Carley Heinen prides herself on the way she plays defense. And she has a lifetime of bruises to prove it.
The 5-foot-10 junior is a standout defender for a team that prides itself on its ability to play defense – an asset that has made her Freeman Scotties, at 16-1, the No. 2-ranked Class 1A high school girls basketball team in the state.
But playing for the Scotties is nothing compared to where Heinen learned to play defense: her own backyard. There she’s been battling her three brothers for as long as she can remember – all current or former Freeman players. Eldest brother Luke graduated in 2006. Jake is a 6-4 senior guard for the Scotties while twin brother Peter is a 6-2 sophomore post.
“Basketball is big in my family,” she said. “We all started playing YMCA ball when we were in first and second grade. From there it was AAU and school ball. Every summer there are basketball camps and summer leagues. It’s a year-round thing.”
Organized basketball is one thing, but in the Heinen family, the game starts at home.
“We have our own sport court,” Jake said. “We’re always out there playing ball together, and we always play hard. It doesn’t get to the point where someone gets punched, but we don’t take it easy on one another either.”
Carley can attest to that.
“Oh no – not at all,” she laughed. “It was a long time before I could get off a shot against them. But it’s also where I learned to play defense.”
“We’re always pushing each other to get better,” Peter said. “If one of us has a bad game, we always get encouragement from one another and tips on how to get better.”
They may have come through hard knocks, but Carley learned her lessons well. Defense, in large part, helped make her a first-team All-NEA selection a year ago. This year she’s averaging more than 16 points per game on offense, but still looks to play defense first.
“That’s the way we all think,” she said. “If we go out and play defense like we know we can, it doesn’t matter how much we score.”
Coach Matt Gregg likens Carley Heinen’s defense to that played by former Scottie Jessie DePell, now a sophomore at Montana Tech, who also grew up playing against older brothers.
“They both play defense a lot alike,” he said. “They both are very dynamic players and they both love to get out there and get after it.
“Our whole team takes pride in its defense. We have a tradition of playing defense.”
The Scotties have held opponents to an average of just 33.5 points per game in 17 outings. While Freeman has averaged 56 points per game, it managed just half that total in a 46-28 loss at Colfax to its arch rival and winner of the past four state Class 1A championships.
The team avenged that loss Tuesday, scoring a 51-46 victory over the third-ranked Bulldogs in their final regular season game at Freeman.
Next season Colfax drops out of Class 1A and joins the Bi-County League.
“I’m going to miss playing them,” Carley Heinen said. “I hope we can still play them in nonleague games.
“Beating them was special. I couldn’t sleep after the game, it was so important. I know we’re going to have to play them again, especially if we’re going to reach our goal and get to the state tournament and win a state title.”
The Northeast A League has a habit of sending two teams into the state title game. It happened in 2004, when Colfax beat league rival Lind-Ritzville, 53-39. And it happened in 2005 when the Bulldogs knocked off top-ranked Freeman in the finale, 53-44.
“I wasn’t part of that team, but I was there in the stands,” Heinen said. “Before we played them the other night, we went back and watched the video of that game. It helped get us fired up.”
The Freeman boys currently are third in the NEA with three games remaining in the regular season. Colfax and Lakeside entered the weekend tied for first.