Girls’ basketball: Villa Maria’s togetherness philosophy pays dividends

Springfield >> Kathy McCartney has always believed the secret to her team’s success begins with its senior leadership and their ability to convey the culture of the Villa Maria Academy basketball program.
Several times, especially in the closing minutes of the Hurricanes dramatic 64-63 overtime victory over Mount St. Joseph’s in the AACA semi-finals held on February 11 at LaSalle College High School the senior leadership was on full display.
With the win, Villa Maria advanced to the AACA finals for the first time since 2012 when they beat Mount St. Joseph’s.
As the coaches huddled before joining the team during a time-out late in the fourth quarter, senior Bri Wright jumped in sharing words of encouragement to the players – mostly freshmen and sophomores – currently engaged in a tightly contested game.
“As a captain, Bri has done a fabulous job of conveying to the young kids exactly what it means to be a part of this team,” said McCartney. “Heck in the semi-final game she told me we’ve got this McCart” when I was feeling nervous at the end of the game. She and Maddie Gilbertson have done a great job for us all year. They say you can tell a lot about a team by watching the bench and if that is true we are the best team around.”
“It’s all about family,” said Wright, following the game against Mount. “If we can’t be out there doing it then it’s good to see the younger players –like Morgan Warley, Paige Lauder and Abby Walheim – have success. If we all come together as a team that’s our goal.”
“Our seniors are always there to help encouraging us from the bench and cheering us on,” added Warley.
The closing example that helped the Hurricanes seal the win occurred in the final seconds of overtime. With 7.5 seconds remaining, Lauder stepped to the line with the score tied at 63 and saw her first shot glance off the rim.
Wright, Maddie Gilbertson, Erin DiDonato and Murrin Teague immediately jumped off the bench with words of encouragement while fellow seniors Emily Gillin and Marissa Picinich ran up to Lauder with a high five.
Lauder then composed herself and calmly sank the second free throw to give her team the one-point lead. The Magic then raced down the court with one final chance. After the initial shot clanged off the rim, Picinich swatted the ball away as the buzzer expired.
“Throughout the season our younger players have continued to grow,” said Wright. “They are totally different players since the start of the season and to see them grow, gain confidence and form a bond with us has been great. It’s kind of like a big sister moment which makes us proud.”
McCartney added, “Bri and Maddie may not have big stats this year but they are as influential in our success as anyone.”

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply