Calli Beezhold’s best sport is volleyball.
This season, her Covenant Christian team worked on blocking, blocking, and then some more blocking.
In volleyball, any touch to the net is a foul and gives the point to the opponent.
In basketball, the same theory applies: put one finger out of place and a block is no longer a block.
That’s how Beezhold, a 6-foot-1 junior playing her first full year of varsity hoops, has become the best blocker in the state, according to Varvee.com, which compiles stats for the IHSAA.
With 66 blocks in nine games, the competition isn’t even close. No. 2 behind Beezhold is Southmont’s Alexa McKinsey, who has 48 blocks over 10 games.
“It’s about being able to time it right,” Beezhold said. “I have really long fingers. I know, it’s kind of weird, but it makes it easier because I just jump until I think I’m completely straight up and then I just touch the ball.”
It’s not just Beezhold; the Knights combined for 19 blocks in a 60-31 loss to Frontier on Dec. 3, putting their mark in the state record books. Frontier — a 9-0 team — had two players combine for 29 points, and yet shot 22-of-52 thanks to blocks by the Covenant Christian team.
“That’s what we could do against Frontier, which has a Division-I recruit,” said coach Doug Robertson, a post player in high school and college who is teaching those skills to his players. “I think teams are starting to recognize that, and now teams are looking for jump shots rather than take it into the paint.”
It also helps that the Knights would rank themselves among the taller teams in the state. They have not one, but two players taller than 6-foot, and their shorter players bottom out at 5-9.
“A lot of other teams, especially at our class size, are shorter than us,” Beezhold said. “For us, when 5-9 is kinda short on our team, that has really helped us.”
Blocking sounds much easier than it is. Consider that in one instant a player has to make the precise movement to stop the ball and not hit an opponent. That’s the difference between a block and a foul.
“A lot of times players pick up fouls because they want to be really powerful,” Beezhold said. “You have to have a good position. I tend to get a better block if I put my hands down. Sometimes, because I’m so tall, I really don’t have to do that much.”
The Knights, with their 3-6 record, will graduate just two players at the end of the season, meaning that 20 blocks in a single game isn’t out of the question.
“This is really cool,” Beezhold said. “We’re definitely in a building year, but because we’re learning so much, and we’re getting used to a new way of doing things, we’re only going to get better.”
This column solely represents the writer’s opinion. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.