Marie Ribadeneyra took note of the promise immediately.
Between the power of 6-foot-2 Meaghan Raab and the skill of guard Megan Dixon , Ribadeneyra knew that the freshman class was going to make a difference for the Hanover High girls’ basketball team this season. And that excited the senior captain.
It also motivated her.
“It was not like a threat, but more like, ‘Wow, she is really good, and I’m a captain, so I need to be really good too,’ ” Ribadeneyra said.
With a lethal 3-point shot, Ribadeneyra has been very good, averaging double figures in points through 16 games. And Hanover has turned out to be good too, off to a 14-2 start, a record that has even surprised head coach Brian Fisher , given the team’s youth.
“I knew we were going to be very good, but I didn’t think we would be [14-2] and playing for a league championship this early,” Fisher said.
Fisher added that his team has been successful because every player has bought into her role, a process that started long before the season.
As Fisher watched Raab and Dixon complete their eighth-grade season last year, he knew they had the talent to contribute to the varsity team right away. The question was whether they would attend Hanover High.
Recently, he has watched talented players leave town for private schools, such as Cardinal Spellman and Notre Dame Academy in Hingham.
Fisher believes that his team’s success this season will help reverse that trend. He added that having Tom Ritchie , the father of senior captain Becca , coach Dixon and Raab in a youth league established a continuity that smoothed their transition.
The two freshmen were able to get familiar on the court with a number of their teammates last summer, and again during the fall.
Though Raab was hampered by a high ankle sprain for over a month, she is getting close to 100 percent, as evidenced by her double-double in a 66-40 romp over Pembroke.
In the fourth quarter, Dixon blocked a shot and spun past a defender at midcourt before rifling a pass to a cutting teammate 40 feet away. She is averaging eight points, 10 rebounds, and more than two blocks per game.
In a 33-28 loss to Duxbury, the freshman kept the Indians in the game with 10 second-half points, impressing Dragons coach Bob Sullivan .
“Megan Dixon certainly will be an all-star,” Sullivan said. “She’s a special, special athlete. Very rarely do you see a young girl go to the rim like she does.”
The freshmen have made Hanover a more balanced and deep team, but Fisher said sophomore Stephanie Flynn is still “the rock.’’
“If Stephanie is not scoring, we are not winning,” Fisher said. “Without Stephanie, we would not be where we are, that’s for sure.”
At 5-foot-10, Flynn can just about do it all. Fisher rattled off her strengths: She can shoot, and dribble, drive, rebound, and defend.
Considering the three young stars, the first word used by the players to describe this year’s team is “talented.” Fisher has no problem rotating nine or 10 capable players through a game.
But it is the experience of the senior leadership that has made it all work so well so quickly, Fisher said.
After Dixon made a tactical error late in a 52-49 loss to North Quincy, going for a two-pointer instead of a three, Fisher noticed that the seniors rushed to her side, to console her, and tell her to move on.
“I have such great leaders with senior captains,” Fisher said of Ribadeneyra, Ritchiem, and fellow senior Lindsay Carroll. “They have that experience, that winning background, and they are really bringing the younger kids along and making them fit in.”
The seniors have also instilled a win-now attitude in their final season. Though they have only lost twice, each loss stung and motivated them. They said they should win every game they play.
“They can see the writing on the wall that says, ‘Geez, they are pretty darn good; we can do some damage going forward,’” Fisher said. “This is what they work hard for.”
“This is their shining moment.”
Canton gets back
on winning track
“It’s been a roller coaster of a season,” Canton High boys’ coach Ryan Gordy said.
That might be an understatement.
The Bulldogs won four straight games early in the year, but then dropped six in a row. They have bounced back from that midseason skid to win their last five and re-enter playoff contention.
“Every year we seem to go through a tough patch in the schedule; every year there is a losing skid. I just didn’t think it would be a six-game losing skid with this group,” Gordy said. “But they were resilient; they righted the ship.”
Canton got back on track against Milford with a 95-72 blowout, punctuated with a 66-point second half.
“That was a turning point for our season,” Gordy said. “The light bulb went off. Everything that we practiced, everything just clicked.”
Canton is trying to win 11 games for the first time since the 1996 season...
If they do reach the mark, senior captain Sam Larson will be a big reason why. At 6-foot-3, he is second in the Hockomock League, with 20 points per game.
“Every year he adds something new to his game,” Gordy said. “As a sophomore, he was really just a shooter. He added the drive last year, and he added a post game this year.” And in a 67-59 win over King Philip last week, he converted all 13 of his free-throw attempts in a 24-point performance.
Grassi boosts Eagles
in impressive wins
Freshman Joie Grassi has helped lift the Plymouth North girls to two of their biggest wins of the season. In the season opener, the 5-foot-10 guard hit a three-pointer with nine seconds left to take North Quincy to overtime. She finished her first varsity game with 21 points and 12 rebounds in a 66-61 win.
Then, in a 68-66 overtime victory over Marshfield a week ago Friday, she scored 22 points, including two buckets early in OT, while adding 10 boards and six steals. The win left the Eagles (11-2 overall) tied with Marshfield at 5-1 in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Grassi still comes off the bench, but leads the team in points and rebounds while averaging nearly five steals a game.
“I have to keep reminding myself that this girl is only a freshman,” coach Dennis Azevedo said. “For a freshman, she has quite the game to build on.”
Senior captain Meghan Walsh has also played a big role in getting the Eagles to this point. She leads the Eagles in assists and is second to Grassi in points, rebounding, and steals. Walsh was also the captain and a goalie on the girls’ soccer team, which Azevedo also coaches.
“She’s the heart and soul and grit of this team,” he said.Jacob Feldman can be reached at email@example.com.