The Rapid City Christian girls' basketball team looks up to its 6 feet, 2 inch center Kayla Clewley.
Literally and figuratively.
The Comets are a young team this year, so the junior transfer from Custer is one of the most seasoned members of the team.
She said the transition from Custer to Rapid City has been made seamless by her teammates.
"It’s been really cool," she said. "I didn’t feel left out, even at my first open gym here everyone was so welcoming, it’s gone really well."
It went even better last week, as Clewley had a big week on the court.
Tuesday during a 59-44 win over Oelrichs she had 29 points and 10 rebounds, and she did even better during Saturday's 53-44 win over Crazy Horse. Clewey went for 29 points and 16 rebounds.
It was also a big week offensively for the entire Christian team. The season-high in points before this week was 34 in a road contest Jan. 13 against Upton, Wyoming. It got two 50-point games this week, and Comet coach Paul Anderson said Clewley's strong inside presence was a big part of that.
"Her giving us that strong inside game opens some other things up for us, so it was wonderful to get that," Anderson said. "She had two fantastic ballgames where she carried the load inside for us. If you get someone who’s scoring inside like that coaches respond by clamping down and doubling down and then it opens up some opportunities for other kids. Basketball is a team sport so they’re looking to feed off of one another."
"We're really good about not being a one person team," Clewley said. "Everyone wants to spread the ball around, even if one person is a shooter that can shoot 3’s, if they have an open shot they’re going to take it, but if they’re not open they’ll make the extra passes."
After a tough start to the season, Christian has won three straight games. The Comets are one of the youngest teams in Class A, with only one senior and two juniors.
Anderson said having Clewley's experience, even if it hasn't all come with Christian, is valuable when the team is so young.
"Just being a junior makes a huge difference because we are so young, we’re a bunch of babies. So that experience, not only in basketball but in life, the girls need that kind of thing; they need someone to look up to. That’s no pun intended," he joked. "She’s been a welcome addition to our team, this is a christian school and if you talk to some of the girls you get that feeling right away, and she fits right in, right away.
"She has a similar demeanor to the girls we already have at Rapid City Christian They accepted her right away and they look up to her."
Clewley said she isn't sure if she is looked up to by some of the younger players, saying "I don't know, I guess so. That'd be cool."
She said that although she is one of the oldest members of the team, the Comets were already a close group when she got to Hart Ranch.
"They were mature when I got here," she said. "Whenever we get on the court we're a basketball team, it’s not talk about my boyfriend time or things like that, it’s definitely a lot of maturity."
With that maturity has come confidence. Anderson said Clewley has started to understand and accept her role as the primary offensive option in the post.
She said she's become more comfortable with the role too, and part of that role is grabbing rebounds.
After two double-doubles in a row Clawley said she still prefers going up and getting a rebound. She views that has her primary job on both ends of the floor.
"That’s kind of like my job, being tall and being down in the post," she said. "I would have to say rebounding gets me more pumped because that’s what I’m supposed to do."
Christian will try to get its fourth win of the season and move to 4-7 on the season today when it travels to Edgemont. Tip-off is at 6:30 p.m.
Other athletes considered:
Austin Stiles, Rushmore Thunder boys' hockey: Stiles was big for the Thunder as they swept a pair of weekend matchups with the Mitchell Marlins both by 8-1 scores.
Stiles had a hat trick and a assist in the first game and contributed an assist in the second game for five points on the weekend.
Dawson Geuke, Sturgis boys' basketball: Geuke had a big game as Sturgis topped Spearfish 74-62 Friday, scoring 27 points and dishing out six assists.
Geuke also led the Scoopers with 16 in Thursday's tough win against Pierre.
Colton Jackson, Douglas wrestling: Jackson was the only area winner in the River City Rumble in Chamberlain over the weekend. Jackson won at 145 pounds.