Both Whitman-Hanson basketball teams will play in the tournament.
For the third straight season, Whitman-Hanson Regional High’s boys’ and girls’ basketball teams have clinched playoff berths.
This is also the fourth time in the last six years both W-H basketball programs have earned a spot in the postseason.
11 STRAIGHT FOR THE BOYS
It’s almost always a sure bet veteran coach Bob Rodgers will have his team in the postseason no matter who it’s tasked with replacing at the season’s outset.
The boys clinched their spot on Jan. 29 with a 67-57 victory over Scituate at home, giving them their 11th win of the season.
“I’m always happy for the kids when we clinch a tourney spot because it’s such a special experience,” said Rodgers.
Senior captain Joey DePina paced the Panthers (16-6) with 16 points, while junior point guard Stevie Kelly tossed in 11.
“Joey DePina has been the heart and soul of our team,” Rodgers said. “His leadership has been instrumental in our team’s success. He is such a great teammate who is loved and respected by everyone on the club.
“Stevie Kelly has been the driving force behind our team this year. He has grown so much as a player and as a person. We are very proud of him.”
The Panthers have been buoyed by a balanced attack all season.
“Our depth is definitely our advantage,” Rodgers said. “We play more kids than most teams and while some may criticize that approach, we feel like having as many kids as possible contributing we create a culture where everyone has motivation to practice hard every day.”
Rodgers said his club knows exactly what it has to work on.
“Overall our team toughness and rebounding is an important part of the game that we have to improve,” said the coach.
The Panthers will aim to keep it simple in the playoffs.
“The only goal is to win that first game,” Rodgers said. “You can’t get too far ahead of yourself. Every team in the tournament can beat anyone, so you just have to stay focused on the game in front of you.”
GIRLS HEADED BACK
It’s taken a complete team effort for the girls’ basketball team to clinch a spot in the tournament for the third year in a row.
Jenna Olem’s club (12-8) picked up its 10th victory Feb. 13 with a 53-44 triumph over Silver Lake behind a monster 18-point, 15-rebound effort from senior captain Kathryn Dunn.
“Every team sets out to clinch a tournament spot,” Olem said. “As the season wore on I knew it was definitely within reach and it was just a matter of when.”
After losing senior captain and point guard Erin Leahy in the first practice of the year, the Panthers have been piecing it together.
“A big thing at beginning of season was stressing our depth and players filling in necessary roles when called on,” Olem said. “We’ve had big nights from a different players at different points in the season. When different players are able to stand out on different nights, it is a strength to our team.”
W-H has relied heavily on its defense (allowing 41 PPG), as its offense has been inconsistent at times, averaging 53 PPG in wins and 35 PPG in losses.
“We’re working on getting off to better starts offensively in the first quarter, knowing how to close out teams when we have a lead late and rebounding,” Olem said.
“Pull an upset in the first-round tournament said,” Olem said.