Junior forward Abby Harris is one of five returning starters for the Golden Eagles this winter. Jeff Lajoie. (click for larger version)
December 05, 2011GILFORD – Not much has changed for the Gilford High School girls' basketball team since last winter.
That's because head coach Rick Forge, who enters his seventh season with the Golden Eagles after 26 years at Somersworth High School, returns his entire starting five from a year ago while graduating one player and losing another via transfer. Gilford hopes that familiarity will result in more wins this winter, as the Eagles went 7-13 with a loss to eventual state champion Campbell in the preliminary round last February.
"We were in a lot of games last year and I thought we were extremely competitive, but we just couldn't find a way to get over the top or extend a lead late in the game," said Forge, who guided Gilford to a state title in 2009. "I'm hoping another year of experience is going to help us in those situations. It's a good group of kids, they're all into the team concept."
Senior captain Olivia Broderick is the lone member of the Class of 2012, and the athletic center is fresh off leading her volleyball team to a state title of its own just last month. Broderick led the team in rebounds last season with 174, good enough for 8.7 a game while also chipping in 6.7 points per game. Broderick led Gilford in blocked shots by a wide margin as she totaled 44 while also finishing third in assists with 42.
"We're going to look for her with some leadership," said Forge of Broderick. "She did a commendable job all-around for us last year and I think she's ready for a big year."
The rest of the starting lineup is comprised of juniors, starting with point guard Molly Dietrich and shooting guard Sarah Veazey in the backcourt. Dietrich led the team in steals (101) and assists (61) last year while averaging just over six points per game. Veazey averaged nearly five points per game while proving to be solid on defense with 62 steals.
Classmates Abby Harris and Paige Laliberte round out the unit in the front court. Harris led the team in scoring last season with nearly eight points per game and she was also impressive on the glass with close to nine rebounds a night. Laliberte makes her bones on the defensive end, as she racked up 45 steals last season and was third on the team in rebounding. She'll likely draw some of the top scorers from opposing teams defensively.
"Everybody's going to have to contribute…we don't have that one stand out player," explained Forge. "We'll use our speed out front with Molly, Sarah and Paige and hope other teams have trouble keeping up."
Junior Sophie Brunt was a top option off the bench last year and will look to handle that role again, as she shot an impressive 59 percent from the floor and provided a spark during her minutes in the lineup.
Forge has a pair of new juniors in the mix, as Hannah Chase (forward) and Erin Pomphret (forward) will both add depth to an uptempo squad.
The sophomore class has Forge excited as well, and he doesn't expect there to be much, if any, dropoff when he works the young guns into the rotation. Kelsey Buckley (forward), Mollie Dignan (guard), Kayla Orton (forward) and Emily Wernig (center) have looked good early on and the quartet hopes to help bring it all together this winter.
"It's going to be great having that sophomore group," Forge said. "They had a very successful freshman year at the JV level and having them be able to step right in is going to be great. Last year we could go full speed but then kids would start to get tired out there…we really didn't have that much depth on the bench. But that won't be the case this year. A lot of the kids are pretty interchangeable and we're going to use that to our advantage."
The schedule isn't kind to Gilford however, and Forge expects they'll find out quickly how well they stack up against the rest of the Lakes Region.
"We've got five games before Christmas and they're all tough, then we've got the Holiday Tournament so that's going to be a good benchmark," he explained.
The veteran coach hopes his team can outrun the competition early and often, setting the tone for a positive season.
"We want to play that uptempo game, we want these kids to get out and run," he said. "We tell them all the time that the game never ends. You just play it hard all the time and hopefully good things are going to happen."