No one remembers exactly what was said.
The promise uttered by Jen Narlee to Medfield High assistant coach Ellen Gelinas was made in a fog of shock and disappointment after an unexpected overtime loss to Hopkinton in last year’s Division 2 South quarterfinals.
The gist of it, though, was that Narlee wouldn’t let the Warriors endure the same fate twice.
“I basically said ‘I’m ready to take this,’ ” Narlee explained. “ ‘I’m ready to go. I don’t want to have any regrets next year. I’m ready to put it all out on the floor.’ That was it.”
Ten months later, she is following through.
Narlee, the Tri-Valley League MVP as a sophomore two years ago, has adopted a more aggressive style as a senior, and taken her game to new heights. Averaging 11.6 points, 7.8 rebounds, 4.6 steals, and 1.7 blocks per game, the 5-foot-11 center has sparked Medfield to a 10-1 start.
“I’ve seen things out of Jen this year that I haven’t seen from her in the past three years,” said coach Mark Nickerson .
“She’s become much more of an offensive threat. She’s playing much more physical in the post, she’s using her body to gain position,’’ Nickerson said.
“She had 22 points and 14 rebounds against Coyle-Cassidy in our winter tournament, and it was the best I’ve ever seen her play. And that says a lot for a girl who was league MVP two years ago, and is going to threaten 1,000 points and 1,000 rebounds’’ for her high school career.
Narlee is a captain for the second straight season and one of three seniors on this year’s roster, along with cocaptain Ali Gold and Katelyn Noschese .
Last season, without any seniors, Medfield went 22-2 and earned the No. 2 seed in the postseason tournament. Twelve of 13 players from that group returned this season, giving the Warriors instant chemistry — as well as saddling the team with high expectations.
As they did last year, the players speak openly about their hopes of winning a state championship.
“Our expectations are set pretty high because we’re a really good team, in my eyes,” Narlee said. “Last year we were really good too, but we didn’t have the experience. We were a young team, and we had no seniors. Me and Ali, we had some experience being leaders, but now we’re really up to that challenge.”
Medfield had beaten opponents this season by an average of 29.2 points through 11 games. The reigning four-time TVL champs are once again proving to be the class of the league, winning their first six games against Tri-Valley rivals by an eye-popping average of 34.5 points.
Narlee had 15 points, 10 rebounds, and 6 steals to lead her team to a 70-37 win over Westwood last week.
“They play well, they play hard, and they’re well coached,” said Shannon Clark . in her first year as Westwood’s coach. “One day, we’ll hopefully be there.”
While Narlee has held things down in the paint, junior point guard Lauren Petit and junior small forward Kristin Fechtelkotter have been equally effective on the perimeter.
The 6-foot Fechtelkotter leads the team in scoring with 15.2 points per game, and Nickerson says Petit may be the team’s “most important player” for her role in dictating Medfield’s pace. She averages 11.7 points, 3.5 assists, and 5.1 steals per game.
Medfield has also received solid contributions from 5-foot-10 sophomore Payton Ouimette , who has stepped into a starting role while junior forward Kate Thomas recovers from a knee injury.
Narlee has made as significant an improvement as any of her teammates, however.
For most of her high school career, she has focused on soccer over basketball. She was a center midfielder and captain on last fall’s Division 2 state title team and a key piece on the Warriors team that won the state soccer crown in 2010.
But after feeling the sting of the playoff loss to Hopkinton, she has zeroed in more on basketball. For the first time in her high school career, Narlee is not playing indoor soccer during the winter season.
“I think the player that took that loss last year to heart the most was Jen,” Nickerson said. “There are some things she said last year that I think have motivated her to work harder, and to play a little bit harder so that we don’t have that happen again. Jen has always been a soccer-first player. That was her passion, that’s what she spent the most time on — this is a girl that didn’t play AAU basketball. But I think that changed after last season. She was extremely motivated to make up for how last year ended.”
Narlee will play soccer next year at Babson College, and has recently started to consider playing both sports.
But for now her focus is on keeping her promise, and helping her team win its final game.
“It’s always different when you’re a senior and you know it’s going to be your last year,” said Narlee. “After soccer, winning states, that feeling, that’s all you want. I really don’t want to settle for anything less than that feeling.”
Brookline’s timing gets Day back to coaching
When Luke Day stepped away from the head coach’s job at Wellesley High in 2010 after eight seasons, he wasn’t intent on picking up another coaching role. But when the position at Brookline opened up last spring, it felt like the right time to return to the sidelines.
“I wasn’t looking, but when that job came open it just felt different,” Day said. “Jobs like that don’t come along very often. I live in Roslindale, so I can be home in 15 minutes. It was just the right fit. I was lucky I got it.”
Day, who still teaches English at Wellesley High, has taken the man-to-man principles and motion offense he used with the Raiders and adapted them to the players he now coaches at Brookline. After starting the season 3-3, the Warriors have caught on to Day’s system and won two in a row, including a 64-60 win over Newton North, a rival in the Bay State Conference’s Carey Division.
Junior 6-foot-5 forward Obi Obiora and junior point guard Elijah Rogers have stood out lately for Day, and he believes their athleticism will allow the team to play myriad styles.
“We struggled a bit early,” Day said. “We lost a couple games that on paper we probably shouldn’t have, but we’re definitely headed in the right direction. I don’t know if we’ve fixed all the things we need to, but we’re making progress.”
Day will coach against his former team on Friday when the Raiders visit Brookline, which he said will be difficult.
“On one hand I’m looking forward to it, on the other I’m not really,” said Day. “We gotta play them no matter what. I’m proud to be part of that history, and now I’m ready to start a new history at Brookline.”
Leg injury sidelines
Harrington at St. John’s
Bob Foley was just two wins away from No. 800 entering Friday’s game at St. Bernard’s, but if his St. John’s High players are going to help him get there soon, they’re going to have to do it without starting shooting guard Ken Harrington .
The senior captain injured his lower leg in a Dec. 29 loss to Wachusett Regional, and was expected to be out until at least late this month. In two games without Harrington, freshman guard Adham Floyd played well, but the Pioneers lost to both Brockton (59-51) and St. Peter-Marian (68-64, in overtime).
Phil Perry can be reached at email@example.com.