Donnelly, Raiders get history lesson; Fitchburg loaded up for a CMass Division 1 title run.
After being upset by archrival Leominster High in the first round of last year's Central Mass. Division 1 playoffs, Shea Donnelly and the Fitchburg High Red Raiders are determined not to let it happen again.
Donnelly did her part, scoring 26 of Fitchburg's 56 points while connecting on 17 of 29 free throws. But that did nothing to ease the pain of coming up short, especially against the Blue Devils.
"Winning would have been much better," Donnelly said. "Winning is always the most important thing. I didn't celebrate my good game. We were all definitely bummed out and that is definitely still fresh in our minds. We're not going to let that happen again.
"This is our last chance to do something big. I'm excited about this year. We have a good chance to do something this year."
Donnelly has good reason to be excited about this season, with five seniors returning after losing only Stephanie Kimber from last year's 12-9 team.
Returning, along with the reigning Mid-Wach A MVP, are fellow seniors Natalia Vieira, Alyssa Fanelli, Jordan DiGeronimo and Nyla Williams, while junior guards Amanda Baker and Shauna Lydon add depth in the Red Raiders' backcourt.
"We have a lot of guards. We are going to be fast and quick," coach John Donnelly said.
"There is a group of us that has been together since about sixth grade," said Shea Donnelly, the coach's daughter. "We've all talked about this being our last year together."
It also will be Donnelly's last season playing for her father, an experience she has enjoyed all four years.
"During basketball season, me and dad are always together. That makes it special," Donnelly said. "It makes it pretty personal, too."
Donnelly said she doesn't expect, or receive, any favorable treatment from her father. "We try to keep a player-coach relationship on the basketball court. He treats me pretty much the same as any other player."
The youngest of four kids, Donnelly has grown accustomed to following in the footsteps of Megan, Colby and Molly - working hard not only on the basketball court, but also in the classroom, where she maintains a 3.73 grade-point average.
"I work pretty hard at both aspects," Donnelly said. "I don't feel too much pressure from anyone else, but I feel that I should do something."
During the fall, Donnelly plays field hockey for the Red Raiders, who reached the district tournament. But, once again, it was a less-than-enjoyable experience for Donnelly, who was unable to play in the team's first-round loss because of a tonsillectomy.
Despite her impressive resume, Donnelly has yet to be bombarded with scholarship offers and still is undecided about where she might play basketball next season, keeping a tight lip about her intentions - even with her father.
"She hasn't said much, but she is absolutely ready for college," the coach said. "She was the Mid-Wach MVP, averaged almost 19 points a game, and she has definitely developed her game. When she is on the court, she controls things."
"Personally, I'm just trying to pick up where I left off last year," Shea said. "I just want to win any way we can. I've heard from some D3 schools and a few D2 schools, but I don't really know yet. I'm looking around and keeping my options open. I definitely want to play. I would really like to go somewhere where I could contribute to a team and get a good education."
Division 1 Girls' Basketball at a Glance
2006-07 Central Mass. final: Holy Name 67, Westboro 49.
Top teams: Algonquin Regional, Doherty, Holy Name, Shepherd Hill Regional, Shrewsbury, Tantasqua Regional, Westboro.
Top players: Theresa Logan, Christine Otey, Algonquin; Sam Ashton, Shaleebra Cropper, Burncoat; Diamond Powell, Jewel White, Doherty; Shea Donnelly, Alyssa Fanelli, Fitchburg; Ali Haney, Gardner; Brittany Langford, Ryan Weeks, Holy Name; Amanda Levasseur, Leominster; Emily Reilly, Marlboro; Kaitlyn Barth, Alex Murray, Molly Malloy, Megan Malloy, Katelyn O'Rourke, Milford; Megan Goodnow, Madison Hawkins, Hannah Pirez, Nashoba Regional; Corey Conner, Kelly Donovan, Sarah Valacer, North Middlesex Regional; Megan Boutilette, Liz Brooks, Lauren O'Conner, Shepherd Hill; Kelsey Geidymin, Erin Kinback, Kelly McKenna, Shrewsbury; Nava Goodman, Courtney Nunnally, South; Allison Nalivaika, St. Peter-Marian; Chelsea Blair, Dannielle Croke, Tantasqua; Jess Auger, Sarah Borchelt, Wachusett Regional; Danielle Coffey, Annette Kristiansen, Emily Mongeau, Westboro.
Returning T&G Super Team members: Donnelly, White.
Coaching changes: Gary Kozloski for Naomi Martin at Nashoba; Patricia Lyons for Evan Barringer at Quabbin; Ellen Kaschuluk for Jim Oxford at South; Jim Oxford for Peter Bogren at Wachusett.
PHOTOG: T&G Staff/RICK CINCLAIR
CUTLINE: (PHOTO 1) The reigning Mid-Wach A MVP, Fitchburg's Shea Donnelly is determined not to let the Red Raiders get knocked out of the CMass tourney in the first round again. (PHOTO 2) Fitchburg's Shea Donnelly, with a 3.73 grade-point average, is keeping her college options open.