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Gazette Girls Basketball Player of the Year: Elizabeth Whitney

Elizabeth Whitney, right, of Easthampton, has been named the Daily Hampshire Gazette Girls Basketball Player of the Year.

Elizabeth Whitney, right, of Easthampton, has been named the Daily Hampshire Gazette Girls Basketball Player of the Year. Purchase photo reprints »

It’s hard to imagine a player more valuable than Elizabeth Whitney has been to the Easthampton girls basketball team during the 2012-13 season.

Whitney culminated an outstanding career with a senior year that saw her do it all for the Eagles. The 5-foot-8 center was the leading scorer and rebounder, the defensive anchor in the middle and the focal point of the press break.

She responded by averaging 19.8 points and 13 rebounds per game as Easthampton finished 15-6 and won its second straight Franklin South title. For her efforts, Whitney has been named the Daily Hampshire Gazette Girls Basketball Player of the Year.

“We weren’t really sure we were going to be able to (win the league again) because we had lost some good players from the year before,” said Whitney, who finished her career with 1,359 points. “I knew I had to be more versatile. I knew I had to help the guards more. (In the preseason), I definitely tried to put in extra effort, pick up a ball whenever I had free time, dribble around and get more comfortable.”

Eagles coach Jay Fortier said that when guard Haley Domina graduated from the 2011-12 team, the squad needed Whitney — already a standout post player — to pick up even more of the slack.

“We used her for everything,” he said. “She would take the ball up, give the ball to the guard, then get in the post. She’d get the ball inside and if she didn’t have good position, she’d kick it out and we’d try to get it right back to her. It was very difficult for her, but she never complained one time.”

Whitney’s high basketball IQ eased the process.

“She grew up with the game. She’s been around it forever,” Fortier said. The extra (responsibilities) were kind of forced on her. She had to be the one to make the changes (on the fly), see the mismatches and react to those types of things.”

For Whitney, who is headed to play at Endicott College in Beverly in the fall, one of the best memories is seeing the growing dedication among fellow athletes within the program.

“Looking back at our records (from freshman year on) and the effort, the time put in by girls, is rewarding,” Whitney said. “Every year it got more and more, which is really nice to see.”

The added focus came as the program improved from a combined 13 wins as a freshman and sophomore to go 18-5 and reach the WMass semifinals in 2011-12.

Over that time, Whitney was named the team’s most valuable player four times, and her game kept growing.

“Every single day, we wanted to see incremental improvement,” Fortier said. “A little teeny bit every day with her and you saw what happened. She would remember those lessons and she would work. Clearly when your best player has to be almost dragged out of the gym, it is a good sign.”

During her sophomore year, Whitney found herself drawing foul after foul and decided to make opponents pay for all the contact.

She began staying late after practice, making herself make at least 10 in a row — many times more — before she could go home.

“I always tried to keep the same rhythms (at the line). I always kept the routine the same way,” she said. “I realized junior year that I really had to keep working at it. I could tell the more we won, the more I wanted to stay and the more I stayed, the more we won.”

The work paid off as Whitney has been virtually automatic from the line the last two years and made 160 free throws as a senior. The ability also made her the closer when Easthampton had leads late in games.

“She knew she was going to take beating,” Fortier said. “That’s what happens when you are a dominant post player.

“We had a lot of conversations about (keeping her cool when getting fouled). The way you get back at them is to make your foul shots. You don’t get back at them by picking up your fourth foul.”

Whitney said she’s excited about the new challenge at Endicott, which plays at a significantly quicker tempo than Easthampton.

“I’m working mostly on fast break stuff,” she said. “Endicott plays at a faster pace. I need to be faster with the ball, have a better handle.

“It’s going to be an adjustment probably to not automatically be starting, not be the best player on the team, but that will motivate me to try to get better, to try to be the best.”

Jim Pignatiello can be reached at jpignatiello@gazettenet.com.

GIRLS BASKETBALL

First team

Amanda Calvo, junior, Frontier

Meg Ginley, junior, South Hadley

Maya Kerstetter, junior, Northampton

Sarah Kober, senior, Hampshire Regional

Marissa Kopacz, senior, Belchertown

Meg Lynes, senior, South Hadley

Olivia Mathieu, senior, Hopkins Academy

Rebecca Sapouckey, junior, Granby

Tea Spellacy, sophomore, Belchertown

Meghan Sullivan, sophomore, Granby

Anna Walther, junior, Northampton

Elizabeth Whitney, senior, Easthampton

Second team

Lauren Aldrich, sophomore, Hampshire Regional

Kelly Avard, senior, Easthampton

Susan Bell, senior, Northampton

Kara Callahan, junior, South Hadley

Jill Cavanaugh, junior, Belchertown

Brooke Fairman, senior, Gateway

Brooke Labrie, senior, Granby

Jillian Lund, senior, Belchertown

Anna Moore, junior, Northampton

Chelsea Moussette, freshman, Hampshire Regional

Kelly Pouliot, junior, South Hadley

Olivia Riordan, junior, Frontier Regional

Kate Sullivan, sophomore, Hopkins Academy

Honorable mention

Ali Dabek, junior, Easthampton

Anna Dziok, junior, Hampshire Regional

Ashley Higgins, eighth-grader, Smith Academy

Sydney Judge, senior, Frontier Regional

Charlotte Maurer, sophomore, Northampton

Courtney Nelson, junior, Easthampton

Khaila Ramirez, junior, Northampton

Kyra Robins, sophomore, Holyoke Catholic

Jamie Staples, freshman, Amherst Regional

Madi Stevens, junior, Hopkins Academy

Mackenzie Sullivan, sophomore, Hopkins Academy

Bri Weltlich, junior, Hampshire Regional

Kristen Windolowski, junior, Easthampton

Sarah Woodcock, senior, Belchertown

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