Haylee Hayward didn’t have her best game on Tuesday night at Bald Eagle Area. Statistically, it was far from it.
But even when the 3-pointers clanked and the jumpers bricked, there was a sense of poise about the Philipsburg-Osceola senior. It didn’t matter whether she was slinging a no-look pass into the paint or weaving through the BEA press.
Hayward was sure of herself, and considering her career so far, she had every right to be.
Hayward is the Lady Mounties’ lynchpin on the court, from both a production and intangible standpoint. She’s the team’s leading scorer, averaging 20 points per game, while providing a seasoned presence for younger players to draw on.
For the most part, P-O goes as Hayward goes. Anyone in the gym can tell that’s the case, including her coach.
“The kids feed off of her,” Lady Mounties coach Doug Myers said. “When she’s up, they’re up. ... That’s the sign of a good leader.”
With single-game statlines this year of 27, 25, 24 and 23 points, Hayward has the ability to take over a game — ask any player who’s tried to guard her one-on-one.
And it’s not just the point totals. Hayward has a knack for recording double-doubles, complementing her scoring by hitting the glass. She even has a triple-double this year, tallying 12 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists in a 70-53 win over Moshannon Valley on Dec. 28.
The well-rounded player Hayward has become started to take shape years ago, as a varsity starter her freshman year. Hayward wasn’t hiding on the low block either.
She was the point guard — not an easy position for a relatively inexperienced player. But Myers trusted Hayward from the get-go.
“She started from day one when she got here,” the coach said.
Hayward was a different player back then. She was more of a distributor.
But down the line, she recognized a larger role she needed to play.
“As time went on, I realized that I have to score,” the 5-foot-4 guard said. “I gotta shoot the ball. I think I’m being too selfish when I shoot the ball, but I’m actually being more selfish when I don’t for my team.”
Hayward cracked a grin.
“It’s been a bit of a progression.”
She’s thrived through it all, a positive sign for someone who wants a future in basketball. Hayward doesn’t know if she’ll end up playing in college, but she said she wants to coach her favorite sport later in life.
“Nobody knows what the future holds,” Hayward said.
What she knows for sure is that she’s enjoying this season, her last in a P-O uniform.
Personally, Hayward has accomplished quite a bit, and the Lady Mounties (6-8) are on a bit of a roll, winning their last two games and inching closer to .500 for the season.
And with five games left in the regular season, Hayward wants to appreciate the rest of her final year.
“It’s one of the funnest years I’ve ever had playing basketball,” Hayward said. “It’s rare that you get a group of girls like this. You just go into every day of practice and every game and play for each other and have fun.”