It’s a familiar sight by this point, but Karissa Antoine can’t help but smile a little every time it happens.
During every Schalmont girls’ basketball game, there’s usually at least a few moments where an opposing player starts to drive into the lane but, upon seeing the 5-foot-11 Antoine, quickly peels out of the paint rather than testing the Sabres’ defensive stopper.
“It just lets me know they’re definitely scared to come near me,” Antoine said last week following Class B Schalmont’s win over Section V Class AA power Fairport during the Amsterdam Holiday College Showcase. “It gets me more hyped than I already am.”
Antoine brings a combination of size, athleticism, energy and basketball savvy that results in many opponents wanting to stay away from whatever portion of the court the sophomore is guarding.
“She gets in people’s heads and alters shots just by being in the paint with her size and her athleticism,” Schalmont coach Jeff Van Hoesen said.
The defense has been a part of Antoine’s game from the moment Van Hoesen brought her to the varsity level as an eighth-grader, and she’s continued to fine-tune her game on that end of the floor throughout her varsity career. This year, she’s averaging 12.4 rebounds and more than four blocked shots per game for a Schalmont (6-1 overall) team that’s ranked No. 4 in the most recent New York State Sportswriters Association’s Class B rankings.
It’s her evolution on the offensive end, however, that’s got the potential to help both Antoine and the Sabres reach an entirely new level this year.
Antoine’s scoring is up to 20.3 points per game so far this season, providing a high-level offensive threat alongside the senior guard duo of Payton Graber — the program’s all-time leading scorer — and Haley Burchhardt.
Every season, Antoine has added a few new tricks to her bag.
“From seventh grade until now, she’s improved every single year,” Van Hoesen said. “She always comes back to the gym with something else that she does better. Her junior and senior year, I can only imagine what she’s going to look like at that point.”
What she’s accomplished by this stage in her career is already impressive.
She can run the floor and finish, dominate in the low post, play a solid mid-range game, spot up from beyond the 3-point arc or handle the ball and run the offense.
“She’s a versatile kid,” Van Hoesen said. “You can run a lot of things through her. She does everything for us. She can shoot, she can score down low, she can score at every level.
“And, then, her defense just speaks for itself.”
Antoine said she’s worked “really hard” to evolve her game to where it is now. For Antoine, who’s already received a Division I scholarship offer from Manhattan College, the improvement is in service of a greater team goal. With Antoine and seniors such as Graber and Burchhardt, both six-year varsity players, Schalmont finds itself in position to contend for a Section II Class B championship — and perhaps more — this season.
Antoine’s development could be a crucial part of putting the Sabres over the top.
“With all the seniors that we have, we need to push and get that title, but we’re taking it day-by-day,” Antoine said.