By Tommy Keeler Jr.
WOODSTOCK -- It doesn't take more than a split second for Rebecca Truban to answer one of the easiest questions she could ever answer. Asked what she loves about basketball, the Central senior breaks into an immediate smile and says defense.
Truban, known by the nickname "Pipi" to teammates and friends, has always loved to play defense and it shows out on the court.
"I guess I just like the challenge of trying to figure out where a person's going to go, what they're going to do with the pass," Truban said. "I like trying to figure out where they're going to go, and then when you figure it out, it feels good."
Truban may not look like a formidable player to imposing teams. At 5-foot-2, the guard is typically the smallest player on the floor. However, it usually doesn't take teams long to figure out just how important she is to the Falcons.
Truban's work on defense, rebounding and passing have helped the Falcons greatly this season in their run to the Class 3A state semifinals, where they play Spotswood on Saturday at James Madison University.
"She does the grunt work, she does the dirty little things that no one wants to do," Central coach Mallory Skarupa said. "The things that don't get the glory, but are necessary and can be game changers for sure.
"She's definitely a little pistol, very feisty on defense. She just loves to play defense and that is very rare."
Truban also plays volleyball and tennis at Central, and Skarupa, who is also her tennis coach, said that playing the other two sports definitely helps her in basketball.
She is averaging 2.7 steals per game, second on the team. She said there are two areas that are key in trying to get a steal against a defender.
"I look at their eyes, because a lot of players telegraph their passes," Truban said. "As you go up [a level] they stop doing that, so usually then I look at their hips because you can usually tell which way they're going to go."
Truban also is second on the team, averaging 1.8 assists per game.
She is also an effective rebounder for the Falcons, averaging 3.5 per game. Being so small, she said she feels like teams probably overlook her, which just motivates her even more.
"I try to use my smallness as an advantage," Truban said. "The bigger girls think, 'She's small, she's not going to get anything.' You definitely have to work harder, but I like working harder for it. I like getting rebounds, because sometimes I can come out of nowhere and people are surprised. I think it's funny."
Truban may make a lot of the small plays that go unnoticed, but her teammates are very aware of just how important she is to them.
"Pipi is amazing on defense," Central senior Mary Wakeman said. "I don't know any other word to describe her. She's scrappy and she's so tiny, but she steps in and comes away with probably nine out of 10 balls she goes for. I have no idea how she does it."
The Falcons (19-9) have been playing better on the defensive side of the ball throughout the postseason.
There's no question that Truban has played a big part in that and motivates her teammates to work harder on defense.
"Pipi's been our core for defense for ever since she's played with us," Central senior Katelyn Poston said. "Without her, the defense would not be the caliber that it is. I feel like she's motivated us to make our defense one of our stronger points, because she pushes us in practice, and in games she shows how having a really good defense can really pull you through games. We definitely wouldn't be at the point we are without her."
The Falcons almost had to play without her this season.
Last year Truban decided not to play basketball, but missed it and decided to come back this season.
"I decided I couldn't not do it," Truban said. "It was my senior year, and I'm glad I did. I would've regretted it, if I didn't."
Truban said playing with fellow seniors Poston, Wakeman and Sydney Plum were a big reason why she had to come back.
"I've been playing with these girls forever, and I feel like we have a special bond as seniors," Truban said. "Each of them are my really good friends outside of basketball. So when we're on the court we know each other so well, and we're able to vibe off of each other."
One area where Truban leads the team is field goal percentage. Truban is shooting 50 percent from the field, but has taken only 28 shots all season.
"I'm more defense-focused. I'm a little hesitant on offense because I'm nervous to make mistakes," Truban said. "But KP [Poston] usually helps with me that -- she initiates the offense and helps get me in there, which I appreciate."
With the success of this year's squad, Truban has even more reason to be happy with her decision to play this season. She said the whole team has been a little surprised at how well they've done, and they're not ready for it to be over.
"I'm definitely still shocked by it, but it's showing us that if we play to our level we can get things done," Truban said.
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or firstname.lastname@example.org Follow on Twitter @tkeelernvd