AURORA — She was a factor last season.
To a small degree, at least.
Playing for a senior-heavy team, Ava Ryncarz’s minutes weren’t exactly plentiful for the Aurora girls basketball team.
In case you’re wondering, that talented Greenman squad finished 24-2 and reached the Division I regional competition for the first time in school history.
Ryncarz, a sophomore guard, along with classmate Mika Dalton, also a guard, made significant contributions as key players off the bench.
These days, that same bench is now about as welcoming as Area 51 to Aurora’s talented duo.
In other words, it’s pretty much a restricted area.
“Last year, we didn’t have as big of a role,” Ryncarz said. “This year, we knew we had to step up. I think we’re doing a pretty good job. We’re trying to be leaders; we’re trying to help everyone out. It’s good.”
Ryncarz and Dalton have been regulars in the Greenmen’s starting lineup since opening night. On Saturday at the friendly confines of her favorite gymnasium, Ryncarz scored 12 points during Aurora’s convincing 60-35 victory over Painesville Riverside.
Nine of those points took place during the Greenmen’s 17-9 run to close the third quarter. That spurt gave Aurora a bit of cushion after a not particularly satisfying first half.
It wasn’t especially fulfilling for Ryncarz either. She missed five of her first six shots and also misfired on both of her free-throw attempts.
“I think she missed a couple that she makes normally,” Greenmen head coach Erika Greenberg said. “I challenged her before the game to be a little more active driving to the rim.
“She was trying to do that and it kind of threw off her rhythm a little bit.”
Her rhythm was a bit more in order when she returned from the locker room.
Ryncarz missed just one shot in the third period and scored the last five points to give Aurora a 46-31 lead.
Ryncarz’s mini explosion started a 9-0 run that put the game out of reach.
“We started off a little slow, not how we wanted to,” she said. “When we went into the locker room at halftime, we kind of got things together. We fixed our game plan a little bit.
“[We just] came out with more energy in the second half to try to boost ourselves back up.”
While Ryncarz and Dalton have become leading ladies for the Greenmen, both players understand who calls the shots on the floor.
That would be 6-foot-2 All-Ohio point guard Shyanne Sellers, who has been Aurora’s best player by leaps and bounds ever since she joined the team some 2 ½ years ago.
“She’s a great player,” Ryncarz said. “She distributes the ball really well. She helps us get our shots. She’s one of the best players. That’s really nice.”
Besides Sellers and her older sister Shayla, a 2019 Aurora graduate who is now playing basketball for Purdue University Fort Wayne in Indiana, Ryncarz and Dalton played backup roles to 2019 graduates Julia Mazanec and Haley Ross, who is playing at Marietta University.
This season is considerably different for the two gifted sophomores. That’s because Aurora has plenty of newbies on its roster this winter.
That’s OK with Ryncarz, though. Unlike a classified Air Force facility in Nevada, the talented 5-foot-8 prodigy has made sure her gymnasium is not a restricted area.
“I love the team,” Ryncarz said. “Everybody is so great. Our team chemistry [has been going] really well. We all work really well together, so it’s really fun.”
It will be even more fun if the Greenmen put all the pieces of the puzzle together. If that happens, Ryncarz’s gymnasium could resemble a mysterious facility that may not be too kind to strangers.
For the opponents, it might resemble a test and training range that makes its home on the West Coast. As for Aurora, it could be more like “Homey” Airport for the Greenmen’s expanding weapons’ system.
Or, if you’re partial to a certain color, “Green Lake” might be more a fitting designation.
“Some games, it’s our offense that’s good and our defense is bad,” Ryncarz said. “We’re trying to get it all together. This game, I wouldn’t say we put it together — a whole game. We’re just trying to work to get better at practice and hopefully, reach that goal.”
Reporter Frank Aceto can be reached at 330-541-9444, firstname.lastname@example.org or @FrankAceto_RPC.