To anyone across Maryville who has never heard of Serena Sundell, consider this your wakeup call. The freshman is leading the Maryville girls basketball team in nearly every statistical category, and she’s making it look easy in the process.
The point guard has been the Spoofhounds’ (6-9) leading scorer more often than not, adding 31 points in Maryville’s 64-60 loss to the Penney Hornets of Hamilton on Jan. 16. At 5’11”, Sundell is already taller than Northwest basketball star Justin Pitts.
Being blessed with such athletic ability could cause some to play with a certain degree of cockiness or arrogance, but the opposite is true for Sundell. The talented point guard has proven to be a renowned sportsman.
“She does it (plays basketball) very humbly,” Maryville coach Quentin Albrecht said. “She doesn’t do the things you see on T.V.; acting like Superman or Wonder Woman or whoever. She doesn’t give the three-in-the-eye when she knocks down a three. She’s a humble player.”
Sundell says here stoic figure and lack of celebration on the court isn’t necessarily on purpose, but is more about hustling back on defense.
“It just comes naturally,” Sundell said. “I know we have the next play to go for, so I don’t want to celebrate too much, just focus on the game.”
Sundell has consistently been the leading scorer for Maryville all season long. Oftentimes, it seems the success of the Spoofhounds offense depends on whether or not Sundell’s shots are falling.
“It feels nice,” Sundell said of her 31 point performance against the Hornets. “I was just being aggressive. It didn't really feel like 31, it felt like I was getting more assists, really.”
While her scoring is efficient and essential, Sundell’s effect on the game goes beyond her own point total. The freshman is a dynamic passer and has superior court vision.
“When I’m driving a lot, they (the defense) are obviously sucking in, so I give assists,” Sundell said. “I get them (her teammates) open, feed them passes, screens, I see their cuts; all that helps me help them.”
Sundell’s coach has noticed her effect on the rest of the Spoofhounds. In an era of selfish basketball at the highschool level, Sundell strives to do whatever she can to help her teammates win.
“She makes everyone around her better,” Albrecht said. “She exudes a certain amount of confidence that bleeds over to all the other girls. They have a tremendous amount of faith in Serena.”
Beyond her scoring, passing, and non-basketball qualities that make her an excellent player, another trait helps Sundell standout among her peers: her clutch gene.
In the final seconds of a close matchup with the East Buchanan Bulldogs Jan. 9, Sundell drew a tough foul to send herself to the freethrow line with the game tied at 46. In a moment when far more experienced players often crack under pressure, the young freshman buried two foul shots to put the Hounds up 48-46. Maryville went on to win the game by that same score. In short, Sundell has ice in her veins.
Sundell was modest when reflecting on her clutch performance.
“We were trying to run an offense that wasn’t really working,” Sundell said of the clutch moment. “I was just being aggressive, trying to get the foul.”
While the humble guard would be slow to admit it, it is clear that her importance to the Spoofhounds cannot be overstated.
In Tuesday’s heartbreaking loss to the Hornets, Sundell fouled out just seconds after scoring her 31st point on a freethrow. The freshman left the Spoofhounds with a 60-56 lead and just under 53 seconds left on the clock. Maryville failed to score in her absence, allowing five points and surrendering the lead.
While many residents of Maryville have yet to learn her name, Sundell’s importance to the team has even been noticed by opponents.
“Obviously, teams are going to start knowing about me and changing up their defense to help stop me,” Sundell said. “I just have to keep getting in the gym on my offtime and stay aggressive.”
Sundell doesn’t plan on doing anything outlandish on the court to force her name into the town’s spotlight, but instead, she’ll let her play do the talking.
“I just try to be a leader on the court, make plays happen, communicate with teammates.” Sundell said. “Just focus on the game and nothing else.”