Girls Basketball Program at Hopedale Is Back On Track

KEN HAMWEY Staff Sports Writer
Photo by Steve Bassignani
Issue Date: 
March, 2018
Article Body: 

The Hopedale High girls basketball team will be competing in the Division 4 Tournament — a stark reminder of just how much this squad has improved.
Coach Corey Phillips’ team, which was 11-8 at Local Town Pages deadline, has won 8 more games than the Blue Raiders won in the last two years combined. The 38-year-old coach, who previously directed the varsity girls at St. Peter Marian, points to three factors for the improvement. “We changed our style, we fostered a winning mentality and we got great leadership from our captains,’’ Phillips emphasized.
The new style featured fast-break basketball combined with pressure defense. The mental change dealt with helping athletes who won in other sports realize they could transfer that success to basketball. And, the leadership of Hopedale’s captains (Hayley Carron and Taylor Goldstein) focused primarily on being positive. They also stressed team chemistry and communication.
“Our strengths are depth, a good practice atmosphere and an unselfish approach to the game,’’ Phillips said. “The 14 girls on the roster are all varsity-caliber players. At practice, the girls were diligent and competitive and that led to being better on game days. As for the unselfish nature of our team, some of it was natural but the rest was a testament to our style — looking for the open player and waiting for the right shot.’’
The captains are a good starting point when assessing the just-completed campaign. Carron, a 5-foot-8 center, and Goldstein, a forward, effectively fulfilled their leadership roles in spite of Goldstein’s missing most of the season because of an ACL injury.
“Hayley is our only senior,’’ Phillips said. “Her work ethic was super and she provided toughness. Her rebounding improved, she played solid defense and often had to guard taller opponents. Taylor got hurt in our fourth game, against Bellingham. Only a junior, she’s a quick learner, fundamentally sound and she’s a scorer-rebounder who’s a physical presence.’’
Three juniors who provide quality efforts include Kathleen Maloney at guard, Meghan Holt at forward and Kaitlynn Giombetti, a guard-forward.
“Kathleen drives to the hoop well and utilizes a mid-range jumper,’’ Phillips said. “A strong offensive player, she also was effective on defense and she got her share of steals and assists. Meghan gave us the intangibles. She gets out on the break and she can cut to the hoop. She played multiple positions and compiled stats in every category. Kaitlynn is our most athletic player. She’s a pest on defense, she can score and she’s very coachable.’’
Eighth-grader Bri Frongilo starts at point guard and shows lots of promise, averaging six assists and 14 points a game.
Bri’s ball-handling skills are exceptional,’’ Phillips noted. “She distributes the ball well, can shoot and uses her body to get to the hoop. Still developing, she’s an up-and-coming player who’ll be a key part of our nucleus going forward.’’
Junior guard Rachel Swanson and sophomore forwards Molly Parker and Piper Hampsch all contributed to Hopedale’s improved record. “Rachel is the best three-point shooter we have,’’ Phillips said. “She also defends well and is very coachable. Molly works hard and provides a variety of skills while Piper relies on a strong work ethic and lots of energy. She’s a solid rebounder.’’
Other keys during the season included frosh guard Julia English, sophomore forward Olivia Hurley, junior forward Rachel Rizzo, sophomore center Maddie LaPrade and junior forward Gianna Pedroli.
“Julia is a student of the game, always willing to learn,’’ Phillips said. “Olivia is a good shooter who learns quickky and Rachel is a good mid-range shooter who’s physical. Maddie is a backup center who grabbed rebounds and blocked shots. Gianna was injured early and missed seven games. She’s got a positive attitude and offers inspiration and support.’’
Phillips admired all the attributes his players displayed during the season and they align with his competitive philosophy. “The girls all worked hard, they listened, paid attention to little things and they fixed bad habits,’’ he said. “They prepared well and their attitudes were really exceptional. They also communicated and weren’t afraid to express opinions.’’
Phillips also was pleased with the work of junior varsity coach Kelley Gallagher. “Kelley was supportive of the changes I made and she’s strived to help the program improve, especially during my transition period,’’ Phillips said.
To Phillips’ credit, he stressed early on that getting a tourney berth was within reach and also realistic.
“The girls’ mentality in pre-season was that they could win a handful of games,’’ Phillips recalled. “ But, when we won our first two, they started to think the tourney might be possible. I want them to always look at the big picture. The tourney is why we come to practice. It’s why we work to improve on our drills, why we work hard in practice and why we strive to win games.’’
About 13 players are slated to return next season, and if those numbers hold true, they’ll be only a mild transition to Phillips’ approach. “We won’t be starting from ground zero,’’ he said.
It’ll be more like starting as an experienced contender in the Dual Valley League.