H.S. girls basketball notebook: Who will shine on the hardwood in Hampshire County this winter?

  • Northampton's Ava Azzaro, left, plays close defense on Maddie Pond of Hampshire Regional in the second half of the Blue Devils' 64-38 loss to the visiting Raiders on Tuesday, March 16, 2021, in Northampton.

  • Yamaya Perez, right, of Holyoke, drives to the basket against Alecia Maxwell, of Springfield, during the Western Massachusetts Division 1 semifinal, Monday, Mar. 2, 2020 at Western New England University.

  • Frontier's Kaitlyn Mackin (11) looks to shoot vs Palmer in Goodnow Gymnasium in South Deerfield Monday evening. Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

  • Bianca Ortiz, right, of Holyoke, drives to the basket against Ilana Kofman, of Longmeadow, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020 at Holyoke High School.

  • Delaney MacPhetres, right, of Amherst Regional, draws a foul from Elizabeth Kopec, of Ludlow, Monday, Jan. 13, 2020 at Amherst Regional High School.

  • Amherst High 12/9/21. Amherst No.23 Genesis Cruz-Castro, powers the ball up strong in the lane to the hoop past Westfield No.3 Claire Griffith in the 1st Qtr.photo by J. Anthony Roberts PHOTO BY J. ANTHONY ROBERTS

  • Amherst High 12/9/21. Amherst No.25 Tessa Kawall, drives the ball to the hoop past Westfield No.1 Piper Ashton in the 1st Qtr.photo by J. Anthony Roberts PHOTO BY J. ANTHONY ROBERTS

Staff Writer
Published: 12/10/2021 3:38:59 PM
Modified: 12/10/2021 3:38:31 PM

Things should look different on the girls’ basketball scene, and it's not just that players will be wearing masks again on the hardwood this year. 

With a number of seniors graduating and new faces behind the benches, most local teams are looking forward to seeing how their new players will stack up in what feels like a slightly more typical season than last year’s condensed ones.

Hampshire Regional is feeling that particularly hard this season, losing all five of its starting seniors from last year’s roster.

“With the five starters leaving last year, a lot of experience left as well,” said Hampshire head coach Dan Labrie. “So they're all stepping into new roles. We have good guards, we have good bigs, we have the makeup of a good team. It's a matter of watching to see how they develop and who steps up on any given night and hopefully we’ll be a strong contender by the end of the season.”

In a scrimmage, Labrie said that all five of his new starters scored a comparable number of points, which will be encouraging as they start to play in games.  

“When you have one player scoring most of the points and an opposing team has that person heavily guarded, trying to shut that one person down you struggle everywhere else to make up those points. But when they're evenly spread like that, who do you stop?” said Labrie. 

Over at Amherst, Ralph Loos’ squad returns eight players this season, and all eight of them were on the WMass semifinal squad from 2019-20, experience that shouldn't be undervalued heading into this year. Delaney MacPhetres, now a senior for the Hurricanes, is closing in on the 1,000-point mark, and she’ll pair nicely with Tessa Kawall to help lead the way this season.

Amherst lost just one game last year in the regular season, and the club has been especially dominant on its home court. Loos expects his team to continue that trend this year. 

“I told the girls, we've lost one game at home in two years. I'd like to see us continue that sort of style of play and protect our own court and then go to Northampton and see what we can do,” said Loos.

Though MacPhetres and Kawall certainly stand out on the scoresheets most nights, Loos said he knows that in order to have a successful team, he’ll need to rely on all of his players night in and night out. Not only will he need them to step up and play the minutes to keep everyone fresh, but he’ll be relying on his players to know their specific role on the team as well. 

“I've always kind of used the phrase, whether it's 11 or 12 (players), it takes all of them… everybody has a different job,” said Loos. “I think we have a couple of kids that have a lot of experience, a couple of kids who scored a lot of points. But I'm just a big believer that, for us to be successful as we were last year and the year before, it takes a group of kids. That's how I try to approach it.”

Northampton should boast an interesting mix of young returners, so while they may not have the most upperclassmen of all the local teams, head coach Perry Messer expects a lot out of some of his younger returners.

“We have Bri Heafey as a freshman, she played a lot for me last year as an eighth grader, and she’s just gonna be a dynamite player in the long run for us. Ava Azzaro...she's another kid as a sophomore this year, we expect a lot out of,” said Messer. “Chloe Denhart...she's played for me for a couple years. And the only senior I have is Riley Allen, she's played for me since her freshman year.”

Messer will also rely on the athleticism of his squad this year, noting that they have a number of multi-sport athletes who he expects will be able to step up and fill in different roles on the court as well. 

Another team to watch will be Belchertown, a roster that is returning four seniors who all have four years of varsity experience: seniors Gina Camerota, Avery Klingensmith, Alexa LaFlamme and Jessa Troy. After a decent season last year that saw them go 5-5 in the COVID-shortened bubble, 14-year veteran coach Jason Woodcock is looking forward to what his returning players can bring to the table this season.

PVCICS JOINS MIAA: For the first time in his team's career, the PVCICS girls’ basketball team will be competing in the MIAA, an important milestone for the club. The team is returning Sloane Spanknebel, Lydia Allen, Dickey Yangphel, Maya Crivelli, and Nina Zorzi, and added nine new players to the team’s ranks. Head coach Anna Steadman, who is in her first year coaching the club, is looking forward to seeing how they stack up against their new competition and seeing where some of her new players will slot in. 

NEW FACES BEHIND THE BENCH: In addition to Steadman, Nelson Lopez and Cassidy Snowpeck are joining the coaching ranks as assistants at Holyoke under Andrea Enright this year. Mike Afflitto is stepping into the head coaching position at Granby, and is looking forward to having a good mix of new and returning players to rely on as he gets used to running the Rams’ bench. 

1,000 POINT CLUB: Along with MacPhetres, Holyoke senior Yamaya Perez is back for the Purple Knights and is also looking to hit the 1,000 career point mark soon. The superstar’s talent on the basketball court clearly runs in the family – her father, also a Holyoke alum, also scored 1,000 points when he was representing the Purple Knights as a player, a piece of trivia that will make the moment all the more special if (or when) Perez joins the club this winter.


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