Clara Groen ready to lead Plymouth Christian girls basketball
Expectations were already high for Clara Groen as a freshman a season ago.
With the Plymouth Christian Academy girls basketball team recently graduating three of the top-10 players in the Michigan Independent Athletic Conference, those expectations are only going to be higher.
Gone are seniors Morganne Houk, Hailey Maulbetsh and Maddie Yeager. Those three, alongside Hometown Life’s 2021-22 Player of the Year Anna Fernandez, pushed the Eagles to a Division 4 state runner-up finish two years ago.
Houk and Maulbetsch finished their careers as 1,000-point scorers. Replacing that kind of scoring production is going to be tough. But, honestly, it’s the leadership from that “Big 3” the Eagles are going to miss the most.
That’s where Groen comes in.
Longtime coach Rod Windle threw her to the wolves last winter. And she handled herself well in PCA’s backcourt. As an underclassman, her athleticism helped the team night in and night out.
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It’s crazy to think about a sophomore leading a team, but she’s going to be relied on to usher in the next generation of Eagles who will hopefully ensure the program remains a state powerhouse. That’s especially so considering there will be no returning seniors this school year. Six of their expected returners were underclassmen last season.
“Clara was asked as a freshman to run point and do a lot of things for us,” Windle said following Wednesday’s Summer League Shootout games at Northville. “She is really starting to read the floor, read the defense all the way in. She also is great at anticipating what is going to happen next. She does what a point guard is supposed to do and takes the weight of scoring on her own shoulders.”
The good news?
This upcoming winter won’t be Groen’s first time being asked to carry a team.
She’s actually a premier softball talent. It wouldn’t be a surprise if she signs with a Division I program before she graduates from PCA.
As the starting pitcher this past spring, she threw 132 complete innings, was 17-7 overall, carried a 2.39 ERA, struck out 236 batters and walked only 43. In the batter’s box, she averaged .568, drove in 27 runs and totaled 46 hits, including smacking seven doubles and seven triples. She also scored 50 runs and stole 35 bases.
There’s no wonder why she was named the MIAC-Red MVP and a first-team All-MIAC selection as a rookie.
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The Eagles’ softball team was in rough shape before she arrived. In fact, two years ago they were winless. If she can help them turn around that program, hopefully, she can keep the basketball team afloat, too.
The only thing standing in her way is her schedule. Between summer league basketball, travel softball and being a kid, it doesn’t leave her much time to do anything else.
“I think my freshman year went really well, but the seniors were a huge part of the team,” Groen said. “… It was a very busy schedule with going to school and practices. I almost have 1-2 practices every day, and it requires a lot of resting, recovering and icing. But my dad (Matt Groen) drives me all over, and I am really thankful for that.”
Groen can’t do it alone, however.
Aside from losing its Big 3, PCA also lost Grace Fernandes, Alivia Lavigne and Lyndsay Weber to graduation.
Rounding out the roster a year ago were freshmen Lexi Weber, Madison Hare, Abby Brumwell and Groen and sophomores Chloe Martin and Sophia Arlen-Olsen. A couple of them must step up and help Groen lead the team to wins. Some of them have already made an impact this summer.
“Sophia is stepping up into a new role this year as one of our guards, and she has been really blessed to have great kids around her to be able to pass the ball,” Windle said. “We are the defending conference champions and despite the wave of seniors out the door, it is time for the underclassmen to step it up and defend their team.”
Rachel Pierson is the summer sports department intern at Hometown Life. Follow her on Twitter at @rachelmpierson.