Going for Championship No. 5

Posted by RRR on Apr 05, 2010 at 11:24am | Page Views: 5,801

Tuesday night, former Heritage Christian great Kelly Faris will be shooting for her fifth straight school championship win. This time around, it will be on the biggest stage in women’s basketball —  as a University of Connecticut guard in the NCAA National Championship game.

Since her first season of high school as a freshman in 2005-06, Faris has been collecting the championship hardware on an annual basis. Four straight trips to the IHSAA 2A state finals championship game equaled four straight 2A blue-ribbon medals. And that is, by no means, a lucky accident.

Prior to her arrival at Heritage Christian, the Eagles were 12-12 for the 2004-05 season. During her four years at HC, Faris was part of a program that compiled a 104-8 record, only losing two games total in her final two seasons at HC. To say that she was a huge reason for that success would be an understatement.

The 5’11 guard never put up the gaudy kind of stats that would turn heads around the country or even in-state. As a high school senior, Faris averaged 14.1 points, 8.8 rebounds and 4.9 assists per game, while shooting 53.9 percent from the field. Very solid numbers, but nothing to rival some of the other stats being logged by other seniors in the state in 2009. However, on a team that won four straight state championships in a row, there was never any question who the heart-and-soul player was for the Eagles. What the story of her stats couldn’t tell was that she made every player on her team around her better and when it came to crunch time, she put her team on her back to get the job done. She rarely made mistakes and she was the player everyone looked to when the game was on the line. “Lose” was a dirty word in her high school vocabulary.

Those intangibles have carried over to her game at the next level. Faris’s development at UConn has come more quickly than some might have anticipated. Her minutes have increased considerably over time, and Connecticut head coach Geno Auriemma has no qualms about throwing this particular freshman out on the floor in crucial situations because, as he says, “she makes no mistakes… ever.” She has played in all 38 of the Huskies’ wins this season and is averaging 18.8 minutes per game, more than any other player coming off the bench. (Those 38 wins, by the way, give Faris an unbelievable school career record of 142-8 so far.)  She peppers the UConn stat ranks, despite her limited minutes, coming in fourth in rebounds (3.6), fourth in assists (2.1), third in steals (1.2), third in free throw percentage (.775) and even fifth in blocked shots (0.3).

Having earned the respect of the coaching staff, Faris is the first to come off the bench in the guard rotation, and although she has not been counted on for her offense much this season, that part of her game is starting to come around, too. In the Dayton Regional Sweet Sixteen game against Iowa State, Faris logged a season-high 16 points, going four for four from long range. Prior to that, she scored 13 points in UConn’s second-round win over Temple, adding 10 rebounds, two assists and two blocked shots for good measure.

Faris’s steady game has earned her the respect of her teammates as well.

“First of all, she works so hard,” says All-American teammate Maya Moore in the Greenwich Time. “She listens and she’s always in her defensive stance. And she’s not afraid to do something amazing. She’s not afraid to make that tough pass, make that hard cut, make that hard layup.”

Last night in the semi-final win against Baylor, Faris gave the Huskies a boost when starter Caroline Doty ran into early foul trouble. The steady guard logged six assists (no turnovers) and four rebounds in 27 minutes.

“She impacted the game tremendously,” said Auriemma in the Hartford Courant.

On Tuesday night, expect to see Faris on the floor for the Huskies doing all of the little things that caught Geno’s eye and got her a scholarship to UConn in the first place. She is the only representative of the Hoosier State left in the NCAA finals, and whether or not you are a UConn fan, my guess is you will be rooting for the home state girl to do well.

I know I will.

More coverage:

AP photo

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