ROTTERDAM — The Schalmont High School girls’ basketball team is taking the next five weeks, its condensed Colonial Council season, and making the most of it in anticipation of a long-lasting successful run in Section II next year.
This year’s squad includes returners in juniors Payton Graber and Haley Burchhardt on the perimeter, plus freshman Karissa Antoine in the paint.
The Sabres roster also includes one senior, Mya Cordy and coach Jeff VanHoesen expanded his roster to add four players from last year’s JV squad– eighth-grader Gianna Cirilla, freshman Mikaela Frank, and sophomores Dannah Smith and Justine Spezza.
“This is great for them,” VanHoesen said earlier this week. “To battle against Payton, Haley and Karissa . . . it puts them in a position where, next year, they can really hit the ground running.”
The returning trio rejoiced when the “high” risk sports ban related to COVID-19 precautions had been lifted.
“It feels like forever,” Graber said of since the Sabres last played. “We’ve been waiting for the season to start for so long. We’re very excited. Ready to get back to play.”
The break allowed them to work on individual skills and more.
“We’ve been doing things we haven’t been doing for a while,” Burchhardt said. “We’ve had time to get into the weight room, build up muscle.”
Antoine missed having someone to post up against as full-contact practices were not possible under previous “high” risk regulations.
“The ball-handling aspect, I have to work on that,” Antoine said. “You have to get used to dribbling in a game as a post player, kicking out and knowing where everybody is.”
VanHoesen credits his returners with making the most of the extended break.
“They’re a smart group of kids. They know their weakness and they know their strengths,” he said. “I can already tell from individual workouts that . . . they’ve improved their games.”
Currently, the Sabres’ schedule only includes Colonial Council matchups. The first of those games is Friday against rival Mohonasen.