Changing of the guard for Coleman girls basketball (video)
TOWN OF ULSTER, N.Y. — Guy Leonard best described the upcoming John A. Coleman Catholic High girls basketball season.
“It’s a changing of the guard,” he said.
Literally and figuratively.
There’s a change in focus for these Stateswomen and that’s because they lost two of their three starting guards.
Admittedly, two-time Freeman Player of the Year Mackenzie Burud played whatever position the situation required: point guard, shooting guard or small forward.
IF SHE had been the engine to the Coleman machine, point guard Kate Shults was the glue for the last three seasons.
“We’re not as athletic or fast as we’ve been,” Leonard noted. “We’re definitely bigger and stronger.”
Coleman’s team had been like a Lamborghini in years past, easily wearing down foes.
Now it resembles an F-150: big with hidden speed and as willing to run teams over as going around. Continued...
Coleman, which opens at home Dec. 4 against Highland, returns four key players from the team that went 23-1 and won Mid-Hudson Athletic League, Section 9 and regional titles and made it to the state Class C final four.
“Last year was a lot of fun,” Leonard admitted.
BACK ARE 6-foot junior twins Nicole and Emily Curley, 6-1 senior center Lauren Melville and junior guard Shannon Gildea.
Also returning is senior forward Rebecca Albrecht, who will be a key player off the bench. She and Melville will be the team captains.
“We’re big inside. You got to adapt to the talent,” Leonard said.
Gildea, who started last year, played with the Curleys and Melville on Leonard’s AAU Kingston Vipers from April through September, forging a new camaraderie.
“She’s gotten a lot better,” Leonard said. “She’s worked hard on her ball handling.”
Melville and the twins strengthened and expanded their games during the summer.
The “core four” displayed what they could do last season in two big games after Burud had fouled out.
Their defense protected the lead down the stretch against Red Hook in the MHAL title game and they all stepped up offensively to defeat Hamilton in the regional final. Continued...
Leonard is also well aware that his unit is “foul trouble away from being a normal team.”
Junior Keira Wolff, who played for Coleman two years ago, is vying with sophomore newcomer Gina Giles for the other starting guard role.
Along with Giles, there are four other sophomore newcomers, all up from the junior varsity: McKenzie Hasenflue, Amber Kolts, Megan Murphy and Ireland Sirni.
“It’s coming together,” Leonard reported.
“There’s a lot of young faces, but they’re working really hard. The effort they’re giving me is there and also the willingness to improve.”
Coleman is in a different class this year, being moved to B after they reached the state Class C tourney.
Under the guise of “competitive balance,” Section 9 has moved Coleman from Class D to C to B in successive years, although the only balance has been attained in the postseason.
“I feel like we’re the only program being scrutinized,” Leonard remarked.
The section’s Non-Classification Committee is in charge of overseeing the area’s parochial schools.
Despite some public schools’ stranglehold on certain sports, the section can do nothing to level those playing fields but wait for the individual program’s talent base to fall. Continued...
What irks Leonard is the true lack of communication from the section.
“They keep moving us up. At no point have they ever told us what we have to do to be dropped in class or even stay at the level we’re at.”
The Stateswomen are prepared.
“It’s a challenge we’re ready for,” Melville said. “It will just make us work harder.”
“I’m excited about this year,” Leonard said.
“There’s a little more uncertainty. I think there will be closer ballgames.”
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