Varsity Basketball

Unbeaten Cheney set for tourney

Merissa Quick has accepted the fact that opponents can't look her directly in the eye on the basketball court.

Rarely is it ever out of fear. No one wants to stand on their tip-toes to meet Quick's eye level at 6-foot-3.

The Cheney junior has heard it all before.

She's only good because she's tall. How hard can it be? It must be easy towering over everyone else.

"I just kind of try to ignore it," Quick said. "I think I work as hard as other girls, if not harder. I think I have to work harder because I am taller and I'm going to get double- and triple-teamed every night."

It's true opponents have yet to find an answer for Quick, or for Cheney, this season. The Cardinals are unbeaten after 23 games.

Cheney has been successful because Quick hasn't become complacent with her inherent advantage.

"Even though she knows no one can match up with her, she's always going to work hard to get better," Cheney junior Ally Nikkel said. "She's always working on new moves. She won't settle for just being taller than everyone else."

Cheney's run — winning games by an average of 30 points — has limited Quick to 22 minutes a game. She averages 14 points, 9 rebounds and nearly 4 blocks.

Struggles with her footwork last season sometimes led to foul trouble, so Quick focused on improving her fundamentals. As a result, this season she averages two fouls a game.

"She hasn't been in as much foul trouble this season because I think her fundamental defense has gotten better," Cheney coach Rex Casner said. "She really focuses on trying to do that."

Teams have tried various defenses in an attempt to slow Quick. When defenses collapse in the middle on the junior, Cheney's opposite post, Courtney Traxson, has found her niche.

With so much focus on Quick, side rebounds and open layups from dump-off passes are available for Traxson, who averages 7.2 points and 8.8 rebounds.

"I just get the little rebounds here and there," Traxson said. "I'm just like the little girl. It's fun to be able to complement each other."

Cheney's final challenge will be how it responds to adversity — something neither Quick nor the team has experienced much of this season.

"We know there are expectations," Nikkel said. "But we aren't putting any more added pressure on ourselves. State is one of our goals, but we know if we play hard, then it will all work out."