ADDISON COUNTY — It was a dream season for longtime Coach Connie LaRose’s Mount Abraham Union High School girls’ basketball team, which won the Division II title with a 23-1 record thanks to skill, teamwork, chemistry, hard work and relentless defense.
And it didn’t hurt that the Eagles had the 2013 Addison Independent Girls’ Basketball Player of the Year in the lineup, either, multi-talented junior Ashlie Fay, who earns that distinction for the second straight season. And it also helped that the Eagles had enough depth to have five team members in all recognized on the 2013 Addison Independent Girls’ Basketball All-Star Team — including two non-starters.
First-year coach Steve Keith’s Otter Valley squad compiled the second-best local mark at 10-11, and the Otters gave the Eagles one of their best battles of the winter in an eight-point December setback. Three Otters are honored here, one on the first team, and none of whom will graduate this spring.
First-year coach Mary Nienow returned to lead her old Middlebury team, which started out 0-10 this winter and then went 5-5 in the second half of the regular season. A senior captain and sparkplug earned a first-team Independent berth.
Coach Billy Waller’s four-win Vergennes team also played better in the second half of the season after an 0-8 start. A strong senior rebounder also merited a first-team nod here.
Selections are based on observation, consultation with the coaches, and statistics. Congratulations to the following:
ASHLIE FAY, MOUNT ABE JUNIOR, PLAYER OF THE YEAR. Notes: Poised, skilled, fast and versatile player who might have been the best around at every position on the floor, from point guard to power forward … Averaged local bests of 14.1 points, 4.1 assists and 3.5 steals, and chipped in 4.5 rebounds per game … Can handle the ball and throw passes on the break at full speed with either hand, and hit from behind the arc or finish in the lane … Savvy defender who reads passing lanes well and covers tons of territory in the Eagles’ press, or inside or outside in the Eagle zones.
LaRose’s Quotes: “She has the ability to make everyone else’s job easier … She had games with 20 points, and she had games with 20 rebounds, depending on what you asked her to do … She’s great defensively because she’s a great athlete … She’s got lightning-quick hands … She’s five-seven or so, and has got the versatility to be a five-10 kid, with those long arms and great leaping ability … The head is up. She sees the court. She knows what the best option is.”
JESSICA FRAZIER, OV JUNIOR. Notes: Speedy, athletic player who scored in double digits in 15 of 21 games and averaged 13.6 points to lead the Otters … Explosive scorer with fine shooting range and a great first step who is particularly effective slashing to the basket … Good defender who was effective in OV’s pressure defense and averaged 2.0 steals per contest.
Keith’s Quotes: “Jessica was always on the attack … Jessica used her speed to consistently attack the lane … Jessica was able to defend with a high intensity on the ball, while still being able to react quickly and read the passing lanes … Jessica is a gym rat. Jessica wants to be in the gym all the time and consistently improve … Jessica has a huge passion for the game of basketball.”
TIFFANY DANYOW, MUHS SENIOR. Notes: Tough defender and floor leader who led the Tigers with 9.7 points per game … Chipped in 1.84 steals and 3.74 rebounds a game … Good defending on-ball, reading passing lanes, or helping teammates … Four-year varsity player who always played hard … Shrugged off a late-game injury to score six points in overtime in a win at VUHS.
Nienow’s Quotes: “She’s very hard-working, tough physically, fearless, always driving to the rim ... She really understands the game of basketball … She’s a great defender … She wants all of her teammates to get better, she’s always giving her teammates feedback in practice … She’s a true leader, kept the girls positive, always willing to help out the team on and off the court.”
MEGHAN LIVINGSTON, MOUNT ABE JUNIOR. Notes: Quick and consistent guard who scored at key times for the Eagles this winter … Averaged 9.6 points, 2.0 assists, 2.0 rebounds and 2.5 steals … Efficient scorer who hit about two-thirds of her shots from the floor and about 80 percent of her free throws … Had three-point range and the ability to get to the basket … Smart defender who helped key the Eagles’ zones and press.
