The girls’ basketball team battled through adversity to go on a run this season.
After the bumpy start the Whitman-Hanson Regional High girls’ basketball team got off to, it could have been easy to give up. Instead, the team did just the opposite.
The Panthers’ first three games were postponed due to COVID-19 protocols. They were even quarantined themselves. They didn’t take the court for nearly two weeks after their first scheduled game. They’d win their opener but dropped their next two games. And it was after their second straight loss, a 54-45 setback to Hingham, where the season would change.
“I had some people from outside the organization comment and say it looked like we lacked effort that game,” said second-year head coach Mike Costa. “I told my team at practice the next day that this is what it looks like from the outside and I don’t think this is who we are.”
The Panthers responded with a 29-point win over Duxbury, 61-32, which sparked a six-game winning streak, which included a 54-42 victory over Hingham the second time around.
“Sometimes the best remedy for a bad loss is a quick turnaround,” Costa said. “They were resilient all year. I couldn’t have been more proud of them.”
W-H went on to win two of their next four games and advanced to the Patriot Cup final, where it fell to Hanover and finished the season at 9-4.
“We had our goals at the beginning of the season to compete for the [league] title and compete for the [Patriot] Cup and we kind of just reminded each other of that every day, and they were able to turn it around,” Costa said. “Unfortunately, those two losses [at the beginning of the season] kind of put us in a hole, but at least we were able to compete and make it exciting at the end.”
Senior captains Reese Codero and Rylie Harlow and junior Abby Martin were all named Patriot League Keenan Division All-Stars.
Costa praised Codero and Harlow for hanging tough through an unprecedented campaign. Codero will play at Roger Williams University next year, while Harlow will hit the court at Fitchburg State University.
“I couldn’t have asked anything more from those two,” Costa said. “They showed up every day regardless of the situation, regardless of how many games were put on hold or if we were in quarantine. They continued to compete for us. They were big for us.”
Martin had a breakout season. She scored 14 points and grabbed 21 rebounds in a win over Marshfield in their second meeting, and netted 17 points and snagged nine boards in a Patriot Cup win over Plymouth North. She headlines the players set to return next season.
“Abby was awesome this year,” Costa said. “She took a big leap forward, in terms of her maturity as a player and person. She really became a leader on this team. I think when times got tough a lot of the girls on the team would look to Abby to figure it out for us. I think she is probably the best defender in the league. She can guard all five positions, she’s tough as nails and she kills the glass. She just does it all. We’re glad she has another year.”
Guards Lauren Dunn, a junior, and Caitlin Leahy, a sophomore, will also be back next year.
“I think that Duxbury game when she (Dunn) scored 20 points was her coming-out party,” Costa said. “She has always been one of our best defenders and it got to the point at the end of the season we were matching her up with the best guard on the other team.
“I couldn’t take Caitlin Leahy off the floor. I thought she deserved to be a league all-star too, so hopefully, she can use that as motivation moving forward. She can do it all. She can handle the ball, has great vision, she can make any type of pass — another girl that can defend all five positions.”
Costa said he believes this past season was a perfect learning experience for his club.
“I think they expected to be league champs and that didn’t happen and we know why that didn’t happen,” he said. “We didn’t focus on the little things that it takes to be league champs. I think they’re all motivated for this offseason to put a number up on that banner.”