Shepherd Hill girls ready to take step toward a title
The Shepherd Hill girls basketball team, thinking of a championship run this season.
By CHRISTOPHER TREMBLAY, Staff Sports Writer
After finishing the 2021-22 season with a 16-7 record, the Shepherd Hill girls’ basketball team found themselves with a 21 seed under the new MIAA power ranking system as they entered the Division 2 State Championship Tournament. The Rams would run all over the High School of Commerce, picking up a convincing 57-22 win. Unfortunately, in the second round against Newburyport it was different story and Shepherd Hill fell 57-43.
Playing in the Midwatch B now during the regular season, Shepherd Hill seems to be comfortable.
“This team is made up of a group of dedicated girls who are invested in the program. We’ve had success over the years, but we are finding ourselves in our third league (SWCL, Midwatch A and now the Midwatch B),” Shepherd Hill Coach Maura Hackenson said. “I feel that the Midwatch B is about where we belong. Shepherd Hill is not as big of a school as many believe; some of the Midwatch A schools are three times our size and although we can compete against them it’s tough.”
Like every other high school athletic program, the goal is to win as many games as you can (or now compete in) so that you can qualify for the State Tournament. Once there, anything can happen and with a little luck added to your skill you just might walk away with a State title. Shepherd Hill is no different and despite losing three starters from last year’s 17-win season, Hackenson believes that her large senior class will be able to step into the vacant positions and pick up right where they left off last year.
Senior tri-captains guard Emery Mullen and forwards Olivia Krukonis and Emma Drake are expected to provide team leadership while contributing quality minutes on the court. Mullen is the offensive leader and the team’s leading scorer. Last year she averaged 14 points and 9 rebounds per game.
In the early part of the season the Rams have gotten off to a rough start with all the illness the team has been battling, but they continue to fight game in and game out. Although Hackenson has yet to field a full squad through the first three weeks, Shepherd Hill has been able to get off to a 7-1 overall start and should be able to continue its success with everyone returning to the court. The Rams had different 10 players score in a victory over Westboro, which was 6-1 entering the game.
While Mullen will be the team’s top scorer, sophomore guard Aryanna Sheehan has been putting up some offensive numbers through the early part of the season, giving the Rams a secondary scorer. Thus far this season Sheehan is averaging 14 points per contest.
“Emery and Aryanna will be the focal (point) of our scoring,” the Shepherd Hill coach said. “We need at least one of them to be on top of things [each] night but having them both on their game together will definitely be a help and a big plus in our winning.”
In addition to Sheehan and Mullen putting the ball in the basket for the Rams this season, the squad also will see some offensive output from seniors Shaylan Cashman and Drake while junior Heidi Jarosz will be the team’s top rebounder. Cashman will also haul down some boards from time to time.
Although scoring is important in winning games, Hackenson firmly believes that defensive end of it is much more important.
“Defense is our top priority as we enter games, defense wins,” the coach said. “We need to go in and rebound and box out, but we also need everyone playing defense at all times if we want to win.”
Hackenson will look to freshman Lily Connole for her defensive prowess; the incoming varsity athlete can cover with the best of them. Freshmen Sarah Miller and Gianna Neri can and will also play some tough defense for the Rams.
Other athletes hoping to see some floor time and help Shepherd Hill this winter will be seniors Victoria Cravedi, Meridan Wildes and Abigail Lombardi; sophomore Ashley Dickhaut as well as freshman Riley Bowes.
“Every year we evaluate the talent that we have while putting together a schedule that benefits the kids. Playing a tough schedule is better for the team in the long run,” the Rams coach said. “While you need to play those top teams, you don’t want the kids to get discouraged. Luckily that hasn’t happened and the girls have bought into everything that we are coaching them.”
Upon entering the season the Shepherd Hill goals were simple: win the Midwatch B League title and qualify once again for the Division 2 State Tournament with at least one home game. Once in the tournament Hackenson is hoping that her girls can get past the second game, unlike last year.
“During the regular season we like to play a tougher schedule against good competition so that we are ready when the tournament rolls around,” Hackenson said. “We would also like to take part in the Westboro Tournament at the end of the year; this too would help us as we enter the post-season.”
If all goes as planned Shepherd Hill will be entering the State Tournament as Midwatch B champions and playing some of their best basketball in hopes of winning a championship.