Twinsburg senior Ashley Morrissette hears the criticism all the time — “You’re too thin to be successful in basketball.”
Morrissette just laughs and plays the game she loves with an all-around skill set that sets her apart from most and earned her a scholarship to Purdue University.
“I work out with weights,” Morrissette said. “We have a schedule. We work out before practice and sometimes after practice in the weight room. I guess I need to start eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, or something.”
Morrissette, 17, who is 5-foot-9 and 126 pounds, is hoping to conclude her senior season with a third consecutive Division I state championship. She played a key role on the first two state title teams as a primary scorer, ball-handler, passer and defender.
“It is hard to believe that Ashley is a senior,” Twinsburg coach Julie Solis said. “These four years have gone by pretty fast. The thing I am most proud of is her leadership skills on the floor. She gathers our players when she needs to, she makes big plays and she make everyone around her better.”
Morrissette averaged about 15 points per game last season along with five assists, four rebounds, three steals and one block. She was a Division I All-Ohio special-mention honoree and was named to the All-Northeast Ohio Conference Valley Division first team.
“Ashley is just one of those kids that has that slight build,” Solis said. “We are in the weight room two or three times a week. She is a lot stronger than her frame indicates. It is kind of misleading. She has improved on her decision making, too. She is more mature and is just one of those kids that has ice in her veins. She wants the ball in her hands at the end of the game.”
Morrissette averaged 20.5 points and 5.0 rebounds in last season’s state semifinal and state championship games. She made 12-of-26 shots from the field and converted 14-of-15 free throws.
“People know me as a shooter, but I worked over the summer on driving the ball to the basket and pulling up in the mid-range for a jumper, so I am not just that 3-point shooter anymore,” Morrissette said. “I also feel good about my on-the-ball defensive pressure.”
Her lowlight last season came with 9.8 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter of the state final against Kettering Fairmont when she was ejected following a flagrant foul on Fairmont’s Chelsea Welch.
“Obviously, I learned that I have to keep my temper, even in a situation where I was being provoked,” Morrissette said. “I can’t really do what I want to do. I have to do what is best for my teammates and that was not what was best for my teammates, especially if we would have lost.”
Prior to the incident, Morrissette made 8-of-9 free throws in the fourth, including 7-of-8 in the final 1:27 of the game to clinch the 57-51 win at Value City Arena in Columbus.
“I think that was a humbling experience for her to go through that,” Solis said. “The thing that she learned the most is how she handled herself after it happened. As much as people will be in your ear and play rough, you have to just not respond.”
Twinsburg defeated visiting Solon 57-37 Wednesday night to improve to 6-0 this season. The Tigers have won 58 out of their past 61 games and have a 52-game winning streak against opponents from Ohio.
Morrissette served a two-game suspension to start this season because of the state final ejection, but Twinsburg won over Berlin Hiland and Columbus Northland. The Tigers then defeated Wadsworth, Walsh Jesuit, Mentor and Solon.
Twinsburg graduated four starters — Malina Howard, Leah Fechko, LaShawna Gatewood and Nichole Mabry — from last season’s team. All four are playing in college.
This season’s starting lineup consists of Morrissette, 6-2 senior George Mason-recruit Char-dell Dunnigan, 5-9 senior Cleveland State-recruit Brooke Smith, 5-11 senior Mercedes Hobbs and 5-10 junior Baleigh Reid.
The Tigers also have efficient reserves in 5-9 sophomore Aloneet Durden, 5-11 junior Marisa Howard and 6-0 senior Jaime Sanborn.
“I wouldn’t call it pressure to win the state championship again,” Morrissette said. “We are going after it like every other team. We have to disregard the two state championships that we won. It’s like we have a brand new team and we are trying to come out and get it for the first time.”
Michael Beaven can be reached at 330-996-3829 or email@example.com. Read the high school blog at http://www.ohio.com/preps. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/MBeavenABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.