Port Angeles’ Natalie Steinman, left, grabs a rebound in front of Olympic’s Kiki Mitchell on Feb. 1, in Port Angeles. In the background is Steinman’s teammate, Madison Cooke. (Keith Thorpe /Peninsula Daily News)

Port Angeles’ Natalie Steinman, left, grabs a rebound in front of Olympic’s Kiki Mitchell on Feb. 1, in Port Angeles. In the background is Steinman’s teammate, Madison Cooke. (Keith Thorpe /Peninsula Daily News)

STATE BASKETBALL: Roughriders’ Steinman is on the defensive

PORT ANGELES — Ranging in the hole at shortstop to snag a grounder for the Port Angeles softball team or running herself ragged at the bottom of the Roughrider girls basketball team’s 1-3-1 zone defense, Natalie Steinman is all about effort.

Port Angeles will need all the energy it can muster when they face East Valley (Yakima) today in a loser-out Class 2A State Basketball Tournament contest at 12:15 p.m. at the Yakima SunDome.

An All-Olympic League shortstop on the second-place 2017 Riders softball team, Steinman batted .583 with 11 homers and 52 RBIs last season and is first-all time in program history in homers.

Known for her offensive prowess in softball, it’s a decidedly defensive orientation on the basketball court that garners Steinman fans.

“It is weird because in softball I’m mostly known for offense and here it’s mostly for defense,” Steinman said. “In the moment I don’t really think about it, I just do what I need to do for my team and sacrifice my body for them, but it also is scary because softball is the next season. But I focus on worrying about my team here and not what is coming down the line.”

Her coaches love what she brings to the team.

“She gives us tangible things, rebounds, steals, and things that don’t add up in the numbers like how many shots don’t get released because she is in the area and the ball is passed,” Roughriders girls basketball coach Michael Poindexter said.

“There’s no stat for that, but I can’t count the number of times where somebody doesn’t shoot a 3 from the corner because Natalie is is guarding her aggressively and forces her to give up the ball. Or she gets a deflection and doesn’t give things up.”

Steinman ranges across the bottom of Port Angeles’ most effective defense, the 1-3-1 zone, providing maximum effort — occasionally bounding into walls, team benches and the stands in pursuit of loose balls.

“She’s fearless, she’s tough, she has taken more charges than anybody on the team,” Poindexter said. “She has good size — not a real big kid, but she’s tough. When she was a freshman we had to bring a player up to varsity from JV due to injury and we asked who can physically handle the level of play and that was Nat.”

An asthma sufferer, Steinman’s exertion makes for scary moments at times, like when she needed to be helped off the floor by coaches at halftime of a regular season game, drained and gasping for air.

But Steinman has the ability to breathe deep, bounce back and shake off the bumps and bruises — some of which are self-inflicted.

“My best friend [and teammate] Brennan [Gray] always makes fun of me for throwing myself around out there,” Steinman said. “I think it’s just my instinct to just go. An instinct to help my team out, I don’t want them [opponents] to get the ball, I don’t want them to get a point. I love denying and stealing the ball, that’s my favorite.”

Poindexter said Steinman took a page from 2016 Port Angeles grad Emily Johnson, another strong defender.

“Natalie is a lot like Emily Johnson in terms of that economy of movement. When Natalie was first here she was all over the floor working so hard we were like, ‘Relax, you’re going to kill yourself out there. And Emily was so good for us in always moving her feet but in a way that was meaningful. You have a limited range of motion, sit down and read.

“And Natalie really has that down and she’s a great 2-3 zone defender as well.”

“She’s extremely disciplined, and that goes for Gracie [Long] too. They are two of our very top defenders, I think they are our best defenders because they are aggressive but its a disciplined aggression — active but smart.”

Steinman also has the respect of her teammates.

She’s full of athleticism, she’s very energetic on defense and she’s such a great defender especially in the bottom of the 1-3-1,” fellow senior Cheyenne Wheeler said.

“Down there you have to be able to read passes, be able to get there quickly and be able to run back and forth. And that’s hard to do. I tried it last year and the top of the zone is more my spot.”

Poindexter offers another sign of Steinman’s esteem.

“She has a lot of respect around the league from opposing coaches,” he said. “They know how much we value her.”

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