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Lenard learning to be leader for youthful Terriers

Seeing led to believing for Nicole Lenard.

The junior on the St. Francis Prep girls’ basketball team asked Coach JoAnn Wagner if she could take home the tape of the Terriers’ game against Our Lady of Lourdes, a contest in which they let a sizable lead turn into a lopsided loss.

“I wanted to watch the game from a different perspective and see some things I didn’t notice before,” Lenard said.

So what did she learn?

“I noticed when we weren’t going back on defense and when we weren’t boxing out,” she said. “We weren’t running the plays right and we were just being lazy all over the place. It helped a lot. Sometime you don’t think you’re playing that way, but you are.”

So how much did it help?

Lenard and the Terriers followed up the disappointing loss with one of its best this season, a 68-56 win over Smithtown West (L.I.) at the Big Apple Recruiting Christmas Classic at Bishop Ford last Sunday. Lenard scored 16 points, hit clutch shots when St. Francis Prep needed it most and made smart decisions with the ball. She called the game her best and noted the consistency of her play and the lack of mental lapses.

“I always feel like she is the glue that holds us together,” senior point guard Aliya Donn said. “I know Mrs. Wagner believes in her a lot. She is a solid player you can always count on. I think she is going to develop into a really strong player.”

Wagner, who stays on Lenard a lot because of her potential, told her before the season started that she was going to have to step up and became a leader of a team that features four talented sophomores and a freshman. Lenard, a two-year varsity player, is the team’s starting shooting guard, a position she only started playing in high school.

She said she played power forward before that because of her height at the time. Lenard has since improved her shot and is the Terriers’ best three-point threat. Yet, there have been times this season when she has even had to play point guard when Donn is on the bench.

“She loves the game,” Wagner said. “She is skilled and she will give you 110 percent and that is one of the reasons we always hesitate to take her out of the game. She plays every minute of almost every game. She is our steadying force out there with just her hunger and desire.”

That kind of play and leadership has been invaluable to St. Francis Prep, which hopes to get junior point guard Joanna Verouhis back in mid-January, is looking to develop sophomores Meghan Erdman, Jenna Halaby, Shatira Hamlet and Katherine Pulido and freshman center Katherine Hickman. Lenard believes they are coming along just fine as the Terriers are off to a 5-3 start.

“Sometimes it’s frustrating, because they don’t really catch on to what you’re saying, but they do listen and it’s a good thing,” she said. “I think they have been doing pretty good, especially the last two games. We showed a lot of improvement.”

St. Francis Prep packaged its win over Smithtown West with a 72-59 victory over Lafayette, a PSAL B squad. Lenard scored nine of her 13 points in a 27-5 first quarter and believe the team’s best play is still ahead of it.

“It showed us how good we can be,” Lenard said. “And that if we keep playing this way then we can beat anyone.”

Seeing has led to believing.

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