The best never stop working.
To improve their game.
To come back from injury.
To make their teammates better.
The four seniors and one junior on this year’s Daily Gazette All-Area girls’ basketball team are prime examples of that type of commitment.
Mekeel Christian Academy’s Macie Holmes worked to recover from a knee injury that wiped out her senior year. She was rewarded with a 20-0 regular season.
Shenendehowa junior Carly Boland made it a point to diversify her offense, the effort helping Shenendehowa to a 20-2 season and a spot in the Class AA final.
Schalmont’s Hailee Metzold ignored a painful bone spur to lead her teammates to a semifinal spot in Class B.
Scotia-Glenville senior forward Nicole Conley didn’t let a third coaching change in as many years get to her, as she was the constant in the Lady Tartans’ 18-3 season.
Bethlehem senior Gabby Giacone kicked up the focus and intensity, lifting her classmates to a sectional title in their final chance.
Boland, Conley and Metzold are All-Area first-team repeaters from last winter.
CARLY BOLAND (Shenendehowa)
The lone underclassman on this year’s team, Boland followed a sophomore season which saw her named Suburban Council Player of the Year with another outstanding year.
Shenendehowa coach Joe Murphy felt the 11th-grader improved in a number of ways.
“She took the next step forward this year. She really played well in big games,” said Murphy.
Boland has always been a steady scorer, but Murphy was pleased with what she did to improve the other facets of her game.
“She worked to improve her offense. Her rebounding and steals numbers were up,” he said.
Able to get points from behind the three-point line or driving to the basket, Boland was also important defensively at the top of Shenendehowa’s 1-3-1 zone.
“She fit into that role so well,” Murphy said. “When she’s out there, we can be more aggressive on the wings, because Carly gets her hands on passes, or cuts down the passing lanes. She baits people into making a [bad] pass. She really disrupts things.”
It’s an element of Boland’s game that Murphy thinks is under appreciated.
“She’s not flashy, but she’s effective. She’s the type of player that you think had a nice game, then you look at the stats, and see what she’s done,” he said.
“You have to see her play a few times to really appreciate how good a player she is, and the things she can do on the court. You have to watch to understand how talented she is.”
NICOLE CONLEY (Scotia-Glenville)
The worst-case scenario for a new coach is having a senior leader that doesn’t buy into the system.
Conley helped make Jeff Stopera’s first year as the Lady Tartans’ head coach a comfortable one.
“The first thing I noticed about Nicole was that she was the hardest-working player on the court, and she maintained that level every day,” said Stopera.
Making it more difficult for Conley is that she was playing for her third different head coach in as many years.
“She’s the best captain a coach could ask for,” said Stopera. “She sets the tone, and everybody looks to her.”
Conley’s role in Scotia’s 18-3 season went far above being an inspirational leader.
Conley also led her team in rebounding and was the premier inside player in the Foothills Council.
“She was just dominant,” said Stopera. “She’s so long, players had trouble getting shots off against her because she’s so active with her hands. She carried us on defense all year.”
Conley was in double figures in all but two games, and closed the season with 15 straight games of 10 or more points. In Scotia’s Class A semifinal loss to Troy, she scored 27 points, two off her season high.
She also helped break presses, and not just by being an outlet.
“My philosophy is that post players also need to be able to handle the ball,” Stopera said. “They have to be able to dribble, run. She was breaking the press by bringing the ball up.
“She’s very athletic, and she picks up things very quickly.”
Stopera would not be surprised if Conley went on to have a solid college career.
“She’s right around 5-foot-11, 6-feet,” he said. “She’s going to go to Union and play basketball, and I think she can be a good college player.”
GABBY GIACONE (Bethlehem)
Bethlehem coach Matt Bixby had no doubt that his senior was the best player in Section II this year.
“Gabby was the most dominant player in the section. She was a nightmare for other teams to match up against,” said Bixby.
Giacone, who will play for Northeastern next winter, is the rare combination of size, skill and desire that coaches crave.
“She’s close to 6-1, and she’s big and strong, so physically, she can push people around,” said Bixby. “And she’s also quick and athletic enough to play outside. She can shoot, and she can drive past people.
“She’s a nightmare to try to match up with defensively.”
Giacone was named the Most Valuable Player by the Suburban Council coaches after averaging 21.7 points in leading the Lady Eagles to a 15-1 record and the South Division title. She finished with a 21.0 ppg average in 24 games total, as Bethlehem advanced to the state Class AA public schools semifinals.
“She didn’t take any games off, and she played well against the better teams,” said Bixby. “The biggest thing I noticed about her was her leadership.
“After we lost a game to Troy in late December, we knew things weren’t going the way we wanted. I told them that, and the players knew it. Gabby pretty much then put the team on her shoulders, getting us to where we wanted to go.”
Giacone saved her best for the Section II Class AA final against Shenendehowa. She scored 12 of her game-high 25 points in the first quarter to set the tone for that game, as Bethlehem won its first title since 2009.
“She came out with the big first quarter to get us going,” Bixby said. “She just had that look, that she wasn’t going to be denied.
