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Boardman girls “in great shape” for great season

November 19, 2018
Nik Zirounis , The Town Crier

Boardman's girls basketball team only won seven games a year ago as it was fighting through a rebuilding period.

That low total may make one think that the 2018/2019 campaign may not be any better. However, longtime Spartans' coach Jeff Hammerton believes the court time gained by his girls last season and the addition of a missing piece will catapult his group towards the top of the All American Conference standings.

"We basically have everybody coming back," said Hammerton. "We played a lot of young kids last year. We are in great shape experience wise."

If you look at Hammerton's projected starting lineup you may scratch your head considering what the coach just said. A deeper look, though, underscores his thinking. The Lady Spartans should start two seniors and three sophomores, but four of them filled valuable roles last year. Senior guards Alicia Saxton and Cate Green are the rocks in the backcourt for Boardman. Both girls can shoot and pose matchup problems for opposing defenses. That dynamic duo will be joined at guard by sophomore Raegan Burkey who brought youthful exuberance and athleticism to Boardman's team as a rookie. Katie Stamp supplies size and inside presence to one of the forward spots. Like Burkey, Stamp stuck it to Boardman's rivals as a freshman.

"Playing these girls last year will pay off," said Hammerton. "And the good thing is that (the sophomores) are going to be around for a while."

The fifth projected starter is another sophomore in guard/forward Maria Torres. The only reason why Torres doesn't fit the bill as one of those experienced returnees is because she missed a lot of what was supposed to be a promising freshman year due to injury. To say that Coach Hammerton is eager to get Torres back in his lineup would be an understatement.

"(Torres) is coming off a torn ACL and we are really excited to have her back," Hammerton said.

With the starting five pretty much etched in stone, Hammerton will be looking for viable options to bring off of his bench. He will have senior letter winner Ashley Saxton as one of his best choices. Two other seniors who will garner a lot of action are guard Cailyn Covan and forward Jersey Gorby.

"We will count on them to add depth," Hammerton said.

There are also a pair of tenth-graders that will play an important role this winter. When swingman Bailey Moore and guard Serene Khatib get on the floor it may create an opportunity for five sophomores to be active at the same time. Moore has some experience while Khatib has never played varsity. Yet, what these girls have done during this preseason has pleased their coach.

"We've held our own in scrimmages," Hammerton said. "We're still fitting in the pieces and working on chemistry, but I'm happy with where we're at so far. I'd still like us to work on man to man defense and moving the ball on offense."

Boardman's coach is also happy with how diversified his team's schedule is this year. The highlight on the slate is a chance to play in a holiday tournament in Florida against some of the best teams from states such as Florida and Georgia. That tourney will take place over Christmas break.

"It'll be something different for us and a nice challenge," Hammerton said.

Intertwined around that trip down south are the grueling games against rivals from the AAC. The Spartans won't start league play until after the beginning of the new calendar year, but once they do, it'll be home-in-home matches that will dominate the last part of the season. Hammerton knows how frustrating playing such talented foes can be, but believes his team will be in the thick of the race come February.

"Canfield, Fitch, Howland and Harding are all very competitive," said Hammerton, "but there's no reason to think we can't compete with anyone."



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