The five players on the 2014 Gazette All-Area girls’ basketball team had good statistics. That’s a given.
What separated the group from their peers is that each was asked to assume a different role this season and more than answered the challenge.
Here’s a look at this year’s team.
Carly Boland (Shenendehowa)
To be selected as the top player in the Suburban Council is an honor. Rising to that level as a 10th-grader indicates a player with special talents.
“I’ve seen her play the last three years, and I know what a talent she is,” said second-year Shenendehowa coach Joe Murphy of Boland, who played on his freshman team as an eighth-grader. “Does it surprise me that she was the league MVP as a sophomore? A little. But I’m biased.”
Boland averaged 19.3 points per game, the points coming from both inside and out as she led the Lady Plainsmen to the Class AA championship.
“She was our best three-point shooter,” said Murphy of Boland, who made 49 percent of her attempts from behind the arc, including a 6-for-7 effort in the Class AA final against Albany.
Boland hit 55 percent of her shots overall as she developed into a more dangerous scoring threat as her role on the floor changed.
“She had been more of a small forward, and this year, she played more like a combination guard/forward,” said Murphy. “She’s skilled enough to shoot from outside, and get to the basket.”
A 93 student in the classroom, Murphy pointed to Boland’s aptitude on the court as a big reason for her success,
“She has a very high basketball IQ,” said Murphy. “That’s why she can adapt to whatever we ask her to do.”
Murphy used the lanky Boland at the point of the Lady Plainsmen’s zone defense, continuing a tradition started by longtime Shen coach Ken Strube.
Boland was in double figures in scoring every game for the 17-5 Lady Plainsmen, with a pair of 28-point games.
Jenni Barra (Shaker)
No player in Section II had her role change as drastically and unexpectedly, and handled is as seamlessly, as Barra.
The senior went from shooting guard to running the Shaker offense when veteran point guard Adriene Gambles went down with a season-ending knee injury in late December.
Barra handled the switch flawlessly, keeping her teammates involved while maintaining her ability to score from the outside or off the drive.
Her play helped Shaker go 16-0 in the Suburban Council and 19-1 overall,
“When we lost Adriene, a four-year player, Jenni stepped right in,” said Shaker coach Emily Caschera-Blowers. “There was no hesitation, no worry about her stats.”
Barra’s scoring numbers did take a small hit, but her overall contribution more than made up the difference.
“We wouldn’t have been 19-1 without her playing like she did,” praised Caschera-Blowers.
Barra had played some point guard as she moved up the ranks in the Shaker program. And she often had that role in practice, even before Gambles was injured.
“She had played point, and she played point in practice, but the job she did under those circumstances was phenomenal,” said Caschera-Blowers.
“She gets it. It’s like having another coach on the floor. She understands what we’re trying to do, what sets we’re trying to run, and she knows everyone’s role.”
Barra averaged 13 points per game, and went for 26 and 25 in the first two games when her role changed.
“She did a great job handling the ball, knowing where to get it to her teammates where they were comfortable,” said Caschera-Blowers.
HAILEE METZOLD (Schalmont)
If there was a player in Section II more determined to put a team on her shoulders, it was Metzold, who willed the Lady Sabres to a spot in the Class B semifinals.
“There were times she just took it upon herself to get us going, usually by going to the basket,” said Schalmont coach Jeff VanHoesen. “She has that abilty to adjust.”
Opponents also discovered how well-rounded the 11th-grader’s game is.
“Every game we went into, Hailee was the clear-cut focus of the defense of the the other team. They’d try to take away what she does, but she can post a smaller defender and drive past a bigger defender,” said VanHoesen.
“She’s a complete player. She scores, rebounds, plays defense. She was the second-best rebounder in our league, and she plays point guard. She can hit the three, she can get to the rim.
“She defends the other teams’ bigs, and she does a good job of getting her teammates involved. Every phase of her game is good.”
VanHoesen attibutes Metzold’s success to two elements.
“She’s so athletic and aggressive,” he said, “and combined with her abilty to score, that makes her dangerous.
“She was consistent. If she had an eight-point game, it was because we were comfortably ahead early in the game, and Hailee was looking to get some of the other girls’ involved.”
With her added defensive responsibilties, Metzold’s numbers took a little hit. The tradeoff was fine with both player and coach.
