Experienced Zgutowicz leading young St. Francis team

Sports Reporter
Sam is the sports reporter for ABC Newspapers, covering high school, junior college and community sports in the area. He joined the staff in October 2016.
Sydney Zgutowicz has found several ways to score for the St. Francis girls basketball team, averaging 14.6 points per game. (Photo by Sam Herder)
Sydney Zgutowicz has found several ways to score for the St. Francis girls basketball team, averaging 14.6 points per game. (Photo by Sam Herder)

Sydney Zgutowicz doesn’t always feel like a junior on the basketball court. As someone who has logged minutes for St. Francis since eighth grade, Zgutowicz led the team last year in points and is doing it again this season with 14.6 per game. But even as a junior, she is the veteran of the team, which starts three sophomores and a freshman.

The Fighting Saints have just one senior on their roster.

St. Francis co-head coach Danye Torson said Zgutowicz is the voice of the coaches when they’re not around, a role she has grown into.

“I’m super comfortable because I’ve known and played with these girls for a long time,”  Zgutowicz said. “I’m comfortable in helping them and they’re comfortable in coming to me and asking me questions.”

On the court, Zgutowicz’s production continues to increase. Her 336 points leads the team by more than 100 while pulling down 9.4 rebounds per game and dishing out 3.7 assists per game, both team highs.

As her point total continues to mount, Zgutowicz surpassed a career milestone when she scored her 1,000th career point Feb. 10 in a 59-55 win against Big Lake.

“Syd is an impact player,” Torson said. “You can put her in any role on the floor and she’ll come out and give it her all. She deserves what she got. She worked hard for those 1,000 points. She’s a hard worker on and off the court and is a great leader.”

After a 2-4 start to the season, the youthful team has been on a role, going 14-4 since. The Fighting Saints are 9-3 in the Mississippi 8 Conference and sit in third place.

“I think confidence is a big key,” Zgutowicz said. “We have a freshman point guard who has stepped up along with others. Every game we are improving.”

Along with her scoring, Zgutowicz’s versatility has been a big factor in the team’s success. At 5-foot-11, she is able to provide a presence in the paint. Her length is a nuisance on defense and aids in rebounding, but it’s her shooting that has taken her game to the next level.

“She’s been really working on her outside shot,” Torson said. “She has a couple different dimensions to her game now, not just attacking the rim. She can step out and hit the 3. That makes her really hard to guard. She’s worked hard at it over the summer to get that outside shot falling for her.”

Even with the improved game and the role of captain on the team, Zgutowicz hasn’t necessarily had to carry the team on her back. She’s had plenty of help from younger, but improving, teammates, which has been integral to the team’s conference record.

Danah Ocsan has scored more than 200 points and Anna Schultz isn’t far behind. Amme Sheforgen and Gracie Eastman have totaled more than 100 points each this season as well with Sheforgen scoring a season-high 22 points one game.

“I knew I would have to score, but I also knew that we had a lot of younger girls who were going to step up and help,” Zgutowicz said.

As her high school career progresses, Zgutowicz said she hopes it leads to playing college basketball at the Division I or Division II level. But even though she’s been wearing a varsity jersey for four years, she still has plenty of minutes left for the Fighting Saints.

“We’ve talked to her since she’s a freshman,” Torson said. “I’ve always known she has that leadership role inside of her. It’s just getting it to come out and show. It showed a little bit last year as a sophomore and now she’s taking on a bigger leadership role for us. She’s fulfilling it very well.”

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