Derrick Webb, Staff Writer
GREENFIELD — There are many adjectives that could describe the way Kyla Burchett plays basketball.
Tenacity, grit, resolve … the list goes on and on.
But while McClain’s junior guard displays an array of traits on the court, one may trump all — leadership. The Tigers follow the beat of Burchett’s drum.
Burchett was a central reason why the Tigers have managed to clinch a share of the Frontier Athletic Conference title, tying with Miami Trace at 8-2 in league play, and piece together an overall record of 15-6.
With one goal checked off the list, McClain turns its attention towards a Division II sectional final against Logan Elm. That game’s tip is set for 8 p.m., Wednesday at Logan High School.
Before that happens, we caught up with Burchett to discuss the team’s reputation built on defense, what makes her such a great scorer, and much more.
Question: This team has prided itself on defense all year long. Why is that and what makes playing defense so much fun?
Burchett: One of the mottos that our team has lived by this year is grit. Having grit means doing the tasks that aren’t always the easiest, and defense can definitely be one of those tasks. Because it’s considered the dirty work of the game, it’s one of the most effective ways to separate the good teams from the great teams. This makes it a great challenge for myself and my teammates. We are a team that embraces the challenges the game offers, so playing defense is definitely one of our favorite aspects.
Q: Offensively, you’re one of the team’s best scorers. What has made you such a good scorer and what do you look for with the ball in your hands?
KB: I feel like I am able to score more easily than in the past because my team has had more time to mesh and figure out what works for us. We have definitely found the chemistry that is vital to getting clean, open shots for all of us. One of my biggest mentors has told me since I was very young that my goal as an upperclassman should be to burn my scouting report by being able to handle, drive, shoot midrange, and from deep. While I don’t think I’ve achieved that, I’m continuing to work towards that goal. I would say that just putting a lot of work in when I was younger has paid off and made my shot more fluid, along with the addition of mid-range shots to my game. I think that one of the key things I look for are our post players. We have a lot of talent in the post this year, so having them as a viable option when pressure comes is a huge advantage.
Q: When did your basketball journey begin? What’s the one thing you love most about basketball?
KB: My basketball journey began my fifth grade year. I had never picked up a ball before and my city league softball coach asked me to come to an open gym just to see how I felt about it. Even though I had no idea what was going on, all it took was one practice and I was completely hooked on the game. Let’s just say that to call my skill level at the beginning of my career terrible would be a drastic understatement … I was awful. But at that point, I didn’t care. All I knew was I loved the game and I would work my tail off if it meant I would get a chance to play at the next level. I would say the thing I love the most about this game is what it has done for my confidence. That first time I walked onto a court, I was extremely shy and introverted. Through the opportunities that this sport provides, I have become more comfortable in my own skin, with much more confidence both playing the game and in general.
Q: How close are you and your teammates? Can you give me a glimpse of what it’s like to play with this particular group of girls?
KB: I have been immeasurably blessed in many areas because of basketball, but I can honestly say that the area that has brought me the most joy is my teammates. I have played on multiple teams in my athletic career, and have enjoyed all the teams that I have been on. But I have never been part of a team that so closely replicates a family. They truly are my best friends in the world, both on and off the court. Our friendship extends much farther than basketball. Birthdays, holidays, and social gatherings all come with our relationship. Playing with this group of girls is just so easy. We never have to try to get along. It comes so naturally. It’s just like hanging out with my best friends every day, while also playing a sport we all love.
Q: In the tournament, the Division II sectional is loaded. What do you feel like your team has to do in order to make a long run?
KB: Our sectional definitely consists of a lot of very talented girls. It’s filled with state-ranked teams. That’s not to mention an extremely talented Logan Elm team, our first opponent. And the prize if we manage to win that is number one, state-ranked Circleville. We have all worked so long for this, and none of us will give up without a fight. I think our team has a good chance to make a run this year … as long as we stick to what we’re good at and focus on one game at a time.
Q: If there’s one thing your team needs to work on the most, what is it?
KB: As with every team, we are not perfect. One of the things that we need to work on is putting four complete quarters together. We can sometimes have a great second quarter but have a lapse in the third or vice versa. Our team needs to continue to have great quarters, while constantly working to improve on putting them together.