“Her points per game was down this year, but I told her before the season that we had some shooters and she might not score as much because she would have to get others involved. She did a good job with that,” VanHoesen said. “But she still has that ability to amp it up if she sees things aren’t going well, or teams are trying to take the shooters away.
“She’s probably one of the most dangerous kids in Section II in the open floor. She can pull up and hit the jumper, she can finish and she can kick it out. She’s just an absolute nightmare to cover in the open court.”
NICOLE CONLEY (Scotia-Glenville)
Any worries first-year Scotia-Glenville varsity coach Carlin DeMarinis had about taking over the Lady Tartans the season after Cassie Broadhead graduated were allayed by the play of Conley.
The 5-10 junior started strong and helped Scotia to a tie for third place in the Foothills Council in a year many felt the Lady Tartans might struggle, with the best player in program history gone.
“She stepped right into that leadership role, and I also think that, maybe in her head, she tought it was her time,” said DeMarinis. “Cassie Broadhead was such a good player for so many years, that it was a tough spot to step into.”
Another player with a lanky, athletic frame, Conley also displayed good range to go with her ability in the post.
“She’s got a geat work ethic, that’s the first thing that stands out about Nicole,” said DeMarinis, who coached Conley during the offseason. “She’s got natural abilty, especially when it comes to finishing at the rim. She gets a lot of putbacks.
“You see her, and she’s skinny, tall and lanky with very long arms and think she’s not that strong. She has that knack for finding the ball.
“But she really worked on developing her 15-footer, too.”
Conley opened the season with a 17-point effort against Bishop Maginn, then hit for 20 against Johnstown. She failed to reach double figures only four times in 20 games, despite drawing extra attention from opposing teams and having to work hard on the backboards.
“We didn’t keep track of rebounds, but she had a double-double nearly every game,” DeMarinis said.
NICOLE RIDDICK (Colonie)
The senior was the major reason Colonie stayed afloat after losing four key players from a team that made the Class AA sectional semifinals.
“She’s got to be on any all-star team,” said one Suburban Council coach. “Without her, Colonie would have really struggled. I think she had a tremendous season.”
Riddick was indeed the glue that held the Garnet Raiders together through an 8-11 season.
The UMass.-Lowell-bound Riddick opened the season in a big way, putting up 29 points against Columbia. She also had 34 points as Colonie beat Queensbury in the Raiders’ holiday tournament, and scored less than 12 points just once the rest of the season.
She finished third in the Suburban Council in scoring, and went for 20 in a late-season win over Guilderland.
Riddick wound up averaging 15.7 ppg, five points better than she put up as a junior, despite being Colonie’s only legitimate scoring threat.
Player, School, Year Avg
Carly Boland, Shen, 10 19.3
Jenni Barra, Shaker, 12 13.0
Nicole Riddick, Colon, 11 15.7
Hailee Metzold, Schal, 11 15.0
Nicole Conley, Scotia, 11 16.3
Jenna Giacone, Beth, 10 13.5
De’Janaire Deas, H. Names, 10 15.7
Merrick Rowland, Shaker, 12 10.0
Hope Cerasulo, Johns, 12 15.8
Gabby Giacone, Beth, 11 14.8
Haley Kilmartin, Fort Plain, 12 17.5
Mylah Chandler, Albany, 11 11.5
Sydney Brown, Shen, 9 12.1
Saeeda Abdul-Aziz, Mohon, 9 14.7
Emily Parslow , Fonda, 12 20.1
Honorable mention: Paige Gallo (Ballston Spa), Becky Rossier, Sage VanAmerongen (Shaker); Selena Lott (Columbia); Morgan Sullivan (Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake); Nina Fedullo (Amsterdam); Alexus Durham (Schenectady); Talya Williams (Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons); Courtney Pingelski (Mechanicville); Caitlin Estes (Scotia-Glenville); Brianne O’Rourke (Johnstown), Erica Chase (Galway); Julie Hampton (Mayfield); Abby Boyer (Fort Plain); Amanda Roney, Carley Ryan (Middleburgh); Rachel Gamache (Duanesburg); Nicole Barratiere (Mekeel Christian Academy); Lauren Archer (Schoharie).