Eagles looking for a repeat performance
Still a few questions as Kennett hoop girls prepare for their title defense
|COACH PETER AMES strolls the sidelines just minutes before capturing his first girls’ basketball title last season. Joshua Spaulding. (click for larger version)|
December 06, 2010NORTH CONWAY — Success can often breed success and the Kennett basketball girls could not have had much more success than they did last year.
Coach Peter Ames will return to the sidelines for the Eagles as they look to repeat as state champions. The Eagles won the Class I title last year and this year will be competing in Division II, which includes most of the former Class I teams and a number of others.
"I'm cautiously optimistic," said Ames. "Coming off last year, the kids have some confidence and an idea of what it takes to be good."
At the same time, the veteran coach is stressing that last year is in the past and the idea is for the team to move forward with this year.
"Everybody knows that last year was last year," he said. "We're starting out 0-0 and we have to make our way back there."
Of course the Eagles will return a solid core of players to the bench that will help them in their quest to repeat as state champions.
Leading the way is senior guard Ali Wagner, who reached her 1,000th career point in the tournament last season and will be looking to add one final exclamation point on what has been a stellar career at Kennett.
"Having Ali back is definitely a good thing," Ames said.
However, the Eagle point guard will not have her fellow backcourt star alongside to start the season.
Senior Melissa Frase, who was the other key cog in last year's championship backcourt, injured herself in the offseason and is still working her way back.
"Obviously we're waiting for Melissa to heal," Ames said. "We're not sure when she'll be back so it's been a matter of finding people to step up and take that spot."
Ames noted that the girls have been working hard and over the first few weeks of practice, the team has been feeling things out and a couple of scrimmages have given the veteran coach a little to work with.
However, with practices starting on Thanksgiving week, last week was the team's first full week of practice, so things are still not completely clear.
The team's other returning senior, in addition to Wagner and Frase, is Sam Meader. She played a key role for the Eagles in the run to the title last year and will be back on the front line to help lead the younger group vying to fill the roles left by last year's seniors.
Sophomore Lauren White saw a good deal of time last year as a freshman and classmate Lauren Kidder also saw some time, so the duo will be looking to make more of an impact in their second year.
"We have a pretty good nucleus of kids back," Ames said. "It's a matter of putting the pieces together and see how they fit."
With Frase out for the start of the season, Ames said one of the team's keys in the early going will be filling her scoring shoes, but he is confident that the other kids will step up and fill those shoes.
Jordan Murphy and Jess Wagner both saw time on the varsity squad last year and both will be looking to step up and make more of an impact this season.
Casey Blakely and Kaitlin Taylor are stepping up from the JV team to the varsity team and Ames expects them to fit in nicely.
"We'll see if some of these kids can step it up," he said. "But physically, we are bigger than last year."
Ames pointed out that one of the biggest keys to the team's success last year was kids playing their roles and he notes that this year should be no different.
"Last year the kids did a great job of playing their roles," the Eagle coach said. "Sometimes getting people to fill a certain role becomes difficult because they want to do more."
He stressed again that it's a matter of the pieces all fitting together and everyone doing her job.
"It's hard to judge this early in the year," Ames said. "But come Tuesday, we'll be ready to head to Kingswood."
The Eagles will open the season on Tuesday, Dec. 14, with a game at Kingswood at 6:30 p.m. The Eagles will also play rivals Laconia, Berlin, Plymouth and Oyster River twice each. The champs will play four games before the holiday break, hosting St. Thomas on Dec. 17 and Plymouth on Dec. 20 and traveling to Laconia on Dec. 22.