McNamara regains her steady game
Her days of draining six 3-pointers in a game are probably over, but Erin McNamara is still flourishing as a point guard.
Three years ago, McNamara hitting six shots from beyond the arc wasn’t news. It was just another game. With her dad, John , as coach and Ashley Viselli (now playing at Saint Anselm) lining up with her, McNamara led Pentucket Regional to an Eastern Massachusetts Division 3 title.
Now at the University of Southern Maine, a Division 3 program that has won at least 20 games for 30 consecutive seasons, an NCAA D3 record, it took McNamara five games this season to hit six combined 3-pointers.
But in a good way.
“She’s just very, very steady,” said Southern Maine coach Gary Fifield, who has earned more than 560 career wins in 22 seasons. “She doesn’t make mistakes. She doesn’t have to do a lot of the scoring, yet she scores enough to keep people honest.”
In McNamara’s freshman year, she was the starting point guard in all 29 games, averaging 7.3 points and 3.1 assists per game while shooting 43 percent (65-for-151) from the field and 42 percent (27-for-64) from downtown.
It was an easy transition from her dribble-drive offense at Pentucket to a similar style at USM, and the Maine Women’s Basketball Coaches’ Association immediately recognized her play, awarding her Rookie of the Year honors.
A year later, that McNamara was nowhere to be found. A new one showed up to games with no confidence and an inconsistent shot, although she still posted a 1.5 assist-to-turnover ratio.
McNamara went home in the offseason and began spending time in the driveway with her favorite coach.
Eventually, she found her shot again. Father knows best.
“It was more an attitude adjustment,” John McNamara said. “Sometimes you go through those little confidence slumps. That’s a problem with girls especially.
“Boys don’t care as much what other kids think — they’re looking to score and are a little more selfish. Girls have that social worry — they don’t want to shoot too much. They’re worried what the others will say.”
This season, Erin hasn’t been asked to shoot much. Running a continuity-type offense with five perimeter players on the court, there are four others facing the basket that McNamara can distribute to. It’s not exactly like her dad’s offense, but it’s closer.
“This is a trend,” Fifield said. “At our level, at D3, we can’t get decent post players that can play. They’re all getting scholarships.
“But Erin is very comfortable now. She’s just a smart basketball player. I don’t think that’s something you can coach. Kids either have that or they don’t. You can improve it a little, but not a whole lot. It’s just a sense.”
No one has played more minutes (152) in USM’s 5-0 start this year than McNamara. She’s averaging 8 points per game and is again posting a 1.5 assist-to-turnover ratio, a number that coaches are often more than happy with.
“It’s a lot more fun when you can just relax and not overthink anything,” she said. “My dad helped me a lot.
“He is my second coach still. I call him all the time after games and he gives me advice. I trust him with everything. I miss him watching every practice — he knows my shot so well he can fix it right away. Now I have to figure it myself.”
Brickley back in play
She had to wear her old high school basketball shoes for the first week of practice, but former Globe All-Scholastic Hannah Brickley is adjusting quite well back on the court for the first time since leading Melrose to the EMass. Division 2 title in 2010.
Brickley has played three years of volleyball at Trinity College in Hartford, but decided to join the basketball team this winter.
“Every year I thought about playing,” she said. “Finally I said I’m just going to do it. I’m really happy I did.”
Through Trinity’s 3-1 start, Brickley is averaging 21 minutes, going 7 for 14 from the field but just 3 for 12 from the free-throw line.
“I was pretty rusty,” she said. “I was definitely pretty hard the first couple days. I felt pretty out of place. It’s getting better.”
Gomez on defense
Natalie Gomez, last seen slicing her way through defenses on the Andover High court, has been trying to do the same at Marist College this season.
The 5-foot-7 sophomore, who won two state finals with Nicole Boudreau and the Golden Warriors, took over as starting point guard the last few games for Marist and has been a solid distributor, dishing out 18 assists to 13 turnovers in seven games this season.
While her play on the defensive end has also picked up — coach Brian Giorgis said she’s playing less of “I-have-my-man defense” and more team defense — Giorgis said Gomez is still learning when to use her flashy dribbling skills and when to keep it simple. “She’s done a nice job of running the show for us,” he said. “Sometimes she plays with it too much, but she’s learned to fit more into the system rather than just play street ball.”
The Salem High School Hall of Fame is accepting nominations through Jan. 16 for the 2013 induction class. Submissions will be accepted for former athletes, coaches, or community members who made outstanding contributions. Nomination forms and eligibility for membership can be found on the Salem High School website or in the Salem High athletic office.Jason Mastrodonato can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.