SPOKANE — The eyes draw you in. Big, round and expressive, Neah Bay senior point guard Gina McCaulley’s gaze encompasses the entire court, able to identify a target, and with a subtle yet substantial head feint fire off a no-look pass to an open teammate for an easy bucket to close out a quarter of a state tournament game and provide momentum for the youth-filled Red Devils.
You notice her shoes, either a red or tuxedo-colored pair of Air Jordan 11s, as McCaulley breaks on an opponents’ pass like a defensive back in football, making the interception and surging downcourt for transition layups.
Dribble drives that begin with a hesitation move so deft that many opposing fans think she’s traveling allow McCaulley to slice through the opposition defense and into the paint. These typically end well for Neah Bay as McCaulley’s 52 percent shooting on two-point baskets this season attests.
And you see her timing again on display when she leaps and tips inbounds passes away from the competition and when she ventures into the inside to snag rebounds and keep possessions alive despite her 5-foot-5 frame.
These are just some of the things McCaulley can do on the basketball court.
Tony McCaulley, her dad and coach, is impressed by how far she’s come since taking the court for the Neah Bay varsity as an eighth-grader in 2013-2014. (Eighth graders can play varsity sports at the Class 1B level).
“Her game has grown a lot, mostly on the mental side,” Tony McCaulley said. “When she was younger she struggled on what defenses the other teams were in and now she’s like a coach on the court.”
McCaulley showcased that ability in Thursday night’s state quarterfinal win over Mount Vernon Christian. With freshmen teammate Lalia Greene on fire from 3-point range, the Hurricanes switched to a 2-3 zone look to try and take away outside shots.
No big deal. McCaulley and the Red Devils adjusted on the fly and grew their lead from five to 13 points by halftime.
“We are real resilient when teams change things up on us,” Tony McCaulley said. “With Gene (McCaulley refers to Gina as Gene) out there it’s really nice because she can change on the flow and I don’t really have to do anything. She can get us into something that we need to be in.”
Opposing coaches praise her abilities.
Neah Bay beat Forks twice this season.
“She’s a great ball player, a senior leader on a team with so many freshmen,” Forks head coach David Hurn said after one Red Devils win.
McCaulley scored 13 of her 22 points in the final frame on a variety of layups in an early-season win over Class 2A Sequim.
“She had an amazing game,” Wolves coach Larry Brown said. “She pretty much single-handedly broke us down. She played great.”
On a team with seven freshman, four of whom play big roles, McCaulley is looked to for her experience — experience that includes a 96-21 record, four trips to state and three finishes in the top five.
“She is a leader, a phenomenal passer and she’s just really fun to play with,” freshman Lalia Greene said.
Greene did admit it took a little while to get on the same page with McCaulley’s creative, innovative offensive abilities.
“[Those no-look passes] Yeah it is, it’s hard to get used to at first,” Greene said. “You have to play together some [to build chemistry].”
Chemistry is something Tony McCaulley said his team has this season.
“They get along, every one of my players this year gets along,” he said. “They are solid, good girls who get along. I don’t know if Gina has rubbed off on them, she had to put a few of them in their place early in the season but it’s been a really great group of girls. It’s been the funnest year for me since I’ve been here.”