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Saxe off to fast start in senior season

As soon as the Maryville College women’s basketball team takes the court on game day, the opposing team finds Katie Saxe.

It’s almost as if opponents have a homing beacon for the Maryville senior that has been tracking her for days.

“I told her before the season she was going to be a marked woman this year,” Maryville coach Jeff Pardue said.

Standing 5-foot-11, it isn’t hard for the opposition to spot the former Maryville High star, but stopping the dynamic post force is an entirely different story.

Saxe has displayed a determined work ethic during her Maryville career, and it’s paid off. Each year, her numbers have risen from the previous season. Last season, Saxe was an All-Great South Athletic Conference First Team selection.

And though it’s still early, Saxe is off to her finest season yet.

Already, the Scots center has recorded three double-doubles, been named conference player of the week, and, most impressively, knocked down the game-winning shot to claim a tournament championship in an overtime win over Eastern Mennonite – and there have only been four games.

Saxe is averaging a double-double on the offensive side. She is filling up the hoop with an average of 15 points per contest, finding time to snag a team-leading 12 rebounds per game. On the defensive end, Saxe is leading the team in blocks, a feat she has accomplished the past two seasons as well.

“I feel like I’m playing my best basketball right now,” Saxe said. “I’m really focused and want to do well. This is it. This is my senior year.”

Pardue thinks Saxe is solely due the credit for her success.

“She worked hard with (former Maryville women’s) coach Dee Bell on her post moves,” Pardue said, “and I’ve taken some of the pressure off of her, so now we’re just letting her play. Give her all the credit. She’s learned to finish, and, right now, she’s playing to a level where she’s almost unstoppable.”

Fellow post player Natalie Munday thinks Saxe’s performance is carrying over from last season when the latter was second on the team with 12.7 points per game and averaged a team-high 7.9 rebounds.

“Katie had a good season last year. She’s just continuing to build on that,” Munday said. “She’s working inside really hard, doing well on the boards and playing great defense.”

Saxe isn’t the only post player who is excelling this year for the Scots. Munday and transfer Alison Harmon, both juniors, are also working hard down on the blocks.

At 15 points per game, Munday, 6-foot, is tied with Saxe for the team lead in scoring, and, even from her post position, has been the team’s best three-point shooter. Munday is currently shooting 55.6 percent from behind the arc.

“If Natalie is on the same side of the floor as me, it’s hard for (the opposition) to double down because she is able to knock down the shots,” Saxe said.

The newcomer of the group, the 5-11 Harmon has provided tremendous depth to Maryville’s frontline and is able to spark the team off the bench. Despite averaging less than 20 minutes of playing time per contest, she is third on the team in scoring with 12.5 points per game.

“She’s been incredibly valuable,” Pardue said. “She has been able to come in and take over where Katie and Natalie have left off.”

Saxe thinks Harmon is making significant contributions, not only with the statistics she is putting up, but by allowing both Saxe and Munday to rest easily.

“When (Natalie and I) come out of the game, we know we aren’t going to lose anything,” Saxe said.

From inside-out, the play of Saxe, Munday and Harmon has opened up the floor for the Maryville offense. Pardue believes the key to his offense is for it to be balanced, and, he said, it is “hard to have balance without strong post play.”

“We are running everything through our posts,” Pardue said, “but we are balanced because when teams try to double down to stop Katie or Alison, it opens up our perimeter.”

“Having them (the post players) be so dominant inside makes opponents double down, and that gives us guards open shots from the outside,” said sophomore point guard Alicia Brown, who has made the second most 3-point attempts.

Using a rotation that typically has two of the three on the court, the Scots have gotten off to a hot start. They currently sport a 3-1 record with their only loss coming to Birmingham Southern, a team in its first Division III season after dropping from Division I. With a balanced offense led by the low-post presence of Saxe, the Scots are looking to regain their conference throne from Piedmont College and return to the NCAA national tournament for the eighth time in the last nine years.

“If our post game can continue to play like we have these last two weeks, then I think we have a great shot,” Saxe said.

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