It’s been nearly 10 years since Peabody head coach Jane Heil was diagnosed with breast cancer. In August of 2003 Heil made the decision to go through the full process to rid herself of the cancer, having a lumpectomy, chemotherapy and radiation.
At first Heil was hesitant to undergo such invasive procedures but said, “If I can full-court press during games, why not go for it.”
Heil never missed a practice or a game and said that 2003-2004 team saved her life. That season the Tanners went 19-1 and fought hard just as their coach did battling the disease. ”They had the outlook like we’re fighters and we’re going to do this,” explained Heil. “I didn’t take about the cancer much, but they lifted me above it. There were days that I would crawl up the stairs after a long day, but you keep moving. This was my life and I was going to live it.
”Everyone in the Peabody school system was incredibly supportive during that time. That 2003 team saved my life, but this team has restored the energy and chemistry in the program.”
Tonight the Tanners will play in the annual breast cancer awareness game, taking on Salem at home. The boosters have been organizing this event for months and though most teams in the area celebrate a pink night, this one is especially meaningful to Peabody and its veteran coach.
”It’s a pretty big deal,” said Heil. “I know we’re not the only team that does this, but it’s a big event for us and we’re very excited about it.”
Back in June, the girls did the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life walk. Heil said it was a great bonding experience for the team and really brought them together.
”They’re such a generous group of kids and I’m very proud of them,” added Heil. “They realized that the game of life is bigger than the game of basketball.”
The preseason bonding paid off as the Tanners stand 10-2 overall and have already punched their tournament ticket for the first time in two years.
”I’m just so excited about this team,” Heil said. “The chemistry that these kids have and without any seniors on the team. I know over the years we’ve struggled, but this year we’ve just gelled. And we have so much talent, I’m not trying to down play the level of talent — but these girls just like to play with each other.”
Tonight the team will be selling T-shirts with proceeds going to breast cancer research and already has 300 dollars in pre-sales to donate. The Tanners are hoping for a big crowd as the 50/50 raffle proceeds will also go to the cause. Assistant coach Jean Hallinan and the Flip Flop Friends will also be selling bracelets and other items to raise money.
The team’s motto all season has been ‘Do it up Proud’ and tonight’s T-shirts will say ‘Do it up Pink.’
”Girls need to be aware of it,” Heil said of the disease. “Everyone knows someone or of someone that’s been affected by it. Breast cancers is so rampant, it’s a big deal.”
Peabody is going for its seventh win in a row, with the most recent victory coming against Marblehead on Tuesday. The Tanners have had great success at home, but struggled against Revere and Lynn English on the roach.
Masconomet has been off since last Friday and will travel to Pentucket tonight. The Chieftains dropped their opening game of the season to Pentucket, 45-33 and are looking to get the ‘W’ this time around.
Masco has seen its share of opponents this season and secured itself a spot in the tournament with a win over North Andover a few weeks back. The Chieftains have proved that they mean business even after graduating nine seniors from last year’s team.
Junior Hannah Kiernan leads the team in points, averaging 12.6 per game. Senior captain Claudia Marsh and junior Nicole Femino round out the core of the starting lineup, with other girls contributing as role players.
Teams can often live or die by the three-point shot. On the defensive end, it’s difficult to decide whether to contest the three or stop the easy baskets down low.
Last Friday Hamilton-Wenham dealt with a similar situation in which it had to defend an experienced three-point shooter in Ipswich guard Masey Zergarowski, or try to stop the easy baskets in the paint.
The Generals decided to make post player Julia Davis work hard for 13 points down low, which left Zegarowski open. The sophomore shooter went off for six three-pointers in the victory over H-W and finished with a game-high 26 points.
“It has to be team effort defensively,” said H-W coach Jon DeMarco. “A couple of times they got down after the press and Masey had three three-points in the first half and we didn’t have a person within five feet of her. We knew couldn’t have that and a credit to her for hitting those shots.”
Bounce Passes, a column on North Shore girls basketball, runs in The Salem News every Friday during the winter season. Contact Gianna Addario at GAddario@salemnews.com, 978-338-2615 and follow her on Twitter @GiannaAddarioSN.
2012-2013 GIRLS BASKETBALL LEADERS Player Games Points Average 1. Ara Talkov, Swampscott 11 174 15.4 2. Julia Davis, Ipswich 14 216 15.4 3. Masey Zegarowski, Ipswich 14 213 15.2 4. Kasey Sherry, Danvers 14 179 12.8 5. Hannah Kiernan, Masco 13 164 12.6 6. Jaclyn Panneton, Salem 12 143 11.9 7. Emily Freedland, Marblehead 13 152 11.6 8. Carolyn Scacchi, Peabody 12 140 11.6 9. Cassandra Fibbe, H-W 13 143 11 10. Katlyn Oliver, Pingree 15 157 10.5 Three-point leaders: Kasey Sherry, Danvers 40; Masey Zegarowski, Ipswich 32; Kate Lipka, Fenwick 25; Emily Freedland, Marblehead 23; Arianna Gafney, Salem 18.