With few games left, girls' basketball sets sights on playoffs

The Newtonite

by Kristian Lundberg
After a torrid start to the 2012 calendar year, not much remains on girls’ basketball’s to-do list—at least in the regular season.

So far, the Tigers, 10-5, have won eight of their past 11, have all but wrapped up a winning record and, thanks to Tuesday’s 54-34 road triumph over Dedham, have qualified for a return trip to the postseason. Perhaps most impressively, all of these successes came amid a program-wide adjustment to new coach Linda Martindale’s playing style.

After losing three straight games early on to fall to 2-3 by January 3, the Tigers responded in a big way, rattling off a seven-game winning streak over the following three weeks. Their defense, bolstered by an unforgiving full-court press, held all of their opponents to under 50 points over that span, while the Tigers added some gaudy numbers of their own on offense. In particular, the squad posted 67 and 60 points in blowout road wins against Weymouth and Framingham, respectively, during the streak.

With only tournament seeding up for grabs in the last few contests, Martindale hopes to make a few adjustments to prepare for the postseason.

“Right now, we’re really where we want to be,” she said. “We’re getting better and better, and we’re starting to see more contributors step up offensively. Even when we win big games, we try to experiment, and we’ve added a few more offenses to the mix.”

Martindale also has put increased emphasis on defense over the season’s final stretch.

“Really, we want to be playing what we call ‘Newton North D,’” Martindale said. “We’re trying to start off with a full-court trap, and then drop back to man defense.”

According to senior Gracie Rolfe, a captain with senior Kayla Farina, the Tigers have been “building for the postseason” from day one.

“Our goal at the beginning was to make the State Tournament, and we’ve been playing very well,” she said. “We’ve been playing very good defense and doing the little things right, and I think we can definitely win a few games in the tournament.”

Rolfe added that the squad hoped to advance further than last year’s first-round exit from the postseason.

“In my sophomore year, we made only one game away from playing at the TD Garden, and we  can probably try to make it at least back to there,” she said.

If the Tigers do make a deep playoff run, they’ll need to find an answer for their overall inexperience. The team graduated four starters last year, and Rolfe and Farina are the only two seniors with prior varsity experience on the roster.

“We definitely have to work on attitude because we’re a very young team, but I think that sometimes it plays to our advantage,” Rolfe said.

“We have 12 kids that can play, and we’re very athletic and very quick. We aren’t one of the tallest teams, but we have a lot of heart.”

The Tigers host Weymouth today in the first of five games remaining in the regular season.