helps Lady Scots to hot start
By Joe Simon
New Castle News
Marissa Heaney made an interesting discovery at church one day.
This particular revelation actually included a basketball and a newfound way of chucking it toward the rim.
“I used to shoot with two hands, but we always went to our grandpa’s church because he has a gym there,” said Heaney of the Church of God on Highland Avenue in New Castle. “We went there and always practiced, and I got a real shot. And it’s just improved.”
What is often referred to as the lost art of the mid-range jump shot has been found by Heaney, a junior on the Union High girls basketball team. Heaney used her smooth-shooting jumper to help the Lady Scots pick up a pair of wins last week and continue a resurgent start for Union (4-2).
Heaney scored 18 in a victory over Freedom and poured in 17, including four 3-pointers, in a win against Cornell. Each set new career highs for Heaney. The performanced earned her Lawrence County Athlete of the Week honors, an award sponsored by Washington Centre Physical Therapy and selected by the New Castle News sports staff.
Heaney’s spot-up jumper hasn’t been the only reason Union is one victory away from matching last year’s win total. Her twin sister, Miranda — who is an hour “younger” — also has played an integral role in the Lady Scots’ revival. She’s the point guard and is right behind her older sister in scoring. Then there’s senior Savannah Partridge, one of the county’s top players for the past three years, whose inside presence and overall game has provided an offensive attack that’s hard to stop.
Heaney is just happy to be a part of what’s become a talented — and fun — team.
“We play as a team — nobody’s selfish,” Marissa said. “We play together.”
Team chemistry and a polished jump shot aren’t all that Marissa has gained from basketball. Her family moved from father Brian’s hometown of New Castle to Union Township last summer (Brian played quarterback for the Red Hurricane and also competed in baseball and one year of basketball, graduating in 1987). The move forced Marissa and Miranda to get acclimated to a new school system, find new friends and basically just try to fit in.
Basketball helped with all three.
“It’s a lot different, just the size of the school and meeting new people and everything. It was different,” Marissa said. “We don’t talk in school at all, so without basketball, we’d still probably not know anybody.”
Union coach Brian Fadden definitely is glad they made the move.
Partridge was the focus of opponents’ defenses for most of last year and the season prior to that, but zeroing in on her is now a tough choice because the Heaney sisters can burn teams, too. Miranda scored 17 in the season opener, and 13 last week in the win over Cornell. Her quickness, ball-handling skills and passing ability are just as vital to the Lady Scots as Marissa’s slick shooting and defense.
One thing they all do well is lead by example.
“They’re a good mix because they all bring a different skill set to the floor,” Fadden said. “The three of them complement each other very well. We’re lucky to have three guards who play the way they do.
“It’s very clear the unselfishness between those three has spread throughout the team, and as a result, we’re playing more of a team game.”
Leading vocally isn’t a role Marissa is used to, and it really doesn’t come easily to the bashful and soft-spoken 5-foot-6 guard. But as she’s grown closer to her team, she’s become more outgoing, Fadden said. Both Miranda and she have come out of their shells, so to speak, as players and students.
“You can tell (Marissa’s) gotten stronger physically, stronger mentally,” Fadden said. “And she’s just maturing as an individual because she has become a lot more open with the team. She and Miranda were both a little shy last year, and they both, on a personal level, have grown. They’re not afraid to joke with everyone else now. They’re just having fun.”
That’s always easier when you’re winning.
THE MARISSA HEANEY FILE
KNOWN FOR: Marissa is quickly becoming one of the better sharp shooters in the area. She set a career high with 18 points last week and followed it up with 17 the following game, sinking four 3-pointers.
PARENTS: Brian and Rhonda Heaney.
FAVORITE PRO PLAYER AND WHY: Candace Parker, Los Angeles Sparks. “We watched her a lot when she played for Tennessee, so we’ve kind of followed her whenever we had the chance.”
FAVORITE TEAM AND WHY: Los Angeles Sparks. “I like Candace Parker, so it makes sense.”
FUTURE PLANS: Heaney isn’t sure where she wants to attend college yet, but she said she wants to study something involving animals, or possibly become a teacher.