LaRose’s Quotes: “Her consistency is her strength … She’s money from the free throw line … She moves her feet (defensively). She’s shutting down passing lanes … Her scoring seems to come when she sees the need. When you need a basket, she seems to be the one to step up … Her best seems to come out in our toughest, biggest games.”
CAITLIN CHAPUT, VUHS SENIOR. Notes: Gave the Commodores a tough inside presence and led all local players with an average of 7.75 rebounds per game … Averaged 6.25 points per game, and her roughly .400 shooting percentage was the team’s best … Turned the ball over only a team-best once a game … Hit more than lay-ups, showing a nice jump shot when given the opportunity … Solid positional defender.
Waller’s Quotes: “She had five or six games in a row where she didn’t have any (turnovers) … She had a real nice 15-footer … She’s pretty strong and she learned her senior year to carve out some space … She boxed out all night … Those (soccer) goalie instincts came in when the ball was near her … She wasn’t a captain, but she gave us leadership … She was just a calming influence.”
OLIVIA BLOOMER, OV JUNIOR. Notes: Smart player who developed this winter into a much-needed inside presence for OV and averaged a team-high 6.0 rebounds per game despite giving away size most of the time … Also defended well inside with smart positioning and boxing out on the boards … Team leader who chipped in with 6.7 points per contest, second for the Otters.
Keith’s Quotes: “Olivia always makes the right play on the floor … Olivia played above her size, consistently out-rebounding opponents … Olivia defended well in the post and was always in the right help spot. Olivia understands the game of basketball and how it should be played … Olivia is a positive team influence and works to keep her teammates focused.”
SAM DRISCOLL, MOUNT ABE JUNIOR. Notes: Consistently gave the Eagles a lift off the bench this season, and played and produced in Barre when it mattered … Averaged 8.0 points, 1.8 assists and 1.5 steals … Good three-point shooter who could also finish or set up teammates on the break … Became a hard-working, disruptive defender.
LaRose’s Quotes: “I just felt her growth as a player was huge this year … When she’s hot, she’s really hot … She’s very quick and athletic, no doubt about it … She’s got great basketball savvy … In those games (in Barre) she really stepped up to the plate … She showed us what she could do defensively.”
TAYLOR AINES, OV JUNIOR. Notes: Savvy, tenacious floor leader and point guard who averaged an area second-best 3.0 assists per game … Could hit from long range and averaged 6.5 points per game, often scoring key hoops in close games … Determined defender who made it tough for opposing guards to bring the ball up and get shots off.
Keith’s Quotes: “Taylor is one of the hardest-working players I’ve coached … Taylor is a competitor and will not back down … Taylor handled the ball all year and requested the ball during crunch time … Taylor defended well and hit several key shots throughout the season … Taylor is a ferocious competitor at both ends of the floor.”
LIZZIE HUIZENGA, MOUNT ABE SENIOR. Notes: Quick and tireless defender who typically keyed the Eagles’ trademark 1-2-2 press as the point person … Terrific defending one-on-one, or in the Eagles’ press or zone looks … Could stick jumpers, and contributed offensively with 5.0 points and 2.0 assists per game … Also averaged 2.5 steals and 2.0 rebounds.
LaRose’s Quotes: “Lizzie is just the Energizer Bunny out there … I can’t think of any other kid I’ve had who had such relentless energy out there … And she’s not a bad perimeter shooter … I looked at her as our best defender … Lizzie had a huge year of growth in terms of composure on the court.”
ISABEL BRENNAN, MOUNT ABE SOPHOMORE. Notes: Six-footer who earned more time as the season progressed and averaged 5.0 points and a team-high 6.5 rebounds … Has good hands and showed a nice touch posting up and in transition … Improved offensively and defensively, and made an impact in the middle of the Eagle zone … Shone in Barre, with nine points and seven boards in the semi and game-highs of 16 points and nine rebounds in the final.
LaRose’s Quotes: “She picked a real good time, I think, those last two games in Barre, to show us what she could do … She showed such a great attitude and such a great willingness to learn … There was that consistent improvement … I thought she made some solid improvement on defense.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].