WRHS freshmen move up to varsity team; Experienced girls' hoopsters show youngsters how it's done.
HOLDEN - A perfect blending of younger and older players is one of the major reasons the Wachusett Regional High School girls' basketball team has been so successful this winter.
"When we began the season, we had the challenge of putting together a team with a few very experienced players and a lot of players with virtually no varsity experience," said Wachusett coach Jim Oxford.
"It was a rough start because the seniors were very used to how we do things in our program, and we had a lot of younger players who were getting their first exposure to high school basketball," he added.
Oxford brought up four freshman players to the varsity squad: guard/forward Rachel Aho, point guard Brittany Charlonne, forward Maty Diabete and guard Amelia Hirtle. They have all impressed their teammates and coaches.
Aho is averaging 6.6 points per game; Charlonne, 5 points a game; and Diabete, the first off the bench in games, is at 4.8.
"And Amelia is the fastest of all of them," Oxford said. "She is going to have a tremendous career here."
Sophomore Jennifer Windler is another young player, good enough to be brought up from the junior varsity. She is averaging 5.9 points per game.
"We're still working on the dynamics of how the younger kids understand their roles and responsibilities," Oxford said. "On the other side of it, the seniors and more experienced players are learning that they have to act as mentors and help the younger players throughout the season. It took a while for everyone to get comfortable, but we're certainly getting there."
The outstanding record of the Mountaineers is indeed proof that the 2011-12 team has jelled.
Entering the week of Feb. 13, the final days of the regular season, the Mountaineers were 15-3 overall and leading the Mid-Wach A League with an 8-1 slate. Wachusett, ranked No. 2 behind Holy Name among all Central Mass. girls' hoop teams, is aiming for its fourth straight Mid-Wach A crown.
The Wachusett season began in December with a midmonth 71-23 win over St. Peter-Marian. The Mountaineers followed with seven straight victories until a very strong Reading team ended the streak.
But led by senior captains Shannon Holt, Briana Schnare and Katie Murray, the Mountaineers got right back to winning and are unbeaten in February, including a recent two-point victory over Algonquin in a key league matchup.
Center-forward Holt, who will play at Bridgeport University next year, leads the team with 12.4 points. Forward Schnare, off to Manhattan in the fall, is next at 11.3 points. Murray has averaged 5.1 points.
"I like passing our lessons along," Holt said.
Added Schnare, "The younger players have really adapted well."
And Murray said, "We all just blend great together on and off the court."
"We have three senior captains, who understand the level of seriousness of a high school program and have introduced that level to the younger players," Oxford said. "They've really done well working together, and each game we've been getting better, peaking in the postseason. Hopefully, we'll finish as one of the top four seeds and then make it to WPI again."
Other key players on the team include point guard senior Alyssa Lanpher, an excellent playmaker; Maggie Diggins; Celina Frias; Kali DiPilla; and Mikayla Singas.
PHOTOG: JAY GEARAN
CUTLINE: Wachusett Regional High School freshman Brittany Charlone, left, stands with senior girls' basketball captains Briana Schnare, Katie Murray and Shannon Holt.