Ehrig finishes great career for Gila Ridge
There is a big difference, especially in the world of prep girls basketball, between somebody that plays basketball and a basketball player.
It doesn't take long to realize Gila Ridge senior guard Summer Ehrig is a basketball player.
Ehrig was named the Yuma Sun/Yuma Rotary Club 2011-2012 Girls Basketball Player of the Year after winning the award last year as well.
“When you see a basketball player, you see somebody that really understands defense, understands offense, they understand what's going on. They have their own philosophy on the game, a little bit, and I see all those things in Summer,” Gila Ridge coach David Schultz said.
As a senior her scoring average dropped from a year ago. But winning the award as a junior in 2010-2011 created a burden for Ehrig. The secret was out and the better teams were going to make her work for every basket she got.
“I tried to prepare her and she tried to prepare herself for it, but I don't think she realized to that extent,” Schultz said. “To me, I could see it instantly that teams weren't going to let her get the ball and were more prepared for her in the past. ... I could see more double-teams and teams shadowing her all over the court.”
Ehrig, who is getting looks from junior colleges like South Mountain, had her scoring average drop from 18.3 points her junior year to 15.6 this season. But she still dished out more assists, grabbed more rebounds and averaged 3.5 steals a game.
“I would get double-teamed and denied. It was a huge difference. It was hard, but my team picked it up,” Ehrig said of the Hawks, who finished the year 11-6 in power point games.
Coming into her senior season, Ehrig needed to balance being the best offensive weapon for the Hawks with making sure the offense didn't wind up being the four other players standing, watching and hoping Ehrig can do everything herself.
“Early on, the first half season that was the problem. Players would just watch her,” Schultz said of the Hawks, who had a pedestrian record of 3-5 by midseason.
Then everything clicked.
“Once she felt that she knew she was the leader, but didn't have to prove it every single night — I think early on, she felt she had to. I think that was another part of her maturation,” Schultz said.
The Hawks ended the season by winning eight of their final nine games.
It's been a special four years for Ehrig, who is also a star softball player. The genesis of her outstanding career can be traced back to watching basketball games with her father Ed — the Lakers, March Madness, any game, really — and accepting the physicality of playing basketball against her older brother James.
“He was really aggressive. He'd always tackle and throw me down. I don't know, maybe that's why I'm so aggressive,” Ehrig said.
Schultz could tell that Ehrig was special, even as a junior high player, saying she was clearly the best passer around. She started as a freshman and as a sophomore, she lifted the Hawks to another level at the end of the year against a much more talented Kofa team.
But as a junior and senior, Ehrig kicked it into fifth gear.
“She got more serious and more competitive. She wanted to win every time she was out there, she wanted to perform her best, she wanted to make her teammates better. And that's the side I can't take credit for. That's a kid who finds that innate ability of, ‘OK, this makes a big difference for me and my teammates,'” Schultz said.
Schultz will remember Ehrig's big performances — the eight-3-pointers-in-one-game sort of stuff. He'll remember her making a buzzer-beater on her knees against Cibola and the half-court shot against San Luis the same day she made a half-court shot in a pep assembly.
But most of all, he'll remember sitting in the coach's office every morning and hearing the dribbling of a basketball in the gym at 7:15 a.m. even though practice didn't start until 8. It told him, Summer's here early again.
“I've had kids do it once in a while, here and there, but never like a four-year stretch like that,” he said, “That's going to be hard for me as a coach — not hearing those basketballs dribbling and rebounding, and stuff like that.”
Jesse Severson can be reached at email@example.com or at 539-6881. Find him at facebook.com/YSJesseSeverson