By Ryan Murken
Your Prep Sports
TIFFIN – It’s a command coaches use often.
“Don’t make the same mistake twice.”
The line doesn’t just apply to players, it fits coaches as well.
Clear Creek Amana coach PJ Sweeney admitted with a laugh that he may have made the smallest of slip-ups when it came to evaluating freshman Karsyn Stratton.
Sweeney confessed he slightly underestimated what Stratton could do in her first season of varsity basketball.
After watching Stratton average team-highs of 15.1 points and 5.9 rebounds a game this season while helping the Clippers to a 9-6 record Sweeney won’t be making that mistake again.
“A year ago, she was playing junior high basketball and I knew she could come in and do a lot of good things but to the point she is doing it, to be honest no, I didn’t expect that,” Sweeney said. “Nothing will surprise me with her now, that’s for sure.”
It wasn’t like Sweeney didn’t see it coming.
Before Stratton ever played a varsity game Sweeney expected the 5-foot-8 guard to be a key contributor as a freshman and through the first eight games of her career she met those expectations.
Stratton had a 16-point, 10-rebound double-double in her varsity debut and scored in double figures in six of her first eight games.
What Stratton has done in her last seven games has exceeded even the highest expectations Sweeney had before the season.
Stratton has scored at least 13 points in all seven games since the holiday break, averaging 17.7 points per game during that stretch.
“I knew coming in that she was going to do a lot of great things for us but what she is doing now is more than what I thought she would do,” Sweeney said. “She is averaging over 14 points and almost seven boards a game. She has blocks, steals, she just does a lot of good things defensively, she puts pressure on the ball for us and we ask her to do a lot of things for us.”
While Stratton has made an immediate impact in her debut season the progress throughout the season has been steady.
In the early part of the season Stratton was just trying to fit in on a Clear Creek squad with six seniors that account for half the varsity roster.
“I think I was a little tentative at the start of the year but I’m getting used to it and am fitting in and finding my role,” Stratton said. “I guess I might have been a little scared. I wanted to fit in with the upperclassmen and they have really accepted me and have really been good to me.”
Even as she adjusted to her new teammates and the high school level Stratton was impressive.
She averaged 12.9 points and 6.5 rebounds per game as Clear Creek Amana went 4-4 before the holiday break.
The longer the season has gone the better Stratton has gotten.
She has scored in double digits in 11 straight games and has scored 20 or more three times in the last eight games.
“I think I’ve just been more aggressive on the offensive end,” Stratton said. “At the beginning, I wasn’t really looking to score and now I’ve really started to do that.”
As Stratton has become more comfortable she has gotten more aggressive on both ends of the court.
The more assertive Stratton has become the better the Clippers have played.
With Stratton leading the way Clear Creek Amana has gone 5-2 in January with losses to Class 4A top-ranked Marion and 3A No. 5 Center Point-Urbana.
Stratton had a career-high 26 points in a near upset of CPU last week.
“She didn’t want to step on any toes and I just told her to be herself and play the game,” Sweeney said. “I think coming out of break she has been more assertive offensively.”
Stratton has done more than just score.
She leads the Clippers with 5.9 rebounds per game and has a team-high 22 steals but it has been diverse offensive game that has stood out most this season.
Quick enough to beat defenders off the dribble, getting all the way to the basket has been a key to Stratton shooting 56 percent from the floor as a freshman.
What makes her most dangerous is a mid-range game that is years ahead of her age.
“Whether it’s high school or college or NBA there is typically not that mid-range game, it’s either in the lane or everything is from the perimeter,” Sweeney said. “She has that down where she is looking to attack the lane but can pull up. You just don’t see that very often for an incoming freshman to be able to do that is great.”
The improvement for Stratton isn’t an accident and it isn’t slowing down.
A tireless worker, her top priority now is improving her 3-point accuracy from 29 percent where it currently sits.
“I keep trying to work on expanding my game,” Stratton said. “I can’t sit on what I have now I have to keep working.”