Hamilton, ON- Shot after shot, the points tally continued to build for Jenna Button on the scoreboard. Yet, she didn’t think about it.
The McMaster Marauders guard scored eight points in the first quarter, seven in the second, eight in the third and six in the fourth.
Yet, even as her points continued to climb up and climb, Button didn’t realize how many she had until she looked up at the scoreboard at the Burridge Gym. Next to the number 11 in red – her jersey number – was the number 29 in yellow. Oh, I didn’t notice, she thought.
The Dundas native finished with a career-high 29 points as the Marauders came from behind to defeat the Western Mustangs 84-73 on Nov. 18.
It’s fitting for Button. Not noticing and not thinking as much is perhaps why she was able to score as much as she did.
She’s talked with McMaster head coach Theresa Burns about just playing her game and not thinking what she’s doing offensively. It’s been a four-year process for Button, ever since she came to McMaster in 2019.
“If I overthink things, then I start to get in my head and things start to dwindle,” she said. At the start of this season, she focused on two things: playing freely and playing like she knows she can.
The results have shown. Button is averaging career-highs in several areas. The Western game was another career-high moment.
The process hasn’t been easy though. She does have tough games, when shots aren’t falling. They weren’t for a while against the Windsor Lancers the previous night.
When those shots aren’t going in, Button tries not to worry about it. “It’s whatever,” she said. “I can’t predict that. I can’t control that sometimes.”
When that happens, she thinks about what she can control. She thinks about the next play. She thinks about playing hard defensively, getting steals and rebounds – all the other parts of the game.
Against Windsor, she shot four-for-12 from the field but had six rebounds, five assists, four steals and two blocks. Against Western, she did those same things – four assists and nine rebounds – while her shot was falling. Button shot three-for-eight from three and 10-for-21 from the field.
“She wouldn’t be denied tonight,” Burns said. The head coach saw how Button put the team on her back. How she hit her open shots, got to the paint and made the right reads.
“She has really come into her own this year and it’s so much fun to watch,” Burns noted.
Button came into her own internally. She stepped into a bigger leadership role after the departure of five of the team’s senior players. She called it an adjustment.
In the preseason, she found herself worried about making sure her teammates knew what they were doing. She found herself struggling offensively because of it.
Then, she talked with assistant coach and former teammate Mia Spadafora and then, things started to change.
“You obviously can’t dictate what everyone else is doing,” Spadafora told her. “You need to step up in certain moments and tell people what to do, where to go and talk to the team in certain moments, but you can’t worry about that all the time. You need to focus on your own game.”
That resonated with Button. Having the fourth-years players – Amy Stinson, Cassie Joli-Coeur, Deanna Mataseje and Delaney Bourget – emerge as leaders has helped as well. She didn’t have to worry as much about not telling her teammates certain things because she knew they would do so.
Being a leader has helped Button focus less on what she does wrong. She encourages her teammates to move onto the next play. Her fourth-year teammates return the favour. They’ll see her get in her head, get outwardly angry at times – clapping her hands – and come up to her.
“Don’t worry,” they tell her. “Next play.” It’s the same thing she would tell them. The same thing she would tell herself.
Those words inside her mind have become more subconscious. Early on, she would keep repeating to herself: Next play, it’s fine.
Now, when a shot doesn’t go in or when she doesn’t get that foul call, her mind goes straight to the next play and how they’re going to be successful. “I can just flip that switch,” she said.
What Button is conscious of is that this could be her last season at McMaster. She still has one more year of eligibility but is finishing her degree after this year. She’s applying to different post-grad programs but feels the uncertainty and weirdness of the situation.
One thing is certain for her because of that: to soak up as many of these moments this season.
Before every game, the players huddle around in the locker room with the music blaring to one particular song – C’mon, C’mon by One Direction. They form a circle and dance and sing their hearts out before heading out for warm up, pumping themselves up.
Every time it happens this season, Button finds herself looking around at all her teammates dancing and singing. I’m going to miss this, she thought. She finds herself soaking it all in.
Featured Image: Kevin Lassel/McMaster Athletics