MA girls reflect on state finals run
|MA seniors (l to r) Ashley Fuller, Kaylee Ames and Ashley McDonald accept the runner-up plaque after falling in the state championship game to Groveton. Jeff Lajoie. (click for larger version)|
March 21, 2011MOULTONBORO – Moultonboro Academy girls' basketball coach Chuck Kenney knows seasons like this don't come around every year. That's why he made sure to enjoy the ride this winter, as his Panthers made it all the way to the Division IV finals for the first time since 1996.
"It was one of those seasons that everything went right," the veteran coach said. "If anything did go wrong or started to go wrong, we were able to right the ship before it got too bad."
Moultonboro finished the season 18-4 overall, falling to perennial power Groveton in the championship game on March 5. The Panthers earned the fourth seed in D4, earning a pair of home games before making the trip to Plymouth State for the semifinal win over top seed Derryfield and the loss to Groveton.
"After we lost to Inter-Lakes for the second time in overtime, we played very good basketball down the stretch," Kenney said. "From that point on, we got in as the four seed and got in the right bracket, which was huge. Playing at home those first two games was very important because the girls really enjoyed playing in front of the home crowd."
Freshman Morgan Fuller was the catalyst for MA, as she came on strong after opening the season on the bench. Playing in the post despite not seeing much time there in the past, Fuller scored 331 points during her rookie campaign, an average of over 15 points per game.
"Morgan wanted to play outside but I told her if she was willing to do it, I needed someone inside because we had a lot of guards," said Kenney. "She joined the starting lineup around Christmas and just took off. She's a special kid, she can do anything out there. Scoring that many points as a freshman is something you're not going to see very often."
Fuller was named second team all-state for her efforts, while senior point guard Ashley McDonald earned honorable mention all-state honors.
Sophomore guard Megan Uehlein was a key component to MA's success, as she was the team's top defender and someone who did all the little things.
"Megan was incredible," said Kenney. "I told her we didn't need her to score, we needed her to shut down the other team's top scorer. Most nights she did that and she bought into it. She didn't get enough credit for doing what she did but she sacrificed her scoring to help the team out and we wouldn't have gotten to where we did without her doing that."
Junior Kaitlyn Slippy was injured for nearly a month in the early part of the season, but she returned and played well the rest of the way. Classmate Brittany Hale was a nice post presence as well, and she showed her versatility in the state championship game when she drained three threes.
Senior Ashley Fuller started last year as a junior and continued that role this winter. Fuller injured her ankle late in the season, but came back in time for the playoff run and toughed it out the last few games of the season.
"She really started to come around and play great basketball late in the season," said Kenney.
Fellow senior Kaylee Ames came off the bench and did some nice things in the MA back court.
"Kaylee started for me last year and accepted the role of coming off the bench this year," Kenney said. "It takes a special person to do that. She was one of our leading scorers last year and I enjoyed having her for the last three-plus years."
Sophomore Holly Thompson overcame an injury and got some time in the state final, while classmate Lexi Welch handled some point guard responsibilities and should see extended time in that role next season.
"Out of the whole season, we probably had six practices with the whole team healthy and there together," Kenney revealed. "But this team was a team from the get go. They cared about each other and they picked each other up when they got down. If you have inner fighting on the team, it doesn't work. It did help that we had some talent but all the ingredients were there for us."
Kenney also lauded the help of assistant coach Curt Uehlein, who worked a lot with the post players.
"He was a big part of this whole thing," Kenney explained. "He was someone to count on and we could break things up in practice if we wanted to do some different things with the kids."