Equipped with ball-handling skills that leave most defenders flailing aimlessly, 3-point range that extends well beyond the arc and court vision that few high school players possess, Urban point guard Jen Marquez could easily be her team’s top offensive threat.
But the junior is well aware that for the Blues girls’ basketball team to be successful, she must embrace her role as the floor general and leader of a tenacious defense.
"Coach always said that we want to turn defense into offense," said Marquez, whose Blues (14-1) sit atop the Bay Counties League West with a 3-0 mark entering Friday’s nonconference game against Liberty Christian (13-2) of Redding at USF’s Hagan Gym. "We always work so hard on our defense, because we realize in the end it comes down to being able to stop the other team from scoring."
Coach Andy Schroeder’s team has done plenty of that this season, holding opponents to a paltry 34 points per game.
No one has been a bigger part of that defensive ideology than Marquez, who, as the ringleader of the full-court pressure defense, is averaging a team-high 4.3 steals per game.
"Jen plays such a huge role for us defensively," Schroeder said. "By pressuring the other team’s guards all over the court, she helps us set up our press and really sets the tone for us defensively."
Marquez is no slouch on offense, either, but after finishing second on the team in scoring last season at more than 11 points per game, she has deferred more to her teammates this season, increasing her assist average to 5.6 a game for the Blues, who feature three players who score in double figures.
Marquez, along with frontcourt players Jakkie Boka-Timmerberg and Allison Weston and wing Shaunre’ Clendinen, all return from a 21-7 team that lost to Rincon Valley Christian in the North Coast Section Division V semifinals.
This season, the expectations are even greater for the Blues, thanks to a solid returning cast and a team chemistry that has grown from playing together consistently over the past couple years.
"We are like a family here," Marquez said. "We all know our strengths and weaknesses and we help each other out whenever we can. We rely on our core of players and everyone knows their role and what to do for the team."