By David Troppens
When Sarah Cummings was working out for her junior season on the Tiffin University women’s basketball team she noticed one constant.
The team ran. When it seemed like they were done running, they did some more, and then some more after that.
“We spent the whole preseason doing so much running,” the Fenton graduate said. “It was terrible at the time. I didn’t want to wake up at five in the morning and be at the track.”
But there was a method to the madness. Tiffin had a new women’s basketball coach. Jessie Ivey was changing the way the Dragons were going to do things. They were going to push the ball, running pretty much a breaking offense regardless of the situation.
It has taken the Dragons a little bit of time to adjust. After a 2-2 start, the team lost 12 of 13 games. However, it seems something is starting to click as Tiffin has won four straight contests, including breaking a school record for points in a game, netting 108 in a 108-84 victory against Ohio Valley.
The players are starting to understand the new offense, and it’s obviously showing on the floor.
“Now I think about it and the reason we were running was so we could run these teams out of the gym,” Cummings said. “We probably run more than any other team in the league, so running is definitely our game and that’s what we are trying to do. It’s been working really well lately and we’ve had some high scoring games. It’s rewarding to see your hard work pay off. That’s what I enjoy about college basketball.”
As the team has started to improve, so has Cummings. She has scored 45 points in the last three games despite playing only 57 minutes in those three contests. She’s also been deadly efficient, hitting on 14-of-19 shots from the field. When she doesn’t get a shot off, she gets to the line frequently. Cummings is a perfect 16-for-16 from the charity stripe in the last three games. She’s now playing at center and it’s paying off.
“I’m one of the quicker ones on the team so it’s beneficial for me when we play fast and we are pressing,” Cummings said.
“But it took some time for me to adjust to this position. It’s the first time I’ve played center since high school, and I had to adjust. I had to learn what works in this position. Finally, I learned to have the confidence to attack the basket more, and that’s where I’ve been successful. Earlier in the year I would settle for jump shots. That would work sometimes, and sometimes it didn’t. Now we are getting down the court and pushing it down their throught. It’s like an adrenaline kick.”
Cummings certainly has gotten an adrenaline kick. She scored 17 points in 19 minutes of play in an 84-72 victory against Alderson Broaddus, and then scored 14 points in the 108-84 victory against Ohio Valley.
“We had no clue it was a record or anything until we were probably about five points away and at a time out coach told us we were only five points way from a record so let’s keep attacking. There wasn’t a ton of time left on the clock, but our thing is to not stop attacking even when we are up, and we got the record.”
Cummings began her career at Tiffin playing small forward. She started 17 of the 25 games she played as a freshman, and scored 149 points while grabbing 84 rebounds and recording 14 steals in just 472 minutes of action. Her sophomore season she started four of 25 games and scored 116 points while earning 91 rebounds, 19 assists and 16 steals. This season, she has started 10 of the 19 games, making starts in her last 10 games. Despite playing just 284 minutes, she already has scored 115 points while grabbing 68 rebounds. Cummings is excited about the team’s direction. After the slow start, Tiffin is now 4-9 in Great Midwest Athletic Conference (G-MAC) play, hoping to work its way into the top eight so it can play in the postseason tournament. Tiffin is currently ranked 11th in the league, two games out of a playoff spot with about half of the conference season remaining.
“Right now we are trying to make the G-MAC tournament,” Cummings said. “It took us a little longer to get into a flow, but we are doing well now. We are an underdog, but this is the perfect spot to be in. We just beat a pretty good team that was ranked fifth in the conference on Saturday. We need to keep it going, get some momentum.”
Cummings is thriving more than on the court, however. She’s a double-major and started a campus ministry between Tiffin University and Heidelberg University.
“I have a lot of friends on the basketball team but I have a ton of friends outside of it,” Cummings said. “I put myself out there as a leader with ministry student life.”
As successful as she’s been with her basketball career, Cummings wants to take the lessons learned through basketball to make her a better student and a better person after she graduates.
“Beyond a year from now I will not be playing basketball, so I want to get the most of it, develop friendships with teammates and continue to grow,” Cummings said. “I want to learn what I can from basketball and take that with me into the real world.”