SENECA — As the 2011-12 season went on, it got to a point where opposing teams wouldn't even try to go inside against Seneca forward Coley Baker.
It's easy to see why.
Baker stands at 5-11, and was the Lady Irish's key defensive presence. She ended this past season with 139 blocked shots and caused trouble for opposing defenses all season long.
"There were teams that still [tried to come inside] because they knew if they took it at me the right way I was I was going to get in foul trouble," said Baker, who will play collegiately at Greenville University in Southwestern Illinois next year. "The other teams, they knew there was a 6-foot girl in there. That they weren't going to get it in without being blocked.
Baker added 9.6 points per game and 7.9 rebounds per game this season, helping Seneca to its second straight regional championship. For her efforts this year, Baker is the 2012 Morris Daily Herald Girls Basketball All-Area MVP.
Baker's 274 career blocks rank 18th on the IHSA's all-time list.
"You can take away some (of the opponents') inside game when she's inside. She's just that threat to always be a presence on defense," Seneca coach Barb Beck said. "As a shot-blocking presence it's a whole different story as well. You get teams that think they might have got a shot off and Coley swats it away."
The thing is, there weren't many games where Baker was actually had to worry about coming out of the game because of fouls.
"This year, I don't think we had more than maybe two games where she got into foul trouble," Beck said.
The 139 blocks Baker came up with this season are a Seneca school record. The record she broke was her own record of 102, which she set last season.
"It's pretty awesome to know that you have the record at the school," Baker said. "Last year I was even asking [Beck], 'How close am I?' It's been pretty awesome to set a school record."
When going up for a block in the past, too often Baker would fall for fakes, and would just go for a swat. As she got more experienced, Beck says Baker would just go for the ball straight up instead of just taking the big swat.
That helped her stay out of foul trouble and was a big reason Baker had the success that she did.
"I think her volleyball skills, being able to do things on the volleyball court just helped her tremendously," Beck said. "It's not just the swinging, it's the timing of the block. Like I said, her patience on "D" and waiting until that shot was in the air. She worked real hard this summer to improve her jumping ability."
When Seneca was able to get into its offense and get the ball to Baker in the post, she was double-teamed by nearly every opponent. Baker didn't have the scoring average she wanted, although the senior was still able to average 9.6 points per game, just over a point higher than her average last season.
Thankfully, the Lady Irish had players like Alyssa Applebee and Lexi Brown to help handle the team's scoring.
When Seneca beat Beecher 52-44 in the semifinals of the Class 2A Beecher Regional, Applebee and Brown scored a combined 47 points for the Irish as the Ladycats concentrated on stopping Baker.
"We didn't have to get the ball in Coley's hands. A lot of times we were able to score in the open," Beck said. "She was picking up a lot of her points on rebounds.
"As a coach, you would like to see that balance in scoring. It's tough to figure out who you're going to stop. We both know Coley probably would have been a lot happier to score a lot of points. Bottom line, it's a team sport. When we get the win we get the win."