MANLIUS – On any given night, it might be any player leading the way for the Bureau Valley Storm.
BV’s big two of Christen Hurley and Saige Barnett have been steadily leading the way, seemingly swapping the lead role between them from day to day, the 5-foor-10 junior Barnett putting up big numbers one night, the 5-10 senior Hurley putting up big numbers the next.
“Sometimes we just know where each other is,” Hurley said. “Sometimes she’ll be on the other side and she’ll just chuck it across the court to me. Other times I’ll roll and kick it out. We do that with everyone. That’s what worked so well against Newman in the first half [Thursday]. Everyone was part of the offense.”
Hurley and Barnett have been surrounded by a solid supporting cast, including the low-post threat of senior center Ellen Johnson and the speed of senior guard Addison Moreland.
This year, that supporting cast also includes a long-awaited addition.
Emily Fordham, a 5-9 junior guard and forward, saw no high school playing time either as a freshman or as a sophomore. An injured left ACL during the AAU season the summer before her freshman year knocked her out of the high school season. She then reinjured the knee the following summer, missing her sophomore year as well.
“It was frustrating, because I knew I wanted to be out there, but I also knew that I couldn’t,” Fordham said. “This year was better. It was nice to be able to give something to the team this year.”
She made an immediate impact. In her varsity debut at the Princeton Tournament in November, Fordham scored 15 points for BV in a 62-27 win over LaMoille-Ohio. The injury did keep her out of a few games this season, but she has been able to average 8.3 points per game.
Despite the injury keeping her on the shelf for 2 years, Fordham said she is not playing any differently once she takes the court.
“I think it’s about the same,” Fordham said. “I knew I couldn’t be scared about it or it would affect the way I played. I just try not to think about it.”
Bureau Valley came into the season as one of the more experienced teams in the area with eight players who were on the varsity roster in 2016-17, and five who had been on the roster the season before. Despite being sidelined both of those years, it did not seem like Fordham missed a beat.
“She has lost 2 years of playing time, but her talent level is pretty high,” Bureau Valley coach Jim Nugent said. “I don’t think it’s taken much to get her back into playing shape. The knee’s not going to be 100 percent, but she knows that. I don’t feel that she’s been behind at all.”
“She’s really good at doing her little hook shot, and she draws fouls on that all the time,” Hurley said. “She can hit her free throws. She also adds really well on defense. We’ve been putting her up top lately, and she gets steals and deflections. It’s really nice to have that height. We’re used to being a smaller, quicker team.”
Through her first 21 games this year, Fordham was shooting 47-for-75 from the free-throw line, 62.7 percent. On the BV roster, only Hurley and Barnett have made more trips to the foul line this year.
“She definitely adds a little spark,” Nugent said. “She could put up 15 points any given night. When she gets down low, she takes a lot of pressure off of [Hurley and Barnett] because if they do key on Christen and Saige, we have her down there.”
Fordham will get her first taste of postseason play in Tuesday’s semifinal of the 2A Mendota Regional. The No. 4 seed Storm will face either Princeton or Somonauk.
Though Somonauk is a mystery, the Storm have faced Princeton three times already this season, winning at the Princeton Tournament, but losing twice to the Tigers in Three Rivers Conference play.
“Starting out this season, winning the Princeton Tournament, we were playing great,” Nugent said. “There are ups and downs to a season, and we’ve had those. I feel the last 3 weeks, we’ve been playing pretty well, and I feel like we could play with anybody and possibly beat anybody depending on how we play on a given night.”
Heading into the postseason, the Storm still are seeing things they can work on.
“We’re a little inconsistent,” Hurley said. “During the Newman game [Thursday] we were passing the ball well in the first half, but in the second half we kind of lost that.”