Millis’ Clark Aiming for State Crown in Girls’ Basketball

KEN HAMWEY, Staff Sports Writer
Abby Clark (No. 25), who provides a commanding presence in Millis’ frontcourt, blocks a shot against Hopedale. (Photo by STEVE BASSIGNANI)
Issue Date: 
February, 2019
Article Body: 

Abby Clark came close on two occasions to being part of a State championship basketball team. Now, she’s eager to return to the finals and finish the job.
The Millis High senior captain, who led the Mohawks’ in scoring and rebounding last year, has set some lofty goals for her final season and one of them is to win the Division 3 State crown.
“First, we want to try to win the Tri Valley League Small Division title,’’ Clark said. “Then we want to qualify for the tourney and win the State playoffs. The goals are realistic, even though we’re a young team. We’ve got talent, and if we play solid defense and compete with a sense of urgency, we can go all the way.’’
As a freshman, Clark was called up to the varsity as the Mohawks aimed for their third straight State title. Unfortunately, Cathedral won the crown. A year later, in Clark’s sophomore season, Millis bowed out again, this time in the State semifinals to Quaboag. And, last season, the Mohawks were eliminated in the first round of the Sectional playoffs.
So, it’s not surprising that the 17-year-old power forward, who’s been a TVL all-star in basketball and volleyball, would like to turn her past disappointments into a more euphoric ending. Winning two Sectional hoop championships isn’t exactly chopped liver, but when those two seasons concluded with losses in the States, it left Clark feeling empty.
“I wish we could have persevered a bit harder in the State semifinals my sophomore season,’’ she said. “We were a bit nervous, but if we pushed ourselves to the limit, maybe we could have prevailed. But, this is a new season and we can aim high.’’
Coach Dave Fallon is bullish on his 5-foot-11 star, who averaged 11 points and nine rebounds a game last year. This season she’s averaging 13 points, 8 rebounds and 3 steals. “Abby has a great work ethic, she’s athletic, can shoot outside and also handle the ball,’’ he emphasized. “She’s a threat down low because of her size, and she can shoot outside. A tri-captain, she leads by example.’’
Clark is relying on a variety of strengths to elevate Millis, which has a 9-0 record so far. She’s mentally tough, has excellent court awareness, communicates well, can shoot threes and she plays strong defense. “I can improve my quickness,’’ she noted. “My footwork and hands can be faster.’’
Aggressive under the basket when she’s battling for position, Clark is more deliberate when shooting.
Her best game was against Douglas in the Sectional championship game when she was a sophomore. “I had a career high of 21 points,’’ she recalled. “It was an amazing experience and playing at Worcester Polytech’s arena made it all the more enjoyable. My top thrill in basketball was being named a captain. The team has great chemistry, and I’m excited to have the chance to provide leadership and support to a great group of talented players. We had a difficult season last year, particularly in the playoffs, in our first season ever in Division 3. This year, we’re ready to tackle Division 3.
Clark has high praise for Millis’ other senior captains — shooting guard Riley Donovan and forward Meg Cullen. “Riley has great court vision, and she’s strong on offense,’’ Clark said. “A quality leader, she’s very positive. Meg is aggressive at the basket, and she’s a strong rebounder. An effective defensive player, she averages close to four steals a game.’’
Clark’s style as a captain is “to lead by example but be vocal in a supportive way.’’ She’s often vocal about her coach, lauding his ability to motivate. “Coach Fallon pushes us to our limit and gets up prepared,’’ she said. “His practices are intense, and he’s very effective in challenging us.’’
An honor-roll student, Clark is planning to major in nursing or psychology in college. She’s considering UMass-Amherst and possibly Rhode Island College, a Division 3 school. “If I choose Rhode Island College, I’d consider playing both volleyball and basketball there.’’
Clark not only was a TVL all-star in volleyball, but she also was chosen as one of 16 players for the Massachusetts All-State Team last fall. That selection was made by the Mass. Volleyball Coaches Association.
A superb middle hitter, Clark’s best game was a five-set triumph over Holliston last fall when she had 18 kills. “My top thrill, however, was when we beat Westwood and Ashland back-to-back,’’ Clark said. “The win over Westwood was our first over them in 10 years, and the victory over Ashland was our first against them in seven years.’’
Whichever sport Clark’s playing, her competitive philosophy never changes. She wants to win, improve daily and enjoy the experiences that athletics offer. “I’ve learned some great life lessons in sports,’’ she said. “Athletics teach teamwork, time management, how to overcome adversity, how to be responsible, and how to improve one’s leadership ability.’’
A fan of Jason Tatum of the Celtics because “he competes hard and takes responsibility,’’ Clark is focusing intensely on how the Mohawks finish the season. She’s hoping they’re at a high-compete mode and peaking at the right time.
Those two elements could make the difference and fulfill Abby Clark’s ultimate goal — to finally capture a State championship.