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Lew-Port graduate prospers as Medaille's sixth woman

Brenlyn Campbell has the skills that any Division III women's basketball coach would consider ideal.

She can score. She is a force on the glass. She also has a good feel for the game, knowing how to dish the ball after drawing the double-team and how best to use her 5-foot-11 frame and arms to intimidate incoming ballhandlers on transition.

She's a wonder woman who would be a fixture in just about any team's starting lineup.

Except at Medaille College.

Campbell isn't the Mavericks' sixth woman because coach Pete Lonergan is averse to starting freshmen. On the contrary, Campbell is Lonergan's X-factor, or in this case, O-factor.

"She has been our instant offense," said Lonergan, the Niagara University men's team coach during the early 1980s. "She's been very unselfish in accepting that role."

>Top-flight subs

The role has been a welcome change for Campbell, a former Lewiston-Porter High School star. She relishes not having the team's fortunes resting solely on her shoulders. She's one of many former scholastic superstars who have made the Mavericks a dominant force in the Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference -- young women who have their team on the cusp of earning its first NCAA Division III Tournament bid.

"It's a lot more fun when there's a lot more people who can produce and score on the court," said the 18-year-old Campbell, who has led Medaille in scoring five times and rebounding four times in helping the team win 19 of its first 20 games. "I just try to do what coach tells me. I appreciate that he trusts me as a freshman to come in and be a part of their offense."

Campbell averages 11.6 points and 6.7 rebounds per game, ranking second on the Mavs only to sophomore power forward and 2005 AMCC co-player of the year Amanda Baker in both categories. Campbell averages 21.4 minutes per game, a number that fluctuates depending on how close games are in the second half.

"I just think [she] gives us a spark off the bench . . . makes us even tougher," Lonergan said. "I thought she was one of the top three players in Western New York last year."

One of the other players Lonergan put in Western New York's top three is starting freshman guard Carissa Ferrucci, who earned first-team All-Western New York laurels after averaging 12.9 points per game for Immaculata last season. She's second on the Mavericks in minutes played, averaging 29.

There are other former top Western New York scholastic players serving as subs, enabling Medaille to avoid a drop-off when the substitutes enter games.

Even the second-stringers are dangerous. Medaille's super subs ran up the score during the final 10 minutes against Pitt-Bradford's starters during an 86-50 victory recently.

Campbell took a seat on the bench with the rest of the starters during that time, a true sign of her value to the team. No need risking an injury that could affect postseason dreams by playing deep into a blowout.

Campbell hasn't just adjusted to life as the sixth woman. She has had to learn her role within a pressure defense, something Lew-Port did little of during her four seasons as a starter.

When she's playing power forward, she obstructs the view of the inbounder. When she's playing center, which is most often the case, she does her best Ryan Miller impression as the team's last line of defense. Miller is the top goaltender for the Buffalo Sabres.

"I'm usually the goalie," she said. ". . . If they end up breaking [the press], you just try to stand in the way."

Campbell helped Lew-Port win the Section VI Class A-2 title last year, scoring 38 points in the championship game triumph over Springville. She added 16 in the overall Class A title game loss to Niagara Frontier League cohort Grand Island.

>Rivals now teammates

Campbell, who had ACL surgery during her scholastic career, scored 1,240 points at Lew-Port.

A few of her former NFL rivals are now teammates at Medaille, including Molly Brewer of Lockport, Lauren Smith of Kenmore East and Kim Sendlak of Kenmore West. Campbell also played Amateur Athletic Union basketball for the Niagara Police Athletic League with Brewer and fellow freshman Janessa Vandegriff (Roy-Hart). Sara Lewis of Barker is a sophomore reserve guard for the Mavericks.

Campbell chose Medaille over Buffalo State and St. John Fisher because she got along with all of the members of the team during a campus visit last March. She liked their work ethic in workouts and practices. Her decision to attend had nothing to do with Medaille's mostly then-freshmen class coming off a 20-victory season and having the potential to be a powerhouse.

"I know where I stand," she said. "I know what I have to do."

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