Chrystal Holland and Olivia Murphy have been rivals the last few years in the Hockomock League, the 5-foot-9 Holland draining wing jumpers and slashing to the basket for Stoughton High, while the 5-11 Murphy diligently worked the post as the starting center at Canton High.
This week, the two recent high school graduates are teammates, suiting up for the Southeast scholastic girls’ basketball team in the annual Bay State Summer Games.
Under the direction of coach John DePasquale, the Southeast squad features 12 players from nine high school programs, but the group bonded early, and team chemistry has been a strength.
“This group has been great,” said DePasquale, who coached at Ursuline Academy in Dedham for 14 seasons, directing the program to a state title in 2005.
His team taps off its quest for a gold medal Thursday morning, taking on a talented Northeast team at Wentworth Institute.
Holland, who will play at the University of New Hampshire, and Murphy, headed to the University of Massachusetts Boston, have stepped forward as leaders and developed a friendship.
“It’s really weird. We get along really good,” said Holland of playing alongside Murphy.
The Southeast team also features several sets of high school teammates: Kathryn O’Malley (Needham) and Carly Whelan (Franklin) from Ursuline, and Jesse McBrien, Abby Johnson, and Kristin Fechtelkotter from Medfield High. McKenzie McGrath, a rising senior at Stoughton High, is a familiar face for Holland.
“We always have a bond,” said Holland, a four-year member of the Southeast squad. “We kind of know where each other are on the court.”
Two years ago, Holland proved to be a team player after an offseason injury prevented her from playing.
“It was after my sophomore year, but before AAU started,” she said. “I was at the YMCA shooting around and I went for a layup and came down on a bleacher.”
Holland tore the anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments and meniscus in her knee.
“She was an incredibly impressive player with the BSG as a freshman, before the tear,” said DePasquale. “She was with us as a sophomore, didn’t play. She came to most of the practices. She was with us at every game. She was a part of the team, which says a lot about her, because what is the BSG? It meant something to her and she was here all the time and we were glad to have her.’’
Murphy is new to the Bay State Games, but DePasquale pinned her as a leader on the first day of practice.
“This is my first year coaching her and Olivia was the hardest worker in the first three weeks by far,” said DePasquale. “She was the hardest worker on the team and that was my first impression of her. She won me over by her work ethic.”
The seniors aren’t only making an impression on DePasquale and assistant coach Michael Jessie.
Katie Lowerre, a rising senior at Sharon, and Fechtelkotter (“Fech’’ to her coaches and teammates) have played well.
“The seniors are definitely leaders,” Fechtelkotter said.
“They give us something to look forward to — motivation.”
And all the players see their previous matchups, as opponents, as an advantage.
“It motivates me personally,” said Lowerre.
“It’s fun, too,” said Fechtelkotter. “You know what her game is, like I know she likes to shoot from the outside and drive to the hoop.”
The team has been practicing for less than a month but has used that time effectively to build a foundation and learn from one another.
That is clear when the players are on the court together. There is constant communication as they work their way up and down the court, making crisp passes, not missing a beat.
At a practice last weekend, the players huddled together in front of DePasquale, their eyes wide, ready to take direction. Before they broke their huddle, their hands came together, and they shouted “Southeast” in perfect unison.
They are not prima donnas, said DePasquale, noting that that quality can damage morale.
Walpole’s Cameron Hanley scored a run, stole a base, and knocked in a run as the Southeast baseball team stopped Metro, 7-2, on Monday afternoon. Pinch hitter Sean Roche of Rockland scored a pair of runs.