Marianapolis girls win first NEPSAC championship

By Denise Coffey - Staff Writer
Thompson - posted Tue., Mar. 6, 2012
Coaches Charlie Baron (standing), Marty Stolz and the MPS girls' basketball team brought home the school's first NEPSAC championship trophy. Photo by D. Coffey.
Coaches Charlie Baron (standing), Marty Stolz and the MPS girls' basketball team brought home the school's first NEPSAC championship trophy. Photo by D. Coffey.

The Marianapolis Preparatory School victory bell rang out on March 4, after the Golden Knights girls' basketball team won its first New England Preparatory School Athletic Council Class C Championship game by beating Kimball Union Academy, 56-49. In order to get to the big game, MPS (number 3 seed) had to go through Canterbury (number 6 seed) on March 2, and Lincoln (number 2 seed) on March 3. The quarterfinal, semifinal and championship games all had two things in common: the teams they were playing were very good, and the Knights had little idea of what they were up against.

NEPSAC prohibits scouting for the championship games, so Stolz had to be creative. He went to the Internet but could only find tidbits of information. For the quarterfinal game, he developed a game plan that would deny the ball to Canterbury's top player, Krista O'Gara, who scored more than half of her team's points this season.

The plan didn't work well in the first half. O'Gara made what Stolz called “unbelievable shots.” He also found out that some Canterbury players could shoot three-pointers, something he hadn't expected. The Knights were able to learn quickly, according to Stolz, and as the game wore on, they grew more comfortable. “The girls are smart. They anticipate,” he said. “We win more games with our head.”

Stolz credits the philosophy that he and head coach Charlie Baron share about getting their players ready for college-level play. He lets his players call most of the defensive sets. It was their ability to feel the flow of the game and make adjustments that helped seal the win over Canterbury, according to Stolz.

When the Knights played Lincoln in the semi-final game on March 3, they knew the opponent’s strengths, having played them twice this season. MPS fell behind by 12 points early in the game. Stolz credits his players with getting Lincoln's big players into foul trouble, constantly changing the defense and keeping focused.

“They never stopped doing what they were supposed to be doing,” Stolz said. “They didn't panic. The four forwards were phenomenal.”

In the closing minutes of the game, the guards took charge. Becky Stolz and Jill Bodreau hit back-to-back three-pointers. Julia Ford hit four for four from the free-throw line. They won the semi-final game, 61-49.

When MPS played Kimball Union on March 4 for the championship, they had no idea what they were up against. Stolz ran his team's standard defense and let the girls make adjustments as they played. The Knights came back from an eight-point deficit to lead by one at the half.

“The girls stepped it up,” Stolz said. “They moved the ball around with great teamwork and great passing.” By focusing their defense on two key KU players, and running inside screens, the Knights were finally able to get their inside game going, Stolz said.

He credited Sara Morrow with pestering KU, Maggie Dalton-Hoffman with being a force on the boards, and Jill Bodreau with playing great defense on one of KU's better players. Guard Becky Stolz filled in as forward and did a good job on the boards, and Julia Ford made some key shots and passes. Senior Melanie Mills was selected Most Valuable Player.

Stolz praised all of his team for an outstanding season. “Those other 10 players lift the spirits of the starters,” he said. “They can lose sight of how important they are during the games.” He also credited fans with providing crucial support during the playoffs. Even opposing coaches were impressed with the fan support.

Baron said the girls played well as a team throughout the series. “It was truly a team effort,” he said. “The kids really came out and played hard.”

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