Tunney: fearless leader Taking charge: As the only senior on North Carroll's girls basketball team, Kathleen Tunney quickly accepted a responsible role.

January 21, 1996|By Jeff Seidel | Jeff Seidel,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

The outcome had long been decided in North Carroll's girls basketball game against Centennial when the ball rolled toward the sideline in the fourth quarter.

But even though her team trailed by nearly 40 points, North Carroll guard Kathleen Tunney had no qualms about diving for the ball.

Plays like that show why Tunney quickly emerged as the leader of a young North Carroll team.

Tunney, the team's lone senior, almost immediately became the team's go-to person and leads the county with an average of 15.1 points per game through North Carroll's first 10 games.

North Carroll is the perfect example of a team that needed someone to take charge. The inexperienced Panthers have struggled en route to a 3-7 start.

But Tunney quickly stepped up as the team's leader. North Carroll coach Greg Knill said she is the person the Panthers usually look to on the court.

"If people aren't playing up to their best, she's gotten really good at lighting a fire under them and getting them going," said Knill. "She's a good focal point; this is a young team and it needs one."

At first glance, Tunney may not stand out on the court. She is not a flashy player, using no behind-the-back passes or wild shots. She simply does what's needed when needed.

Knill said Tunney is what he would call "a blue-collar player." He said she simply goes on the court and works as hard as she can.

That description is fine with her. Tunney said sticking with the basics is how she was taught and likes to play -- and not something she plans on changing any time soon.

"You don't need it [the flashy stuff] to win a game," said Tunney.

Tunney said she knew before the season began that she would have to be the team's on-court leader -- and she relishes that job. She sees herself as a bit of a teacher and director.

"I have no problem being the leader," said Tunney. "I love it. I am always the big mouth out there, and I'm constantly directing kids where to be and yelling out plays."

Tunney showed how she can help the team in several ways in its 65-33 romp over Liberty on Wednesday.

North Carroll started slowly, scoring just one point in the first several minutes. But Tunney sparked a second-quarter run by scoring 13 points in that eight-minute stretch.

Knill then told the Panthers at halftime Tunney would be a marked player in the second half. So, in addition to scoring 10 more points to finish with 25, Tunney handed out several assists and grabbed some key rebounds to help North Carroll pull away.

Tunney said she's hopeful that the Liberty game is a turning point for the Panthers.

"I hope that from now on that's how it's going to be for us," said Tunney. "The team is growing, [and] I liked what I was seeing."

And Tunney has seen a lot of basketball. This is her third year on the varsity, and she has played more each season.

Tunney also knows what it takes to win. She started for the North Carroll volleyball team that made it to the region finals last fall -- after starting for the softball team that finished second in the state last spring.

Her softball and volleyball success carried over to the basketball court. Tunney said she found more confidence, and because it was to be her last year, hoped to make her mark.

She has been the team's top offensive force since the season began. Tunney's teammates always look for her, and she has no problems taking it to the hoop.

"They just give me the ball more," said Tunney, who also averages 7.3 rebounds. "I'm not afraid to take that shot any more. I'm not afraid to drive to the hole."

She's also not afraid to tell her teammates how they can improve. Tunney said the Panthers now understand some things they didn't at the start of the season -- like boxing out, rebounding and other small things that are just as important as scoring.

"She's just been a perfect match for this group of kids, and she's definitely their center of attention," said Knill. "She's this team's leader. End of subject."

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