North Penn’s Ye a game-changer on defense

LOWER MERION >> Irisa Ye is a big believer in efficiency.

It’s quite common for the North Penn senior guard to use bus rides to and from games to get schoolwork done. She’s also big on watching film of upcoming opponents, but does it in small snippets, looking for what she needs. When Ye watches college basketball, she tends to pay attention to how both teams are defending or what players do off the ball to create offense.

Ye gets a lot out of being efficient. When she steps on the court however, her goal is to make whoever she’s guarding be anything but efficient for the next 32 minutes.

“Defense is all about hustle and heart,” Ye said. “Being able to shut down the best player on the other team is very important for us winning. I’ve just always been aggressive on defense, going back to when I was younger it’s just something I’ve always done and it translated to high school.”

Ye is a tremendous defensive player and her ability to lock down whoever she’s assigned to guard has been an invaluable asset for the Knights the past four years. At this point, Ye knows she’s drawing the toughest defensive assignment every night and the guard relishes it.

Most nights, that’s the opponent’s point guard because they have the ball most and are the one trying to start up some offense. But, as Knights coach Maggie deMarteleire will note, Ye can guard anybody in any spot on the floor.

“She can guard quick, smaller guards, she can guard taller guards, she’s done an outstanding job for us this season,” deMarteleire said. “Her feet are so quick, her hands are so quick. She’s gotten better both on the ball and off the ball. This year I feel like she’s really gotten better off the ball, jumping passing lanes. She puts so much pressure on other guards that it puts them in a little bit of panic.”

Most players earn a reputation through offense. That’s the case for some of Ye’s teammates like Sam Carangi or Jess Huber, both capable of filling it up on offense on a given night. Ye has a reputation for the havoc she causes on the other end and the senior knows that people recognize her ability as a defender.

Upper Dublin coach Morgan Funsten noted how good Ye is on defense after North Penn topped the Cardinals in early January and he’s not the first coach to do so. It’s a common sentiment, coaches just don’t want their players trying to dribble the ball with Ye guarding them.

Ye not only has the tools to be a great defender, she does the work too. She’s prepared every night for whoever she might be guarding, thanks to watching film.

“I watch gamefilm beforehand and I like to try and get a feel for what they like to do,” Ye said. “I look for moves they like to do and that helps a lot so when I come into the game, I’m ready and already know how I’m going to defend them.”

Sunday, at the Blue Chip Basketball Super Showcase at Harriton, Ye drew the task of guarding Abington Friends School senior Jade Young, who has committed to play at Hartford. Young, a 5-foot-11 and athletic guard with a dizzying array of dribble moves, scored just six points on 3-of-9 shooting and seemed frustrated by Ye’s defense.

Ye, at 5-foot-9, has good size for a guard and is strong enough and sound enough to even drop into the post and guard forwards if needed. But it’s her hands that are Ye’s greatest weapon on defense, the senior outright stealing the ball plenty and more often this year, causing deflections that end up in a teammate’s hands.

“That’s been something that’s been a process since freshman year,” Ye said. “I’ve always been an aggressive defender so I would stick to my man too much when I was a freshman but working with Coach and my AAU coaches and the team system of defense where you have to be on help, it’s made me play smarter and anticipate where the pass is going, get over and help and strip the ball if they’re driving.”

Ye said she watches a lot college basketball, especially teams with solid defensive systems like Villanova, and looks for how those players defend and read the play.

Given how often she defends point guards, Ye uses her teammates as a resource because she can’t see what’s going on behind her. Having picks and screens called out, signaling where the help is and things like that are all crucial for Ye to do her job.

“I give a lot of credit to my teammates because one person can’t make up an entire team’s defense,” Ye said. “If I get beat, I know my teammates are going to be there to have my back.”

Ye scored 13 points on Sunday and the guard said a lot of her offense comes from her defense. Indeed, she scores plenty of baskets either taking the ball down the floor herself after a steal, or breaking out after a deflection for a long pass from a teammate.

For every great defender, the mental side is just as important as anything else they do. The players they cover are going to score at some point, what separates the good defenders is the ability to get over it quickly.

Ye said there’s no point in getting angry with how a previous play ended and her energy is better spent focusing on the next play. Give up a basket? Learn from it, move on and make the adjustment to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

After all, wallowing on a jumper someone hit with a hand in their face isn’t a good use of time. It’s not Irisa Ye’s style.

“I like to be efficient with it,” Ye said. “I only need to see the things I have to see, I try to cut out the things I don’t need to see because I’m busy with homework and other things like that. It’s a lot of work, it’s scheduling, being able to manage your time and getting things done as soon as you can and whenever you can.”


Jess Huber was up to her usual Jess Huber act on Sunday, scoring a game-high 22 points while draining six 3-pointers.

The senior hit one from well past NBA range at the third-quarter buzzer and earlier scored nine straight points for the Knights, bridging the first and second quarters on three straight treys. With the beginning of the game having more of a pick-up feel than a high school game, the Knights all fell in love with the long ball and deMarteleire had to implore them to stop shooting 3s.

So they did, for a little bit. But Huber kept getting open outside the arc, teammates kept passing it to her and she kept knocking them down.

Huber has scored 20 or more points in five of North Penn’s last seven games.

North Penn 68, Abington Friends School 28
Abington Friends School 5 6 12 5 – 28
North Penn 21 16 16 15 – 68
Abington Friends (28): Khadijah Hickson 2 0-0 5, Jade Young 3 0-0 6, Paige Mott 5 2-7 12, Alyssa DeNofa 1 0-0 3, Mya Osborne 0 2-2 2, Brittany Jenkins 0 0-1 0. Nonscoring: Kendall Hodges, Jordan Smith, Paige Osborne, Brianna Davis, Natasha Holloway. Totals: 11 4-10 28.
North Penn (68): Irisa Ye 6 1-3 13, Jess Huber 8 0-0 22, Sam Carangi 3 0-1 7, Jess McKenzie 3 0-0 6, Bri Hewlett 4 4-5 13, Jenny Hulmes 1 0-0 2, Carley Adams 0 5-6 5. Nonscoring: Alania Mullaly, Cayla Sharkey, Aarti Boghara. Totals: 25 10-15 58.
3-pointers: AFS – Hickson, DeNofa; NP – Huber 6, Carangi, Hewlett.

Top Photo: North Penn’s Irisa Ye gets squeezed between Central Bucks East’s Megan Browne and Briana Talbot during their game on Friday, Jan. 13, 2017. (Bob Raines/Digital First Media)

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