TOWNSEND — Norm Darlinton is in his first year coaching the Townsend girls basketball team. Even with a new coach, expectations are high surrounding his squad, which is coming off a third-place finish at the 2018 Class B state tournament.
Some key pieces from last year’s team are gone, but senior Tavia Rooney returns, giving Darlinton one of the state’s most versatile players.
“Just her pure athletic ability, she gets a lot done for us now,” Darlinton said of his star senior. “If I was guarding her or coaching against her, I would certainly have at least one, if not two, defenders ready all the time. She’s such a good facilitator that it makes it hard to double-team her. The more she touches it on that end, the more good things happen.”
“I try to really help my teammates where they’re supposed to be,” Rooney said. “There’s a lot of confusion sometimes because of our new coach, so just making sure all my teammates know where they’re at, as well. If someone’s in the wrong spot, I’ll fill in there. Being able to play different positions, if they want to play down low, maybe I’ll play out and vice versa.”
Offensively, Rooney can score from all three levels and has proven capable of facilitating when things get stagnant. But it’s on the defensive end that the 6-footer can really impact a game. Rooney’s blend of size and athleticism allow her to defend guards and bigs, alike.
“I’m going to have her guard the other team’s best player often. Even if it’s a mid-sized guard, she’s quick enough to take care of that for us,” Darlinton said. “It’s a nice ace in the hole to have.”
“I think that’s one of my favorite things, is defense. That’s the best,” said Rooney. “Stealing, then your teammates hauling down and then you get to give them an assist. Then also blocking shots, but that doesn’t always happen. I think defense is one of my favorite things, because you work hard and it can pay off. Maybe you’re not getting the point down on the other end, but you’re assisting your teammate and that’s just as good of a feeling.”
Rooney’s tireless work ethic has also eased the transition back into coaching for Darlinton. Rooney’s hard work is rubbing off on her younger teammates.
“We’ve had 11 practices, she’s been first in the gym probably nine times,” Darlinton said. “She’s that kind of leader. The young kids see that and understand that’s how it’s supposed to be done. She’s almost always the first girl in the gym. Always smiling, always willing to learn, just the kind of kid you get to hope to coach.”
Darlinton spent several seasons with rival Three Forks before taking a few years off. Now, he’s become quite comfortable on Townsend’s side of the rivalry.
After watching Three Forks win the state championship last season, Rooney and the Bulldogs are hungry to stake their claim atop Class B. Darlinton’s arrival, though, has added another element to the rivalry with the Wolves.
“(Darlinton) jokes a lot and he’ll always send us red, he jokes about wearing red and all of us are like, ‘No one likes that red color, we’re blue here,'” Rooney said. “We make a lot of jokes with him. It’s a good rivalry between (Three Forks and Townsend).”