NEW FRANKLIN In a season that began with high expectations, but has been marked by mixed results, sophomore standout Karli Anker has been a bright spot on the hardwood for the Manchester Panthers.
Anker, a 5-foot-6 guard, has picked up where she left off last year, averaging 18.7 points, 6.7 rebounds, 3.7 steals, and 3.1 assists per game for Manchester, which enters the final two weeks of its regular season with a 8-10 overall record, and is 4-7 in Principals Athletic Conference play. It’s been a season of near misses, as five of the team’s 10 losses have been by four points or less.
A year ago as a freshman, Anker averaged 17.1 points, 3.4 rebounds, 3.1 assists 2.9 steals, while being tabbed first-team All-PAC-7 and Tri-County, Player of the Year for the Tri-County area and Division II-III-IV second team all-district, as well as honorable mention All-Ohio. She came into this season with a target on her back, but hasn't missed one step despite being double-teamed on numerous occasions.
Manchester head coach Shawn Zavodney has seen Anker develop since her playing days at middle school all the way up to the high school level and has been impressed by her progression.
"Much of Karli's development has come from the hard work she puts in during the off-season with her father,” he said. "During our season she really works on details. She is either double-teamed or face guarded every game, she is getting better everyday at using picks, getting herself open as well as putting herself in good position to help not only herself, but her teammates. In short, she is not only learning to become a better player, she makes the girls around her better."
Anker is one of the team’s captains along with seniors Maddy McFadden, Liz Seidel and Jessalyn Webb. Zavodney noted that fact underscores the respect Anker has from her teammates. He sees her try to elevate their play rather than pad her own stats in search of individual recognition.
It’s an uncommon thing to see from a sophomore playing at the varsity level.
"I've have been coaching now for nearly 20 years, and I have never seen a sophomore at any level do what Karli does on the basketball floor. She is still growing mentally and physically, the sky is the limit for this young lady. She gets better each day and learns from each game,” Zavodney said.
Anker has topped 30 points twice this season, scoring a career-high 34 in a 65-61 loss to league-leading Orrville on Jan. 23. She also had 31 in her team's 56-42 victory over Northwest back on Dec. 22.
However, one of her biggest highlights of the campaign came in the teams opener as she nailed a 3-pointer as time expired to defeat Copley 50-49 at the Lady Chipps Classic.
According to Anker, that was one of her most memorable moments of the season.
"It was really exciting hitting a buzzer beater to beat Copley in our first game of the year," she said. "Another highlight was when Maddy McFadden scored a career-high 26 points against Fairless."
Looking at the season from that point on, Anker believes that the team has been on somewhat of roller coaster ride. She knows the record could be better and said that sometimes, the team can play down to the level of its competition.
Individually, she’s trying to get better across the board.
"My season has been going ok. I'm trying to work on improving my game in all areas stats wise from a year ago. One area that I need to continue to work on is my free throws,” Anker said.
Away from the court, Anker lettered in volleyball and played softball last season. In her spare time she enjoys hanging out and spending time with her friends. Ultimately, she would like to continue her career on the collegiate level, but for now her attention is focused on helping her teammates make some noise in the post-season.
"I feel we have the talent to make a nice run in the tournament,' said Anker. "We're going to need to have real good week of practice. We definitely have the potential."
The Panthers will open tournament play on Feb. 20 against St. Thomas Aquinas at 7 p.m. A victory would advance them into the sectional championship tilt versus third-seeded Loudonville on Feb. 23.