“The most significant thing is not only that she was our leading scorer and rebounder, but she also had to defend against Shenendehowa’s best player, Carly Boland, and she held Carly to eight points.”
MACIE HOLMES (Mekeel Christian Academy)
A year ago, Holmes missed the entire basketball season after a serious knee injury ended her soccer season prematurely.
This season, the Lady Lions best player looked like she had never been way.
Not only did Holmes lead Section II with 81 made three-pointers — more than all but 18 schools in Section II, 10 of those either Class AA or Class A — she directed the offense as Mekeel went 20-0 during the regular season.
“We never set out for it,” said Mekeel coach Guy DeAngelis. “She can get points so many ways. She can drive, she can pull up and shoot, she gets to the free-throw line. I really never worried about her putting points on the board.”
The only fault her coach found with Holmes’ game was minor.
“There were so many times I wanted her to be more selfish,” he said. “She was more concerned with running the team, setting her teammates up to be successful, because she knew the way we expected it to be done.”
On the rare occasions it took some time for her to find her shooting touch, Holmes did what all good players do.
“When we played Middleburgh at home, it was basically for the league championship,” DeAngelis said. “She did not score in the first quarter, but she made two or three hustle plays, had a ton of assists and a couple of steals.
“We were able to build a lead, and once she got going, we put them away. It was a perfect example of her leading the team.”
Holmes finished her career with 1,117 points, 315 assists and 322 steals.
“She is the real deal,” said DeAngelis, “not only because of her statistics, but the way she made better players of her teammates.”
HAILEE METZOLD (Schalmont)
A combination of skill and drive, Metzold was a two-sport standout at Schalmont.
While her basketball teams didn’t have the postseason success her soccer teams enjoyed, it wasn’t because the senior wasn’t willing her teammates to victory.
Her senior season saw Metzold — also bound for Union — emerge as the team’s vocal leader.
“I think she matured as a player, in regard to her leadership,” said Schalmont coach Jeff Van Hoesen. “She became more vocal on the floor, in a supportive way.
“I think it’s from having a major role playing soccer, then going into basketball. She’s played in so many big games, that it sort of naturally started to come to her this year. It comes with age and maturity, and being in those situations.”
Metzold was a handful for opposing defenses in the Colonial Council. Never shy about driving to the basket, she was able to beat defenses who sagged off her by hitting shots from the outside.
“She’s always been able to shoot a little from the outside,” said Van Hoesen. “She’s going to get steals and turn them into points. She goes to the basket and gets to the free-throw line.”
The league’s MVP and its top scholar-athlete added another element her senior year.
“She worked on her three-point shot. She developed a nice step back that she put into her game,” Van Hoesen said.
Van Hoesen knew what he was going to get from Metzold each game.
“I think the thing that really stands out is how consistent she’s been,” he said of the player that came up to the varsity as an eighth-grader and finished with 1,275 points, second on the school’s all-time scoring list.
“I knew I was going to get 18 or 19 points, and 10 or 12 rebounds a night from her. I could almost take it for granted that she’d get it done.”
Metzold missed few games during her career, despite going from soccer to basketball every season with little or no break.
“She’s such a fierce competitor. She actually played the last two years with a painful bone spur in her ankle,” Van Hosen said. “She never complained, never asked to come out. I know it bothered her more than she said, but she toughed it out.”
Player, School, Year, Avg.
Carly Boland, Shen, 11, 20.4
Nicole Conley, Scotia, 12, 18.0
Gabby Giacone, Beth, 12, 21.0
Macie Holmes, Mekeel, 12, 19.5
Hailee Metzold, Schalmont, 19.3
Saeeda Abdul-Aziz, Mohon, 10, 18.2
Sidney Brown, Shen, 10, 14.1
Mylah Chandler, Albany, 12, 15.4
Jenna Giacone, Beth, 11, 13.3
CeCe Mayo, Shaker, 10, 14.4
De’Jenaire Deas, Holy Names, 11, 15.0
Caitlin Estes, Scotia, 11, 16.0
Nina Fedullo, Ams, 10, 15.7
Selena Lott, Columbia, 10, 13.2
Emily Parslow, Fonda, 12, 22.9
Honorable mention: Samantha Laranjo (Averill Park), Olivia Allrich (Ballston Spa), Jordan Hipwell (Ballston Spa), Aliyah Massaconi (Colonie), Nastasja Johnston (Columbia), Zibby Eckhardt (Guilderland), Becky Rossier (Shaker), Courtney Lane (Bishop Maginn), Cy’Anne Frazier (Schenectady), Erica Kordjyak (Broadalbin-Perth), Megan Anagnostopolus (Johnstown), Juliana Taylor (Fonda-Fultonville), Rachel Strijek (Schalmont), Monique Britton (BKW), Ariannah Logan (Canajoharie), Jordyn Logan (Canajoharie), Rachel Gamache (Duanesburg), Carley Ryan (Middleburgh), Courtney Pingelski (Mechanicville).
Categories: High School Sports