Hard work lands Sponsler with Titans

One Northeastern Athletic Conference girls basketball sharpshooter recently announced her intentions to attend Westminster College.

Mathews shooting guard Paige Sponsler will attend the Wilmington, Pa., school in the fall, as she was among five Mathews athletes to recently sign their National Letter of Intent at the school.

“I really liked the campus,” Sponsler said. “I got to meet the coach and I really liked him. I also did an overnight stay with the players and I really liked spending time with all of them.”

The future biology major took the NAC by storm this past season, as she shot a whopping 53 percent from 3-point range, on her way to 19 points per game. Perhaps Sponsler’s greatest contribution to the Mustang basketball team, however, is her work ethic.

According to coach Joe Bornemiss — who coached Sponsler for four years at Mathews — Sponsler works as hard as anyone. It’s no coincidence that Sponsler’s greatest weakness in the past, shooting, has become such a great strength.

“She’s gotten so much better with her shooting and her ballhandling,” Bornemiss said. “Paige will score in college at Westminster, because they don’t have a lot of 3-point shooters there. I told Paige as a freshman, ‘You might shoot 1 for 8 from 3 one night, and then come back and shoot 7 for 8 the next night.’ I always told her she had the potential to be a great 3-point shooter.”

Indeed, and along the way Mathews won its first NAC title in more than a decade, winning the Stars Division on the strength of three seniors, including Sponsler.

Bornemiss believes that Sponsler’s success is not only predicated on her intense work ethic, but also, the offense she grew up in during her four years with Bornemiss. Mathews tends to run an offense that’s either predicated on turnovers and transition points, or on screening.

In fact, Sponsler has succeeded in both facets. In particular, Sponsler has thrived on getting the ball off of screens, and that very same strategy is precisely what Bornemiss recalls is his favorite memory while coaching Paige.

“Without a doubt, it was when we were playing down at Wellsville last year (as in 2016),” Bornemiss said. “We had just won our first-round game over Kennedy, and heading down to Wellsville, that was a tough game.

“We were down 13 at half, and then we fought back to within three points with three seconds left in the third quarter. We ran a baseline triple screen and Paige hit the shot to tie the game at 51. I told her in the huddle afterwards, ‘That shot is gonna take us home.’ And it did, we won the game.”