Every time the Braintree girls’ basketball team takes the court for practice, out of the corner of their eyes the players can see an enormous poster labeled “The Burn Board.’’
It has each player’s name, followed by a number of multicolored Band-Aids. At the end of every practice, coach Kristen McDonnell picks the player of the day, the one who has been giving it her all.
With hard work and a little fun mixed in, the team is determined to build on last year’s South sectional semifinal appearance and 18-3 record. Braintree last week won the Abigail Adams Tournament and is currently 4-0.
Freshman Molly Reagan and senior captain Paige Marshall are leading the way.
“All of us have the whatever-it-takes mentality,’’ said junior Rachel Norton. “Whether that means taking a charge or diving on the floor, we do it.’’
Norton demonstrated her work ethic last week, taking two offensive charges and diving for loose balls in the Wamps’ 46-31 victory over Quincy. She’s become one of the team’s top scorers, averaging 9.2 points.
“This year I’ve been more open to take my shot,’’ said the 5-foot-7-inch forward. “Since we have so many new players, it was important for the returners to step up and look to score. I used to look to pass, but now I’m going to the basket.’’
McDonnell described Norton as a bull on the court.
“You turn the switch on and she goes and goes,’’ said McDonnell. “There’s no off switch. The second she’s on the court the level of intensity rises. She’s just a worker. She raises the bar for everyone around her.’’
The Wamps have added seven new faces to the roster this season, including three freshmen. Two of them, Reagan and Bridget Herlihy, are over 6 feet tall. The third, Ashley Russell, is a point guard. All three are battle-tested. They have won every game they’ve played in since the fifth grade, finishing with a record of 72-0.
“They make practices more competitive,’’ said McDonnell. “They make everyone better by pushing each other in practice. They win games. They know how to win, they know what it’s like to win, and they don’t expect anything less.’’
Reagan, who has started all four games, said the transition to high school ball has been going smoothly.
“I’m excited to play. It’s a fantastic opportunity,’’ she said. “Practices are longer and harder than last year, but it’s better for the level of play.’’
Reagan scored 14 points in the Wamps’ first game of the Abigail Adams Tournament against Quincy and followed with a season-high 20 in the finals, a 54-37 win over Weymouth on Wednesday. She’s currently the Wamps’ leading scorer, averaging 12.2 points per game.
“Molly is such a big presence for us down low,’’ said McDonnell. “She makes all the smart plays. She kicks the ball out when she should. Defensively, she shuts down a lot of girls.’’
Marshall, who will play at Stonehill College next year, is averaging 11.8 points. She’s determined to improve on last year’s tournament run to the South quarterfinal.
“Because we made it so far last year, it’s an expectation for us to make it that far and farther,’’ said the 5-9 Marshall. “We have to take it one game at a time. If we aim too far ahead, we might get lost.’’
McDonnell, a former Stonehill guard, is excited that Marshall will attend her alma matter.
“I’m so selfishly happy,’’ said McDonnell. “I think she can take what she’s done at the high school level and make it even better in college. She’s such a competitor. Obviously being an alumna of Stonehill, I couldn’t think of a better place for her to be.
“I’ll go to all the games next year,’’ McDonnell added.
A major focus for the Wamps this year is communication. Whether the players are in the locker room, on the bench, or on the court, there’s always yelling. Marshall and Norton are the most vocal, directing their teammates on the court and cheering during their limited time on the bench.
“Whether we’re cheering supportively or saying help on defense, we’re always talking,’’ said Norton. “We all think it causes less errors and turnovers. It’s not even the five on the floor. It’s the seven on the bench as well. It’s a big thing.’’
McDonnell stresses working hard and having fun.
“They know when to be serious and when to joke around,’’ she said. “They play that line perfectly. They’re quickly getting used to each other and you can see it. They play loose, they have a lot of fun. That’s the number one most important thing.’’
In the final of the Abigail Adams Tournament for the boys, Weymouth improved to 4-0 with a 60-49 victory over Bay State (Carey) rival Braintree.
W-H coach Daley notches 500th win
Whitman-Hanson girls’ coach Jim Daley was honored for his 500th career win after the Dec. 23 game against Bridgewater-Raynham. Daley reached the milestone when the Panthers beat Hingham, 34-30, in their season opener.
“The game down in Hingham was very nice. It was a great win,’’ said Daley. “They were gracious hosts. I was happy to get [the 500th win] out of the way.
“It was nice having my family there and a lot of my former players. It was nice seeing all the girls from the ’80s and ’90s again.’’Colleen Casey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.