Emerald Ridge sophomore Riley Clarke isn’t afraid of physical contact on the basketball court.
Clarke, a triplet who has two brothers, Mac and Wayne, hasn’t been the kind of person to turn down a challenge.
“I grew up with them, and they always played sports with me and were really rough on me,” she said. “I love the fact that you can be physical with basketball, and it’s not a problem. I could never play volleyball because I like banging into people.”
Clarke is the Jaguars’ leading scorer through the first nine games of the season. As she grew up, she envisioned herself as a Jaguar.
“I wish I could have played on the team last year,” she said. “I came to almost all of their games. I made friends with Taylor Buie (now a freshman basketball player at Nova Southeastern University) and some of the girls on that team. They tried so hard every day. I came to one of their practices, and their work ethic was amazing. I loved it.”
The Jaguars are 4-5 overall, and Clarke expects they will push for a playoff spot.
“I want us to go as far as we possibly can,” she said. “Our team is like a family.”
Emerald Ridge head coach Brad Mirk is glad Clarke is on his team.
“Everything you see in her as a player, she is that much better as a person,” Mirk said. “It is a joy to have her around.
“Riley is pretty unique being a sophomore and taking on that leadership position. She embraces it and is one that pulls people along with her. She is very encouraging of her teammates.”
Mirk said Clarke epitomizes what it means to be a team player, even though she’s the team’s leading scorer.
“She loves to see her teammates be successful,” he said. “A lot of times, she is throwing passes, and our players aren’t ready for them. As the season goes on, we’ll be able to connect on those. That is the kind of leader she is.”
The Jaguars are loaded with potential, Mirk said.
“Obviously, we are a young team, and we want to make the playoffs,” he said. “We are seeing things continue to improve. We have had our ups and downs. Overall, we’re on a upward climb.
Sports editor Shaun Scott can be reached at 253-552-7002 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter, @herald_shaun.