The Rockets Green Glare. A 46-game win streak. A family affair. The Anna girls basketball team is taking the D-III tournament landscape by storm, posting successive 70, 70, and 49-point victories. And even more frightening, this program is built for long-term dominance…
And the beat goes on…
Riding the crest of a cool 46-game win streak in which its average margin of victory has been 36 points, the Anna girls basketball team is beginning to look a bit like UConn, dispatching opponents like day old newspapers.
The defending Division III state champions thumped Dixie 100-30 in the opening round and routed Dayton Dunbar last Wednesday 87-17. In the Dunbar contest, junior Natalie Billing scored 26 points en route to 1,004 career points. It marked her 70th win as a three-year starter.
Natalie’s father and Anna head coach Jack Billing told the Sidney Daily News, “It’s a great accomplishment, but we don’t put much stock into individual things. She has a shot of being a part of 100 wins during her career and that means more to us than reaching 1,000 points as a junior. She’s been fortunate to play on some great teams and win a state title.”
The Rockets bombarded Tri-County North 77-28 Saturday to capture another sectional crown.
“They can run you ragged,” Tri-County coach Amber Wright said. “When you make as many mistakes as we did (34 turnovers) it makes it hard to compete.”
The Lady Rockets are a team that plays to an antagonistic beat, an up-tempo, in-your-face, length of the court style foreign to most opponents. They contest every pass and defenders pop up everywhere like a video game.
Against TCN, Anna recorded 21 of 25 steals in the first half and jumped out to a 49-14 halftime lead. Erica Huber led the way with six steals and Cayla Bensman, Billing, Morgan Huelskamp, and Kyleigh Overbey each collected three. Ashley Frohne added two steals and blocked three shots.
While the defense dictated the tempo (TCN shot 1-of-9 from the field), the offense exploded for 30 points in the second quarter, including 16 fast-break points. Billing paved the way with 10 points and Frohne added seven.
“The kids played well, with the exception of their foul shooting (17-of-29),” Jack Billing said. “They work as hard as any kids in the state.”
The Panthers led 5-2 in the early going as Kendra Mullins nailed a three and Kelly Schriever scored on a stick-back. But then Huelskamp responded with an inside score and Billing made 1-of-2 foul shots to knot the score at five a piece.
Back-to-back 15-footers by Huelskamp and Bensman gave Anna the lead for good, 9-5. Schriever cut the deficit 13-10 with a long-range three, but Anna answered with a 6-0 spurt to end the quarter. Huber swished two free throws, Bensman stroked another 15-footer, and Billing pounded in the paint for a bucket.
Huber concluded the afternoon with five points, dished out five assists, and her six steals reinforced the mantra, “defense leads to offense.”
It has been a special season for senior starter Huelskamp. She has worked hard the past three years to crack the starting line-up and talked about it, “It feels good because that’s what I’ve been working towards. To pull it off, that’s a good thing for me.”
Huelskamp finished the game with 12 points, six rebounds, and three assists. She has college offers from Edison, Wilmington, and Capital. Afterwards she talked about Anna’s “Our Vision Never Ends” T-shirts.
“Two years ago we had a motivational speaker tell us that we have to work together towards a vision,” Huelskamp said. “It stuck after that and last year we made it even bigger because of our state run…Keep the vision because it never ends. Now we are working towards another state run.”
The fear of hope got the best of Tri-County in the second half as Anna super-sized the lead 69-22 after three periods, despite calling off the press and substituting freely. Rachel Noffsinger, Bensman, and Huelskamp each tallied four points and Overbey capped the clinic with a driving lay-up at the buzzer.
Four of the Anna starters landed in double figures and nine players contributed. The Rockets bench outscored Tri-County 16-0, paced by sophomore post player Noffsinger with eight points. She shot 4-of-6 from the floor.
Frohne turned in a routine performance with 12 points, blocked four shots, grabbed 10 rebounds, and triggered the fast break on several occasions.
“It’s been a fun ride the past four years,” three-year starter Frohne said. “I didn’t play much my freshman year, but I did start one game. But I’ve worked my way to the top and now I’m just having a lot of fun. We play a lot of games over the summer. We see a bunch of good competition. That really helps.”
Natalie Billing, the Shelby County League Player of the Year, scored a game-high 19 points. She made 9-of-14 shots from the field and hauled down 12 rebounds. Billing is being recruited by Ashland.
Said Billing about the pressure of being the coach’s daughter, “It used to bother me, but not any more. We all get along, have fun, and play as a team.”
The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree when it comes to the Billing family success. Rachel was a basketball and volleyball (2006 state champs) standout at Anna in the mid 2000s and continued her two-sport career at Ohio Dominican University.
Derek was a two-time SCAL Player of the Year in 2009 and 2010, scoring over 1,000 career points. Currently, he is the starting guard for Lake Superior State, averaging 16.4 ppg.
Coach Billing mused, “Derek is the sore loser of the family. He gets that from his mom (Rita)…I know we keep the economy going with all the miles we log watching games that Derek and Rachel play.”
Freshman Cayla Bensman scored 13 points, had nine rebounds (including six offensive), dished out six assists and blocked one shot. The 5-7 wing is going to be a special player.
The future looks bright for Anna with nine underclassmen returning, including three starters in Huber, Billing and Bensman. Not to mention, the 8th grade team finished 16-3 this season.
As the Anna legacy continues to grow under four-year head coach Jack Billing (88-10 record), so too does the debate of greatest teams in the history of Ohio girls basketball.
Since Anna’s last loss (December 13, 2010, to D-II Tipp City by a 64-63 score), the Lady Rockets have gone undefeated, including the 2011 state final against Oak Hill 50-32.
Consider, it’s the longest active streak in Ohio and the second longest in the nation. Division B Seward (NE) holds the current win streak with 74 straight.
If Anna captures its second straight title, the win streak expands to 51 games. If the Rockets win their first three games next season, they will surpass Heath with the 10th longest winning streak in Ohio history. Should Anna finish the regular season 20-0 next year, they will move into a second place tie with Pickerington, winners of 74 straight from 1991-1994.
That’s a lot of “ifs”, but nonetheless, not out of the question.
Anna averages 71 points per game and allows 37. And they do it with multiple defenses and an opportunistic offense.
Coach Billing said on a recent JJHuddle Podcast, “We like to get up and down the floor. Play a full 90 feet. Get up in your face with defensive pressure. Run and jump trap. Mix it up with 1-2-2, 2-2-1, 1-3-1, half-court man, and trap from 90-50-30 feet. Our goal is to hold the opponent under 40 points.”
He added, “We like to score around 70 points a game and take at least 20 shots a quarter. We try to get as many easy hoops as possible off steals.”
Coach Billing continuously tells his kids the difference between this year and last year, “We haven’t accomplished noth’in yet.”
Anna (23-0) faces Fayetteville-Perry (21-2) Saturday as the vision continues.
Said Billing: “One at a time.”
The beat goes on.