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January 27, 2014

Bruises and rebounds

Hustle keys Sarah Massengale’s big year for Christian Heritage

Sarah Massengale’s knees and elbows tell her story on the basketball court this season for Christian Heritage School’s high school girls team.

Her knees are a mixture of bruises, bumps and scrapes. Her elbows get a lot of swelling because of her diving for loose balls and hitting the floor.

And her thumb. Her poor thumb.

“I used to cringe watching her dive for balls and hitting the floor, but I don’t anymore,” CHS coach Heather Lowery said. “You would think by now she would have more broken bones. The first practice this year, she broke her thumb and kept on practicing. She is phenomenal to me.”

Her hustle is the biggest part of the reason Massengale is averaging 18 points and 12 rebounds per game.

She doesn’t have the height to be a post-up forward who can shoot over everyone. She isn’t someone who can nail 3-pointers over and over again.

But she does have speed and a shooting touch to complement that determination.

“She is so quick,” Lowery said. “She can rebound the ball on the block and beat someone one-on-one to the basket for an easy layup. I am biased, but she is one of the better players in this area. There are things that you can’t expect that she does. That is the kind of player that she is. She plays with determination.”

A guard this season, the 5-foot, 8-inch junior has played in the post for most of her playing days, but this season she is playing more of a wing position on the outside and cutting to the basket. Rarely does she spot up on the block to take on an opposing team’s tallest players one-on-one. Instead she uses her quickness to beat those kind of players off of the dribble.

“For me, I have played post most of my life, and having to go back and forth at guard has been a real transition this year,” Massengale said. “I am still scoring with points coming from layups and breakaways. I am really bad about going up on people who are not my size. It is just about feeling what to do and knowing when to drive to try and draw a foul and when to stop and kick it back out.”

The Lady Lions certainly take advantage of her variety of skills.

“Sarah, like in anything that she does, does it to the best of her ability,” Lowery said. “I think she has improved drastically by just what she does on the floor on defense. I am not surprised because she is so determined. For her, she has gotten more of a complete game this year. We used her in a lot of different ways last year to where now she is a smarter player. Defensively, I haven’t done the stats on it, but she has to be our all-time leading rebounder.”

And even though Massengale is only a junior, as the team’s leading scorer and rebounder it is only natural that she also have more of a leadership position. It is something that she is learning to do on the fly.

“Last year we had a senior who had been there before and so she was able to lead us,” Massengale said of Rebecca Leonard, who received a scholarship to play softball at Samford University in Alabama. “This year, we have some seniors, but it has been a big adjustment stepping up for the underclassmen coming up. Most of our sophomores don’t have a whole lot of experience and we have freshmen playing, too.”

“You can’t be hypocritical talking to them,” she added. “You have to let them come to respect you and lead by example and not be the one that they can’t wait for you to graduate. It is very difficult for me to be in a leadership role. I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. You have to be careful with what you say and you have to be sure that you aren’t telling them something that you aren’t doing yourself.”

Massengale is doing all she can in a season that hasn’t been a particularly good one for Christian Heritage. In the school’s second season in the Georgia High School Association, the Lady Lions are 3-18 overall and 1-7 in Sub-region 6A-A. Freshman starter Presley Poag has missed time with a broken nose, and illness has kept other players out of the lineup often.

“I feel like we are having a rough season because we are in a really strong region this year,” Massengale said. “We have had a lot of injuries and a lot of us have never played together before. We have been trying to adjust to each other and, with the injuries, it has been constantly adjusting to the people playing. We have really strong guards and a lot of guards, but we don’t really have a lot down low.”

“It is definitely about keeping your head up,” she said. “You have to keep a positive attitude, and if I don’t do that myself and give encouragement, then they can get down on themselves. We need a lot of encouragement on our team from all of us.”

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