Nathalie Ratliff rarely accepts the status quo. If it’s important enough to matter, it’s important enough to challenge.
Her style has served the Providence Academy senior well. She’s a three-sport captain (soccer, basketball and track), the school’s 2013 Athena Award winner and a 1,000-point scorer for the Lions’ basketball team.
Along with fellow captains Taylor Finley and Leah Szabla, Ratliff has led Providence Academy, the 2012 Class 2A girls’ basketball state champions, to its third consecutive tournament appearance. The Lions will play Pine Island in Wednesday’s quarterfinals at Williams Arena, something that many, Ratliff said, didn’t believe was possible when this season got underway.
“We lost two amazing seniors from last year and another player who didn’t come out for basketball as a junior,” Ratliff said. “At the beginning of the year, a lot of people were telling us we weren’t gong to be anywhere near as good this year.”
Staff writer Jim Paulsen talked with Ratliff about her tournament experience and one player she’s hoping to play against.
Q: This is your third state tournament trip. How different does this feel than your first time?
A: In my sophomore year, it was super exciting and a little surprising. We had never experienced it before. Now, our experience is the biggest thing. We know a lot more about what to do and what’s going to happen.
Q: As a senior, do you look at this season with any more urgency?
A: It has been kind of scary. You feel as if every game is going to be your last.
Q: What has been the biggest obstacle to returning to the state tournament?
A: People think having three captains is hard. One always gets left out. But we had multiple conversations about our goals and decided the best way to make that happen is to make things look nice and pretty to everyone else, like there was no conflict. And suddenly, there wasn’t any conflict.
Q: What is the team’s personality?
A: There is no jealousy, which is huge. We play more as a team this year than we ever have.
Q: What is your role?
A: I’m a defensive player first. Defense comes naturally to me. When we play the toughest teams, I normally get their best scorer. Most of my points come off of steals or getting a return pass back from a steal and hitting a three-pointer.
Q: Your coach, Ray Finley, is retiring after this year. How instrumental has he been in your career?
A: I met him for the first time when I was really young and I was watching a volleyball game. Of course, he’s always thinking about basketball, so he asked me if I wanted to play basketball. He taught me to shoot with one hand instead of two, helped me get on AAU teams, helped me find a college. Honestly, he’s taught me everything I know about basketball.
Q: Your father’s a Baptist pastor, yet you go to a Catholic high school. Has that been difficult?
A: I love it, actually. I have said straight out that I don’t agree with certain things. I like having something that can challenge me. I don’t hold my tongue. I love that it gives me the chance to discuss things.
Q: You could play Rebekah Dahlman and Braham in the semifinals. They beat Providence in the semifinals in 2011. Do you want another shot?
A: More than anything. I’m praying to get one more chance. I want to shut her down.