Trifecta of Talent

by Bob York

The first time Julianne Schloat saw Becca Harrington ’14 on a basketball court, she liked what she saw. She liked how the freshman guard belied her inexperience by the way she was able to move the ball through enemy territory. . . the way she fed it off to an open teammate. . . the way she took it to the basket. . . the way she played a harassing style of defense. There was one part of Harrington’s game Schloat didn’t particularly care for, however, and that was the uniform she was wearing. It had FRONTIER spelled across the front of it.

“After watching her, I just knew she’d be a great addition to our program,” said Schloat, who was an assistant coach for the Big Green four years ago when Deerfield hosted the Frontier Regional High School girls basketball team for that preseason scrimmage. “For a freshman, Becca really handled herself well and ran the offense fluidly.”

As it turned out, Harrington maintained her backcourt mojo throughout her freshman season, as she put up an average of 10 points and five assists per game to help lead Frontier to a 19-2 record. That was as good as it ever got for the Red Hawks and their rookie sensation, however. A one-point loss to Palmer in quarterfinal-round action put a one-and-done ending on Frontier in tournament play, and Harrington’s career there soon followed suit.   

“Some of my close friends were attending Deerfield at that time and in talking with them about Deerfield, I became interested in attending as well,” said Harrington. “So, I applied, and here I am. . . a little more than three months away from graduation.”

“I just couldn’t be happier with the brand of basketball and the level of leadership qualities Becca has brought to Deerfield,” said Schloat, who has taken over the program’s head coaching chores this season. In fact, Harrington, who has been voted by her peers as a team captain for the second consecutive season, has combined with Libby Murray ’14 and Caroline Ashford ’14 “to give us three outstanding leaders on this year’s team,” said Schloat.

Schloat couldn’t be happier with the one-two-three punch this trio has brought to her team. Combined, the three own the top spot on all three major Big Green stat sheets. As Deerfield (8-12) heads into the final week of its 2013-2014 campaign, Harrington has maintained a shooting eye that allowed her to lead the Big Green in scoring last winter when she netted an average of 12 points per game. Hitting the tail end of her good-bye tour this winter, she once again sits atop the Big Green in a pair of categories, averaging a dozen points and five assists per game.

Murray, a 5’10” forward who will be looking for her fourth straight berth on the Western New England Girls Basketball League All-Star Team this winter, has been contributing in all areas of the Big Green attack, averaging eight points, 11 rebounds and three assists per game. The 6’1” Ashford, meanwhile, has been Deerfield’s chairman of the boards, leading the team with a dozen rebounds a game. She is the number-three point producer, meanwhile, netting seven points per game.

“Although our record might not reflect the whole story, I feel as though we’ve made some great strides from last season to this season,” said Harrington, who was the recipient of last year’s Coaches Award, emblematic of being the team MVP, (now renamed the Keller-Burrell Award). “In addition to improving our record from five wins to at least eight wins, I feel we’ve all improved our individual games.

 “Last year, for example,” Harrington pointed 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).”

Despite sharing her optimism of her final season of basketball at Deerfield, Harrington still felt as though there was room for improvement. “It’s been frustrating,” admitted Harrington, who has an eye on a collegiate basketball career, and she’s hoping it will be played out at Ithaca College, the school that tops her wish list of colleges. “There’s a lot of potential on this team and we’ve had outstanding coaching. Unfortunately, we just don’t seem to have a lot of athletes here at Deerfield who like basketball enough to play the game.” And the odds are that those who do play basketball at Deerfield don’t consider it their primary sport.

Although Harrington played varsity soccer as a sophomore and junior and varsity softball as a sophomore, her uncompromising allegiance to basketball not only puts her in the minority on the team, but among the tri-captains as well.

Murray admits that she came to Deerfield with ambitions of playing basketball on the collegiate level, but neither she nor Ashford, who began playing the game in fourth grade, will be going the hoop route following graduation.

In addition to being a three-time member of the Western New England Girls Basketball League All-Star Team, Murray has been turning in outstanding efforts as the goaltender for the Big Green girls soccer team for the past four years. In fact, she has chalked up stingy 1.25 and 1.27 goals against averages during her junior and senior years respectively.

But soccer won’t be Murray’s sport of choice in college, either. The sport she has chosen to compete in—at the University of Michigan—will be crew. And the Wolverines had a good deal of competition in seeking Murray’s services, as UCLA, Virginia, Princeton, and Yale were all knocking at her door.

“I entered Deerfield four years ago with the intentions of playing basketball in college,” admitted Murray, who hails from Granby, CT, but a funny thing happened along the way. “I was looking for a sport to compete in during the spring of my sophomore year and decided to give crew a try. Well, I tried it and liked it. More importantly, however, was the fact that she has achieved success at it.

As for Ashford, who comes from Wilmington, DE, she will enter a very selective athletic sorority at Deerfield this spring when she earns her 12th varsity letter—the most a four-year athlete can earn for the Big Green. In addition to being a four-year veteran in basketball, Ashford also has four years of field hockey under her belt. Lacrosse, however, is her primary sport.

“I began playing basketball way back in fourth grade,” said Ashford, “But ever since I began playing lacrosse in middle school, I’ve always considered it as my primary sport.”

Ashford, who has been voted a tri-captain by her peers in lacrosse as well as basketball, garnered All-American laurels last year, as well as All-New England honors and earned a berth on the Western New England Division I Girls Lacrosse League All-Star Team following a junior season that saw her chalk up 56 goals. The scoring outburst gives the talented attackman a total of 150 points on 104 goals and 46 assists heading into her final season. After Deerfield, Ashford will take her lacrosse talents to Harvard University.

“Whether basketball is the primary sport for these girls really hasn’t mattered as far as I’m concerned,” said Schloat. “Whether it is or whether it’s not, they all showed a true love and a true passion for the game, and gave it their total effort whenever they were playing for me. As a coach, that’s all I can possibly ask for.”