Feb. 11, 2011
Three-point dynamo Martin spreads the floor
By David Boyce
After a surprising loss at Fort Hays State that snapped an 11-game winning streak by Northwest Missouri State women's basketball team, coach Gene Steinmeyer wanted to hear from his players.
He asked them in the locker room on that cold Jan. 29 afternoon if anybody had anything to say.
One player spoke up - the quiet one of the starting five. The player, Steinmeyer said, is probably the least visible of the starting five but perhaps the most valuable.
Junior guard Shelly Martin had a few words for her teammates.
First, it should be noted that Martin is soft-spoken, not given to bold statements like junior forward Tara Roach, a sportswriter's dream because of the quotes she will give.
Anyway, Martin said everybody needs to work harder in practice if they want to continue to win games.
"Everybody knew she was right," Steinmeyer said. "Nobody works harder in practice than Shelly Martin.
"The thing is that some kids have a false view of how hard they work. They will say things that other players will roll their eyes at. They might come into the locker room after a game and say we got to work harder in practice and half the players might be rolling their eyes because that player might not be a hard worker.
"Nobody ever rolls their eyes at Shelly."
Martin is a key cog in why Northwest is 18-3 overall and 14-3 and in first place in the MIAA. The Bearcats have won three straight since the loss at Hays.
She's averaging over 11 points a game, which is amazingly an average that is the lowest among the starting five.
But Martin is not only the best three-point shooter on the team; she's one of the best in the MIAA over the last two seasons.
"If I'm open I'm open. I just try to help out however I can," she said. "I try to get people going if we are slacking. I'm trying to be more of a vocal leader this year."
Her value was very evident last Saturday against Pittsburg State when she only scored five points. But they were an important five.
The Gorillas rallied midway in the first-half, closing a 13-3 gap to 13-11. Northwest was struggling on offense. Martin hit a short jumper and quickly followed with a three-pointer that extended the Bearcats' advantage to 18-11.
"The other thing is she's as clutch a player as we've had," Steinmeyer said. "She's had at least three, game-winning shots for us in her career."
"All you have to do is look at the game she was sick."
On Jan. 8, Martin couldn't make the trip to Truman because of the stomach flu.
"That was bad," she said.
"It was pretty tough, but at the time I couldn't think of anything other than being sick. That wasn't good. It just makes you want to work that much harder in the next game. It's a motivator."
In her absence, the Bearcats barely won, eking out a 73-72 win in double-overtime.
Martin returned the next game and scored 13 points, including an important three-pointer with 37.6 seconds left that helped Northwest beat Central Missouri 75-72.
Her value extends beyond her points. Guards Gabby Curtis and Abby Henry and post players Kyla Roehrig and Gentry Dietz nab more attention. Take Martin away and they might not be having the success they are.
"If teams didn't have to guard Shelly Martin would Abby Henry be nearly as effective? Would Gabby Curtis be nearly as effective? Teams can't afford to double off Shelly to guard Gentry Dietz or Kyla Roehrig," Steinmeyer said.
Martin is a piece of a puzzle that's making a beautiful picture so far this season. Her personality fits in a landscape filled with very diverse personalities.
"I think that's how our chemistry started," Martin said. "We realized we are different in so many ways but at the same time we can come together and enjoy each other's company.
"Our team has so much better chemistry this year than last year. It's fun to go to practice and come to games. It's not like a job you have to go to. It makes it more fun and when we have fun we win."
As the top team in the conference, the Bearcats are only going to get every team's best shot for the rest of the season. That's a good situation to be in, says Martin.
"Yes, definitely so we have to be at the top of our game every time. We can't ever have a fall off. But that's good to get people's best shot because that gets us in form to be ready for the tournament," she said.
"I think we all have confidence in each other. There are just so many weapons. It's not like you have to depend on one or two people every time and if they are not performing then we don't score. Everyone can score. It's just a matter of clicking on all cylinders."
Northwest's next challenge is Saturday in a rematch at Missouri Western. The Bearcats won their earlier match-up, beating the Griffons 81-73.
"I think they are going to give an all-out effort. They think they should have won the last game. They are going to be ready for us, especially at their place," she said.
David Boyce spent more than 20 years covering high school and small college athletics at the Kansas City Star newspaper in Missouri. He's covered six of Northwest Missouri State's seven national championship football games and recently served as a guest columnist for the MIAA.
Boyce was named KIAAA Sportswriter of the Year in 1994. He covered boxing at the Star from 1991-2004 including Tommy Morrison and worked both championship fights between Evander Holyfield and Lennox Lewis. His 1997 exclusive story on Morrison becoming HIV positive was named an Associated Press Sports Editor top 10 feature for papers serving more than 150,000.
Boyce was born in New York City and was raised in Kansas City, Kan. He graduated from the University of Kansas in 1988 with a degree in journalism. He is currently one of three official scorers for the Kansas City Royals and is a contributing writer for the Royals Gameday magazine.
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