Having won just nine games last year, Hamilton-Wenham has turned its record around this winter by winning six of its first nine in the opening half of the schedule.
It’s been quite the change from a year ago, with a new head coach in Jon DeMarco and a brand new system that the girls have been adapting to.
“The players have been great from the first day,” said DeMarco. “There’s always a learning curve when a coach brings in a new system and a new way of thinking. Everyone is starting to get in sync now and we’re playing as a team.”
The Generals’ commitment to defense has been one of the biggest changes from last season. DeMarco also plays with four guards and likes to run an uptempo offense.
“We spend a majority of the practice working on rotations, walking through situations and coaching defense,” explained DeMarco. “We also have to run a lot in practice, and in turn we pride ourselves on being in better condition than our opponent. It also means that some of our taller players needed to adjust to playing as guards.”
DeMarco has even made it a point to have the girls watch game film of themselves to see what they need to work on. He said that at first it was hard for the girls to watch, but they’ve since realized how important it is to improving their play.
Though the Generals try not to pay much attention to records, their 6-3 record has to be looking pretty good right now.
“I know it is a cliché, but we really do take it one game at a time,” DeMarco said.
“As a team, we feel that we have a chance to win every game we play and focus our attention on defense. We have to defend well every game in order to win and the players understand our defense makes us go. We have also told them from day one to never be satisfied.”
The intensity and new system has paid off as senior captain Cassandra Fibbe is one of the area’s leading scorers, averaging 12.3 points per game.
In reality, every girl on the team contributes in some way, whether it be scoring, rebounding or creating turnovers — each girl has their own role.
“The great thing about our team is the fact that every girl understands they can be a leader in different ways,” added DeMarco. “We win and lose as a team and they don’t care who scores the points. We’ve had a number of different high scorers and in every game the scoring is spread out between the players on the team.”
The girls don’t just go their separate ways after practice, either, and have developed a close bond over the past few weeks.
DeMarco said the girls have turned into hoop fanatics like their coaches.
“When we have an early practice the girls try to get out and see a game after,” said DeMarco. “The best part is that we don’t even ask them to go out to see games. They do it on their own. The coaches and I love to see them excited about basketball and excited about being part of a team.”
Ipswich is hitting the road this weekend and will travel to Brooklyn, N.Y. to take part in the Rose Classic Super Jam, an invitation only tournament. Other Eastern Mass. schools such as Cardinal Spellman and Archbishop Williams are also going.
“The girls are really looking forward to it,” said Ipswich head coach Mandy Zegarowski. “It will be good for us and it’s nice to travel as a team.”
The Tigers will play two games over the weekend, one on each day. Both games will count towards their regular season, as the tournament has been approved by the MIAA.
Ipswich is coming off its first loss of the season at the hands of Pentucket, 45-40. The Tigers led for the first three quarters, but unbeaten Pentucket pulled off a fourth quarter push.
Senior captain Julia Davis led the team with 15 points, while sophomore guard Masey Zegarowski added seven.
Thought they lost, the Tigers proved that they can hang around with the reigning Division 3 champs and could possibly meet Pentucket again in the North final.
Danvers has won four of its last five games. The young Falcons have developed a scoring rhythm and have seen significant contributions from two of their freshmen players. Hannah Llewellyn and Devan Walsh have each scored in double figures over the past two games and have been a huge spark off the bench.
“I’m convinced we’re never going to win pretty, but if we can sustain the momentum we’ll be OK,” said Danvers head coach Pat Veilleux.
Danvers has had just three home games in the first part of its schedules, so the rest of the season will be mostly spent in the newly renovated field house.
Beverly has really turned its season around, winning five of its last six games. The Panthers fell to Methuen on Sunday, but got right back in the win column on Tuesday night with a 10-point win over Saugus.
The Panthers host Gloucester tonight and are looking to make it two in a row.
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.