By Wes Morgan
Special for Second Half
She didn’t envision 79 varsity victories, three District championships, three league titles or a program scoring record at the time.
As a young girl in her driveway years ago, Edwardsburg’s Kaitlyn Zarycki just wanted to master dribbling between her legs and behind-the-back passes.
Zarycki, who just completed her final basketball season as the Eddies’ electric point guard, likely will sit atop the school’s all-time list of scorers for many years to come after netting 1,609 career points in her four-year career. She also led the team to a record 23 victories this season following a one-loss campaign that ended with a 60-39 defeat to Hamilton in the Division 2 Regional Semifinals.
“It was really hard when Coach took me out in the last minute,” the four-year starter said. “It started to sink in that it was finally over. We had an amazing season, and I’m proud of all these girls. All the hard work we put in was worth it.”
Everything else she has accomplished is slowly starting to register as well. Zarycki, who already held the girls scoring record at Edwardsburg, was aware of the fact she was on the verge of passing Josh Kozinski as the school’s top scorer including both hoops programs. Kozinski ended his time with the Eddies with 1,580 career points in 2013.
In a District title game against Three Rivers, Zarycki poured in 27 points, setting a new record in the third quarter.
“I knew how many points I had, but when I hit it, I had no idea,” she said. “I was just more focused on the game. Afterwards, it felt nice. I am very proud. It makes me happy to see how proud I’ve made my family. I know I couldn’t be here without the program and my teammates as well.”
With a talented and cohesive group, led by a senior class with ample chemistry which also included guards Claire Alby, Bailey Anson, Chloe Bartz and Madison Robinson, the Eddies were able to secure back-to-back District championships for the first time.
Edwardsburg was a combined 79-14 over her four varsity seasons.
“We knew that if everybody played unselfishly and played for each other that we could do something special,” said coach Jon Pobuda, who took over the program four years ago. “We had a great season last year, and we thought we could take it to another level this year. Those girls are always together and enjoyed playing together. It is just a great group of young ladies.
“We went from not knowing if we could win (four years ago) to now expecting to win every game. You have to give credit to Kaitlyn Zarycki. She has taken our program to whole new level. She’s just an amazing talent, selfless and she makes everyone around her better.”
What’s even more impressive is Pobuda and Zarycki didn’t milk blowouts in order to set an individual scoring record. The Wolverine Conference champion’s average margin of victory was around 28 points per game, and Zarycki averaged only 23 minutes per game.
“It’s nice to see these girls who don’t normally get to play, play,” she said. “I’m not a selfish person. I just like to see them play. I knew when I was in that I wasn’t going to play the whole game, so I needed to make every minute count.”
Zarycki finished the year averaging around 22 points, four assists, six steals and five rebounds per contest.
Growing up a coach’s daughter – her father Mark has coached both the girls varsity and JV over the years – it comes as no surprise spending so much time in a gym has translated to accolades and opportunities. Zarycki, who signed to play at Saginaw Valley State University next year, was named to The Associated Press all-state second team as a junior in 2018 and has a good chance to make the first team this year. She was an honorable mention as a sophomore.
Saginaw Valley State had a rough winter, finishing 6-21 overall with all six victories coming in Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference play. But it’s a program hoping to turn things around after seven losses by fewer than 10 points. Saginaw Valley State started two freshmen in all 27 games, which is a great sign for Zarycki next season.
On top of all that, Zarycki earned all-state after an eighth-place finish in the 400-meter relay at last year’s MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 2 Girls Track & Field Finals at Zeeland Stadium. Along with teammates Jocelyn Hack, Alexa Markel and Cameron Cleveland, the Eddies logged a school-record time of 4 minutes, 9.72 seconds.
But her legacy will be that of a ball-handling dynamo who finished at the bucket, made eyebrow-raising plays, displayed court vision and tenacious defense on the basketball court.
“I’m glad she’s been with me the last four years,” Pobuda said. “I’m sure a lot of teams are OK with her not coming back next year. She didn’t really care about the stats; she cared about winning.”
Wes Morgan has reported for the Kalamazoo Gazette, ESPN and ESPNChicago.com, 247Sports and Blue & Gold Illustrated over the last 12 years and is the publisher of JoeInsider.com. He can be reached at email@example.com with story ideas for Berrien, Cass, St. Joseph and Branch counties.
PHOTOS: (Top) Edwardsburg’s Kaitlyn Zarycki gets a shot up despite being surrounded by three defenders. (Middle) Zarycki runs the offense against Three Rivers. (Photos by Michael Caterina/South Bend Tribune.)