and the high school careers of McMullen, Luthy and Nau will be over, though they are keenly aware the end is approaching even if they keep winning.

“I’m a little nervous because it’s a big game, but I have faith in very person that’s going to be out there and in the coaches,” Nau said. “I’m really confident we can go out and win.

“It’s been really crazy. I’m just honored to be a part of this team. It’s been my favorite season.”

Contact Rick Noland at Follow him @RickNoland on Twitter.

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