Forward Lauren Price is one of six seniors hoping to lead Belmont to a deep postseason run. Jeff Lajoie. (click for larger version)
December 05, 2011BELMONT – Having lost just one senior to graduation, the Belmont High School girls' basketball team has the experience and talent necessary to make a postseason run, it's just a matter of putting it all together this winter.
The Red Raiders have six seniors to lead the way, and a solid trio of freshmen should step right in and contribute.
"Last year was kind of a transition year," explained head coach Amy West. "I think we kind of were looking for that team leader and now with a lot of them being seniors, I think they're getting it. A lot of them are stepping it up and taking some of the younger kids under their wings. They really want it this year and it's nice to see that intensity there."
Senior point guard Mikaela Guertin highlights the returning Class of 2012, as she averaged 16 points per game a season ago during a fantastic junior campaign.
"I know people will be looking to guard Mikaela this year but I think we've got more options to work with and hopefully we can spread it around a bit more," said West.
Guertin knows she can't do it alone, and the sniper says she's looking forward to a big year from her veteran teammates.
"I feel really confident in this team," Guertin explained. "I trust them and I know that if I can dish it off to open teammates, they'll be able to take care of the rest."
Seniors Lauren Price and Myranda Lewis return to the front court and should provide plenty of rebounding and scoring in the post, while classmate and guards Sam Phelps and Kaylyn Bellamo also return to the mix.
"We're not a big team but we make up for it by running and being able to play well under the boards," said Lewis.
Forward Britni Spaulding rounds out the senior class, and while she is still recovering from an injury that caused her to miss the entire soccer season, West hopes she'll be ready to go this winter.
"We're really trying to push hard as seniors since this is our last basketball season together," said Price. "We want to be that team that nobody wants to play."
Juniors McKenzie Phelps (guard) and Elizabeth Yelle (forward) will also be key options for Belmont, while freshmen Cassie Contigiani (point guard), Chayleigh Cadarette (forward) and Amelia Kotusky (forward) all played varsity soccer in the fall as rookies and are ready to step right in for the winter.
"Those three freshmen all did great things on the soccer field so it makes the transition to playing another varsity sport that much easier," said West. "Overall, nine of the 11 girls played soccer so it's nice to see them coming into basketball in shape and with good chemistry already established."
The overall team depth is something West is excited about as well, and she hopes that a full roster of contributors will lead to more points this year as Belmont averaged just 37 per game a season ago.
"We can go pretty deep in our bench which we haven't had the luxury of doing in the last couple years," the coach explained. "With the type of game and tempo we want to play, we'll be up running in transition. Hopefully we can better that average of last year and get some easy points because of that."
Just because they're newcomers to the program, doesn't mean the freshman class is ready to take a backseat and watch during their first varsity season.
"They're very competitive kids and it's only pushing the older kids more with the way they've played so far," West said of the trio. "Whoever's hot, those are the five that are going to be out there so I think everyone has had to raise their level of play and that makes things exciting for me as a coach."
While West hopes things come around offensively, the Raiders expect their defense to be reliable once again, as that side of the coin was outstanding at points throughout last season.
"Part of our identity has always been defense," said West. "They have a lot to learn but they've totally bought into what Belmont basketball is and that's a big part of it."
Belmont opened its season Dec. 6 against Farmington while the second tilt is slated for Dec. 13 against Franklin.