Maddy Sulka got what she wanted.
The Mountain Pointe senior captain was frustrated with the level of play the Pride showed in the first two games of the Nike Tournament of Champions.
A third stinker might have had Mountain Pointe spiraling toward a very bad rut, but no worries for the moment after the Pride beat Viewmont from Utah 58-42 on Saturday.
The win pushed Mountain Pointe’s overall record to 8-4 but it hasn’t been a smooth 12 games and Sulka was feeling the frustration after the Pride lost a very winnable game 42-38 against Bellmarmine Prep from Washington on Friday.
“It’s hard to tell,” Sulka said when asked what it will take to turn it around. “Either it’s going to happen or it’s not. We lost (the first two games) and we are either going to go home and put that behind us and come back and win tomorrow or we are going to continue to slide.
“I’ve been talking since my freshman year so they are tired of me I am sure, but this is my team as a captain. I am never going to give up on my team. We have individual mindsets at this point and we need to get those mindsets to be one.”
Sulka is not going to make excuses for her competitive nature and her desire for the team to be great and neither will her coach.
“That’s who she is,” Pride coach Trevor Neider said on Friday. “She cares and she hates to lose. I’d expect her to be upset with the way we played the last two games.”
Sulka has been playing at the varsity level since she was a freshman and been a part of three 20-win seasons and was a big part of why the Pride advanced to the state quarterfinals last season.
Until this season she had more of a role player status on the team – taking charges, deflecting passes, diving for loose balls – and while she still plays that way, her scoring ability has become more vital to the team’s success.
She is playing well – a team-high 13.1 points, 4.9 wins, 3.9 assists and 2.7 steals – but that’s not going to matter to her if the Pride doesn’t start playing at the level she believes they can reach.
“Our main weakness is our desire to win because we can’t get everyone to buy in,” she said. “We have some players encouraging and talking and we have some negative players who are bringing us down.
“We are working on it and it’s getting better. We are doing what we can to make it a great season and I want my teammates help me get there.”
Fellow senior captain Kaylah Lupoe agreed that there is something off in the early stages, but they are lucky they have done enough to win eight of 12 games.
“We are still going through the awkward stage and trying to connect with each other,” said Lupoe, who is averaging 12.9 points, 9.7 rebounds and 3.8 blocks. “We have to make sure we talk a lot more communication wise and we will be good.”
The Pride will come out of the break with three games in seven days so they need to be ready to kick it back in gear in a hurry.
“We’ve been playing hard, but we are not executing or putting the ball in the basket,” Neider said. “Everyone was frustrated because no one is playing really well. We were just kind of flat lined. We are just kind of treading water.
“We don’t have enough confidence to play through the tough times. Hopefully, that changed with the win (on Saturday).”
Some of that has been due to the loss of point guard Ashle Burns before the season with an ACL injury. Different players – Deijon Williams, Dennay King, Sulka and even Lupoe – have had to bring the ball up the court.
The void has put a handful of players out of position to a certain degree, but the transition period has to be over at this point.
“Everyone had to adjust and it hurts to have her out because we don’t have anyone as quick as (Burns),” Neider said. “It’s taken longer than I would have liked but now I think we will be in a better mood (after the win) and make it work.”
• Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or JSkoda@ahwatukee.com. Follow him on Twitter @JSkodaAFN.