Lindsay McNeice remembers her anxiety when she was called up to the varsity squad in her sophomore year at Oliver Ames High School.
Her new teammates were welcoming, but she was itching to make an impact.
As the Tigers prepared for the 2010 Division 2 state final against Millbury, coach Elaine Clement-Holbrook called her number. Though McNeice was not starting, she was assigned to be on the scout team, running the Millbury offense in a scrimmage.
“That is one of those things that I don’t think a lot of coaches really do,’’ said McNeice, now starting guard as a senior for the Tigers, who won 14 of their first 15 games.
“I think it’s one of her secret weapons. She has a lot of secret weapons.’’
If a Millbury player was going to take the Tigers off the dribble, the scout team ran the play. If another player was prone to turning in toward the basket for a shot, McNeice would imitate the move.
A well-prepared OA squad, led by Lauren Battista, the state’s player of the year, rolled to a 50-31 win, the program’s second state title in five seasons.
“It has always been about the details and the little things,’’ said Clement-Holbrook, a Dedham native in her 37th season directing the Tigers.
She has been using a scout team for game prep since the early 1980s, one of the ideas she borrowed from her longtime coaching friends: Barbara Stevens (Bentley), her former classmate at Bridgewater State, along with Kathy Delaney-Smith (Harvard), and Judy Blinstrub (Babson).
“When we scout, what we try to do is teach our team,’’ said Clement-Holbrook. “We make a scout team so they know the offensive sets that [teams] run, they know the defensive sets, so we can actually see it at practice. Then we’re comfortable to make those adjustments [during the game].’’
Making those small adjustments have paid off big for the Tigers, who clinched the Hockomock’s Davenport division with a 54-37 win at Stoughton Tuesday night.
Oliver Ames is lacking in talent, but a number of the players understand what it takes to succeed by having played with the seniors from the 2010 title team. And they have seen firsthand how powerful team chemistry can be.
“It’s not all about the individual or who has what skill, it’s about how we all play together on the court, and our chemistry as a team,’’ said McNeice.
Seven current players were on the roster in 2010, but last year, they discovered the challenge of repeating minus Battista, now a sophomore at Bentley.
They view last year’s 17-6 season as an important piece in the development of this year’s squad.
“People called [last year] a rebuilding year. I wouldn’t call it a rebuilding year because we learned a lot about each other through the process,’’ said senior cocaptain Emily Romans. “We won some, we lost some, but we went through it together, so it was really nice because we bonded a lot more and now it’s made for a great season so far this year.’’
Senior cocaptain Candace Steadman calls this year’s group a family.
“We’re all good friends,’’ she said. “There’s no high school drama in this team. I could go to any one of these girls with an issue. They’re all like sisters to me.’’
Junior point guard Asia Mitchell, a freshman on the 2010 squad, said: “I see the same cohesiveness we had that year. We’re definitely all for the team, and that’s one thing that definitely helps us a lot.
“There was a work ethic that year, and there’s a work ethic this year, that we’re trying to maintain.’’
Clement-Holbrook said that it is important that every player understands that they have a job, “and the ability to do your job to the best of your ability has greater significance than the size of the job.’’
“We’re just taking every game as it comes,’’ echoed junior forward Caitlyn Abela. “We want to focus on playing the best basketball we can every game we play. Obviously, we want to make it as far as we can. We’re just going to go into every game focused on that team and playing as hard as we can.’’
No down time for Rochester boys
Earning a berth in the state tourney with games left in the regular season allows teams to prepare. But in a season in which the South Coast League has been especially deep, Old Rochester coach Steve Carvalho knows his team can’t sit back and coast.
“There’s no nights off, there really isn’t,’’ said Carvalho, in his eighth season. “This is a very deep, well-balanced league. There’s been a lot of preparation, and a lot of practice, film work, and scouting. You better be ready, because it’s been a battle nightly.’’
Carvalho has received a huge lift from his eight seniors, specifically Max Risch, a 6-foot-6 forward who is averaging 19.3 points per game.
The Bulldogs (10-6) have also received solid play from senior guard Matt Teefy (10.3 ppg), who is second on the team in assists and third in rebounding. Senior Biruk Legesse, a transfer from Wisconsin, has also provided big minutes off the bench.
“We’re taking the old one-game-at-a-time for sure,’’ said Carvalho. “We have a chance to win all four [games left] and to play our best basketball from mid-February until the end. If the reward is a home tourney game, then we’ve earned it, but we’re not going to get those things without earning it on a nightly basis.’’
Here and there
Cardinal Spellman football and basketball standout Joey Glynn has verbally committed to attend Bentley University, where the 6-foot-5 senior forward will focus on hoop. He also considered Stonehill, Bentley’s Northeast-10 rival, and the Naval Academy. . . . Amanda Hawkesworth was just about unstoppable in the first half of a South Shore matchup between Abington and Norwell this past Tuesday. The junior forward scored 22 of the Green Wave’s 23 points in the first half. She finished with 29 in a 53-49 win that clinched the South Shore crown.