By BOB YORK –
All facets of the Big Green girls basketball program appeared to be headed in the right direction this winter.
The bottom line on the scale of success is ultimately judged by wins and losses, and Deerfield Academy’s final showing of 9-13 won’t raise too many eyebrows. It might, however, if compared to recent history.
The nine wins the Big Green chalked up this season nearly doubled the five victories it accumulated last year and nearly equaled the 11 it put up during its two previous years. Plus, with a little luck, this winter’s victory total could have hit double figures. Five of its losses–including one in overtime–were decided eight points or less.
“There were a few games out there this season that I think we could have won,” said coach Julie Schloat, “and in most cases, I feel as though we lost them more because we ended up beating ourselves rather than our opponents beating us.
“Overall though, I’m quite pleased with the way the season went,” added Schloat, who made her debut this winter as the Big Green’s head coach after having spent the past four years serving as assistant coach. “We made some real strides in building this program.”
Deerfield was able to make those strides in a positive direction because there were a number of familiar faces on this year’s team, besides Schloat. The Big Green mentor took over the helm at just the right time–the team had seven seniors on its roster, five of which had been there for four years.
Libby Murray (14) certainly made the most of her good-bye tour throughout New England this winter as she earned a spot on the Western New England Girls Basketball League All-Star team for the fourth consecutive season. As usual, the 5-10 forward showed off her versatility be averaging 10 points, nine rebounds and three steals per game and was named the team’s MVP for her efforts.
“It’s practically unheard of that a player in a competitive league such as the Western New England league would make its all-star team four years in a row,” said Schloat, “but that just goes to show you just what Libby has meant to this program.
“Her athletic talent wasn’t the only thing we’ve come to rely on, however,” added Schloat of Murray, who has also been a standout goaltender on the soccer team and who will be attending the University of Michigan to participate in crew. “She’s been an outstanding tri-captain and a tremendous leader of this team and we’ve looked to her for those qualities as well.”
Becca Harrington (14) and Caroline Ashford (14), the Big Green’s other two captains, also played key roles in getting the ball rolling in a northerly direction this season, “and I just couldn’t be happier with the brand of basketball and the level of leadership they both brought to the team as well,” proclaimed their coach.
Harrington, who earned the respect of her peers to be voted a team captain the past two years and who is hoping to play the game on the next level at Ithaca College, led Deerfield in scoring this winter for the second straight season, averaging 10.5 points per game. She also averaged three assists and three steals a game and would later be named recipient of the Keller-Burrell Award for the second straight year.
“Although our record might not have reflected the whole story, I feel as though we made some great strides from last season to this,” said Harrington. “In addition to improving our record from five wins to nine, I feel we all improved our individual games.
“Last year, for example,” Harrington was quick to point out, “Berkshire beat us by a bunch … this year, we beat them, 58-42. Last year, Cushing beat us by 32 … this year, we beat them by 18 (51-33).”
Ashford, who will graduate from Deerfield in May as the proud owner of 12 varsity letters, having played four years of basketball, field hockey and lacrosse, which is the sport she will be playing at Harvard for the next four years, made a huge impact on the court. At 6-1, she led the Big Green in rebounding, averaging 10 a game, while she also chipped in six points per outing.
Jess Hom (14), who averaged nine points and four assists while serving in the backcourt during a postgraduate year, joined Murray with an all-star berth. Caroline Coppinger (15), meanwhile, was Schloat’s choice to stick on the opponent’s top scorer due to her defensive talents.
According to Schloat, this year’s seniors had good reason to be “particularly more invested in this season … due to the fact that we knew we were going to be playing in a postseason tournament.”
The tourney, which was called the Northeast Eight Tournament, was founded by schools from throughout New England–Deerfield, Northfield Mount Hermon, Exeter, Andover, Choate, Taft and Hotchkiss–which were tired of missing out on one of the eight Class A bids the NEPSAC tournament committee annually handed out.
The Big Green’s postseason appearance didn’t last long, however, as it dropped its quarterfinal round tilt with Hotchkiss, 49-37, “but it still provided the entire team, and particularly the seniors an opportunity to end things in a tournament setting.”
Other seniors who contributed major roles during their final season of competition for the Big Green were Kate Ginna (14), Kayla Ali (14), Lil Brown (14), as well as Kemi Akande (15).