Like most sports teams, the Abington Heights freshman girls basketball team had hopes of playing well, perhaps even winning a championship along the way, as they worked on improving their skills this season.
This year, the Lady Comets parlayed their work ethic, desire and natural ability into a Lackawanna League title, despite having just eight players on the team at times.
"Coming into the season, I felt the girls had a good chance in winning the division title because of their determination and talent," said Lady Comets head coach Bob Thompson.
This has been one of the most rewarding seasons for the 72-year-old Thompson, who has been coaching for nearly 20 years. Thompson has coached many teams in the Abington Heights system, as well as at Scranton Prep and Penn State Worthington Scranton.
Even though there were only nine players on the roster, with just eight suiting up for part of the season, the Lady Comets had great versatility and could play just about any style.
But Thompson's team had some go-to characteristics that turned out to be very effective.
"We played a match up zone, which seemed to work well against most of the teams," he said. "We also played a fast break offense because of our size and quickness."
The team showed early signs of what they could accomplish after dropping their season opener to Wyoming Valley West.
"Our next two games, we saw a difference, but in our fourth game, against Pittston Area, they really put it together," Thompson said. "Those kids really surprised me."
After claiming a Christmas holiday tournament with wins over Holy Cross and host Honesdale, the Lady Comets embarked on their journey to the division crown.
The Lady Comets went 11-1 in the division, but it was an early loss to rival Scranton Prep that may have had the biggest impact on the Abington Heights team.
"In the first half of the season, losing to Prep gave the girls the determination to work harder to reach their goal for the title," Thompson said. "After the loss, I saw how they performed in practice, how determined they were, that I thought they could probably win it."
There was just one way to do that - as a unit.
"Each player had a responsibility on and off the court and did their job well," Thompson said. "They each had their own talent, which came together to form a great team."
When Thompson says it was a team effort, he means it. An injury left him with just eight players in his rotation.
But the girls persevered, giving all they had, all the time.
Thompson described the individual members of the team as follows:
- Nicole Getz (eighth grade): "She is the point guard, an excellent ball handler, good at running the team."
- Caroline Mattise (freshman): "She is the two guard, a good shooter and very athletic."
- Grace Hambrose (freshman): "She is a post player, strong, with good moves to the hoop. She can also step out to shoot from three-point range."
- Olivia Baker (eighth grade): "She is a post player, a great defensive player with the ability to block shots, and also score."
- Mariah Tulaney (freshman): "She is a guard/forward, good shooter, can rebound, has great speed."
- Alex Calvey (freshman): "She is a backup guard/forward and a good defensive player with great love for the game."
- Abby Gilman (freshman): "She is a backup guard and good defensive player, with a great shot."
- Alessia Brunori (eighth grade): "A post player, with very strong post moves, and can also play great defense."
- Jessie Show (eighth grade): "A guard and post player, good on rebounds. She was out most of the season due to an injury."
It all added up to a successful year for the Lady Comets.
"Jess (Plisko), my assistant, and I enjoyed working with this great group of girls and also appreciate all the support from their parents," Thompson said.
Thompson is debating whether to coach another year to make it 20 years in the sport, but if he has a team like the one he just had, it will be another enjoyable year on the sidelines.Abington Heights claimed a Lackawanna League freshman girls basketball title, going 11-1 in a division that included Delaware Valley, Holy Cross, Honesdale, North Pocono, Scranton Prep and Valley View.
The Lady Comets won a Christmas holiday tournament by beating Holy Cross and host Honesdale. They also defeated Holy Redeemer, Crestwood and Pittston Area en route to a 16-2 overall record.