Undefeated Season for Hale Girls BBall…Feb. 17, 2016
By Michael James LeClair
Any coach will tell you that the perfect team isn’t one loaded with self-centered superstars but instead a squad with a core of players playing together as one cohesive unit with the same ultimate goal. Such is the case at Hale Middle School in Stow.
Head girls’ basketball coach Michael Turpin and his squad just put the finishing touches on a perfect season as the team wrapped up the winter 2015-2016 campaign with an unblemished 15-0 record.
Thursday afternoon Hale welcomed Luther Burbank Middle School of Lancaster and seized control early on. With a stifling defense and a laser fast transition offense Hale jumped out to a commanding 28-2 halftime lead en route to a 32-20 victory.
Playing seven-minute quarters and without a shot clock, Hale came out of the gate on fire. Hale did not allow a single point until the final minute of the first half. Meanwhile, the offense was rolling for the home team with a devastating fast break that put Luther Burbank back on its heels.
Hale held a commanding 23-0 lead after the first quarter. The frame was highlighted by Abby McNulty and Olivia Drugotch who scored eight and seven points respectively in the quarter.
The host only scored five points in the second quarter, four of them courtesy of Ali Gillooly and the other point from Hannah Marland but it didn’t matter as the defense continued to shine, getting hands in the passing lanes and boxing out on rebounds. The solid play helped the home team to their 26-point heading into intermission.
In the third quarter, Turpin was able to work his bench in quite often and gave his younger players some quality minutes. Phoebe Gero and Katelyn Burns took advantage of their minutes and played well while on the floor.
Burbank outscored Hale 18-4 in the second half and 12-0 in the fourth quarter but the deficit was too large to overcome as Hale concluded their season with a post game celebration on the sidelines that included a Gatorade bucket filled with shredded paper. The contents found their way onto Turpin’s head in the celebration.
Turpin, an English teacher at the school, just concluded his ninth season as the team’s head coach and praised the hard work and determination shown by his players.
“The team finished with a 15-0 record, and played today’s game at their usual high level,” said Turpin after Thursday’s win. “After jumping out to a big lead early, the girls looked to get everyone on the team involved in the scoring. While not every player scored, it further demonstrated the selflessness they’ve shown all season.”
According to Turpin, he has researched back over 20 years trying to find the last Hale Middle School squad to finish undefeated. Through talking to co-workers at the school and previous coaches, Turpin told the Independent his research leads him to believe that this year’s team is the first unbeaten unit since 1994.
“That’s as far back as I could go, it could be even further than that, I’m not sure,” said Turpin. “That was as far back as anyone that we spoke to could verify and remember.”
When talking about his team Turpin said that there were a few question marks coming into the season.
“We only had 10 players come out for tryouts so we weren’t really sure just what type of team we were going to have this year,” said the head coach, a Leominster native. “We knew we weren’t going to have a lot of height but we have been fortunate because our guard play has been so strong.”
The roster consists of 10 players including five eighth-graders, four seventh-graders and one sixth-grader. Captains Tess Hunter, Caylie McMahon and McNulty along with Madeleine Arsenault and Nevaeh Taranto-Gomez make up the eighth-grade class. Turpin noted that Arsenault had to sit out a large portion of the season due to an injury, however, she still came to practices and games to cheer her teammates on.
Burns, Drugotch, Gillooly and Marland are the team’s seventh- graders and Gero is Hale’s lone sixth-grader.
“They’re a great group of girls to be around and they worked hard all season long,” said Turpin. “The girls made things fun and they really made this an enjoyable season.”