Her senior quote in the Franklin High yearbook says it all: “Stop staring at me, I know I’m tall.”
At 6 feet, 4 inches, Ali Brigham used to feel a tad self-conscious about her height. But now, she has learned to embrace it.
“I think that I do a good job at least holding myself tall enough,” said the 17-year-old Brigham. “I know, obviously, everyone is going to stare at me because a 6-foot-4 girl is pretty unique.
“It’s given me a lot, so I’m grateful for it.”
Whether she is elevating for a blocked shot, carving out space for a put-back, or creating a scoring opportunity, Brigham is one of the most physically imposing players in the state. And with skills to match, she has powered Franklin (17-0) to the No. 1 ranking in the Globe’s Top 20.
“I would say that Ali’s been a transformative player for our program,” said Franklin coach John Leighton. “She chose public school and really helped the program. It’s helped public schools stay on the map in Massachusetts. She’s served as a great role model for the kids as well as being the star player.”
A Globe Super Teamer last season, the George Washington-bound Brigham is averaging 22 points (shooting 58.5 percent from the field), 14.3 rebounds, 2.4 assists, and 2.3 blocks a game.
Fourth-year George Washington coach Jennifer Rizzotti first became aware of Brigham when she was finishing her 17-year run at the University of Hartford.
“She became one of our top targets as we left, and when we really scouted the kids from New England that we wanted at GW, she was at the top of the list,” said Rizzotti, who was in attendance when Brigham scored her 1,000th career point last season.
“She’s very, very comfortable facing the basket, and we liked that versatility with her.”
The Globe caught up with Brigham, the career boys and girls leader in scoring (1,551) and rebounding (1,200) at Franklin High, as the Panthers prepared for this weekend’s Comcast Tournament in Woburn.
Why GW? Did your father, Bill, going there play into your decision?
“I loved the girls on the team. I love the coaching staff. I mean, Coach Rizzotti, she’s basically the basketball GOAT. She’s insane. She played at UConn. She’s the Olympic assistant coach. You probably can’t get a better coach than her.
Obviously my dad went to GW (a two-time captain for Mike Jarvis in 1991-92 after his transfer from BU), so that helped, too. It wasn’t really so much that my dad went there. I just loved the campus. I love the area. It’s not too far away. It just seemed like everything started to click.”
You’ve worked on expanding your game to the 3-point line. What will your role be at the next level?
“I think I’m always a post player at heart. I’m good with my back-to-the-basket moves, but I think I also want to be able to expand my game so I can step out to the three. If I have a girl that’s on me that’s bigger, it’ll be harder on me in the post. If I have foot speed, I can take her outside, go by her and pull up. I’d say probably see if I can be like a center but stretch it out to the 3-point line.”
The WNBA has expanded, as has the attention around women’s basketball. Where would you like to see it go from here?
“Obviously I just want it to keep improving. The boys’ game, yeah, they can dunk and it’s flashy, but the girls’ game is more based on skill. The more people that keep looking at girls’ sports is awesome. It’s the same game. I just hope more people [pay] more attention to it, because it is the same thing.”
The IAABO 27 tournament in Woburn is loaded, with Frankin, No. 4 Central Catholic, No. 5 Cathedral, and No. 7 Bridgewater-Raynham in your bracket. What will this show?
“We’re just really excited. If you’ve seen our record so far, we’ve been playing some games that aren’t exactly the closest. Hopefully, we’re going to be able to go out, and maybe not win by as much as we’ve been winning by, but still win to show that we’re playing better competition, but we’re still a really good team.”
A number of players in your position end up at prep schools. Why did you stay at Franklin?
“I’ve grown up with everyone on the team. We started off my freshman year, it was pretty rough, we were 0-6. That probably wasn’t the best start, because yes, there were a couple of private school coaches that were like, ‘We’d really like you to come to our school.’
When we started to win, we just turned it around. Now we’ve had a goal since freshman year to win a state championship. Now that’s all we want to do.”
You were within an overtime period of that Division 1 state title appearance last year. What’s it going to take to get all the way?
“Us being so close, it showed how much harder we need to work and how much more we want it. When we got so close we were like, ‘Oh, only one more game to go,’ and we just kind of overlooked the game we were playing.
Now we know that, especially being my senior year, any game isn’t just given. You have to win it. We’ve worked a lot harder than last year, and hopefully we have the pieces this year to win.”
■ In front of a large crowd on senior night, Latin Academy senior Fiona Mannion became the 75th player in state history to net 2,000 career points in a 76-25 victory over Boston United.
After Mannion and her fellow senior classmates were the featured speakers at halftime, the 5-10 forward reached the milestone with her first basket of the second half, her 20th point of the night. Teammates stormed the court, and Latin Academy coach Bill Dever said, “It was almost like two celebrations in one.”
The Adelphi-bound Mannion finished her night with 28 points, 17 rebounds, 10 assists, and 9 steals. Latin Academy is 11-7 overall (10-2 Boston City League) following losses to Ursuline Academy and Fenway, with Mannion currently at 2,044.
“She scores because we need her to score, but I think she wants to win more than she wants to score,” said Dever. “If she wanted, she could score 30 a game, but it’s better for us to get her teammates involved. She’s very unselfish.”
■ Known as the “Splash Sisters,” Barnstable’s backcourt duo of Olivia Gourdine and senior Abby Al-Asousi have fueled the Red Raiders’ current six-game win streak.
Gourdine, a sophomore, has nearly doubled her output from a year ago to a team-high 15 points per game, connecting on 27 three-pointers.
“[Gourdine] is someone who just loves basketball,” said Barnstable coach Ross Jatkola. “Any time she’s not here with us or working on schoolwork, she’s in the gym. She’s put in a ton of work in.”
With the graduate of leading scorer Carly Whiteside , now playing at Vermont, Barnstable (12-4) has learned on Gourduine and Al-Asoui, a senior two-year captain who has knocked down 20 3-pointers this season.
“[Gourdine and Al-Asoui] have been the heartbeat of the team offensively, and Abby with her tremendous energy on both sides of the court,” said Jatkola. “As coaches, we look to her for a lot of stuff beyond the court as a leader as well.”
Games to Watch
Thursday, Falmouth at Barnstable, 5:30 p.m. — The Red Raiders (12-4) can climb to the top of the Cape & Islands’ Atlantic division with a win over the Clippers (15-3). Barnstable won the first meeting, 32-31.
Thursday, Woburn at Belmont, 6:30 p.m. — The 14th-ranked Tanners (16-1) will have to go through Nina Minicozzi and the Marauders(11-7) to extend their win streak to 14 games in an enticing Middlesex League matchup.
Thursday, Norwood at Medway, 6:30 p.m. — Only one game separates these two teams atop the Tri-Valley conference. But the No. 15 Mustangs (16-1) will have home-court advantage in an effort to stave off No. 9 Norwood (16-1).
Saturday, Central Catholic vs Cathedral, TBD — One of the most exciting matchups of the Comcast Classic at Woburn High features a pair of Top 5 teams: Ariana Vanderhoop, Mackenzie Daleba and the No. 4 Panthers (14-3) take on Claire Finney and the No. 2 Raiders (17-1).
Saturday, Franklin at Bridgewater-Raynham, 5 p.m. — Standout sophomore Shay Bollin and the No. 3 Trojans (16-1) collide with the top-ranked Panthers (17-0) in another thrilling battle in Woburn.
Greg Levinsky can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Seamus McAvoy also contributed.