Sports

Newton North girls’ basketball coming of age

1/22/13: Newton, MA: Braintree HS girl's basketball player Ashley Russell (10,top) is pictured as she battles for a loose ball with Newton North's Infiniti Thomas-Waheed during a game at Newton North HS. section: sowk topic: 27sohoop (Jim Davis/Globe Staff)
Newton North's Infiniti Thomas-Waheed (bottom) battled with Braintree’s Ashley Russell last week. (Jim Davis/Globe Staff)The Boston Globe

Many teams enter the season with three goals: win their league, make it to the tournament, and stay alive.

But not Newton North.

“In the past, I’ve spent too much time looking forward, missing opportunities day-to-day,” coach Linda Martindale said.

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Focus on the present and worry about the future tomorrow is the mind-set second-year coach Martindale tried to instill in her players last season, and it has carried over.

Instead of focusing on a tournament berth and league a league title, the Tigers focus more on the little things that every team must do in order to win games. For the Tigers, averaging 40 rebounds and minimizing turnovers are key.

“Forty rebounds a game give us 40 more possessions, and keeping below 15 turnovers allows them to have no more than 15 possessions go their way,” Martindale said. “By giving the kids goals we can achieve every night, we can look at where we are. It’s the idea that if we can continue to focus on those small goals we’ll reach an ultimate goal.”

However, the Tigers do not have an ultimate goal. The ultimate goal is unspoken. The Tigers want to be in the hunt for a state championship, but they don’t talk about it. They don’t even talk about a game next week.

“We don’t focus on next week’s game. Take care of business tonight and worry about Friday’s game tomorrow,” Martindale said

The Tigers’ only loss this season came from No. 3 Braintree. After the 19-point loss to the Wamps early in the season, the Tigers changed their game plan.

“We really knew that we had to come at them, so in order to prepare for that we had very intense practices.”

In order to prepare for the rematch with the Wamps, Martindale bought in special help. She gathered the boys’ junior varsity team to pressure her squad, and play physical.

“They are very physically tough. We got very frustrated against the boys, we got rattled, and we knew a team like Braintree would rattle you, and that is how we prepared every practice,” Martindale said.

The strategy paid off as Newton North beat Braintree the second time around.

While Newton North’s stunning victory over Braintree may be viewed as a statement win, the Tigers felt otherwise. The victory, however, gave them recognition. It allowed the Tigers (13-1) to be recognized for their superb play not just against Braintree, but throughout the season.

“I think we had not been recognized as a strong team up to that point. We were an underdog, but we never really felt like an underdog, Martindale said. “We really believe in ourselves, so I think internally within the team we felt really good about ourselves.”

The Tigers suffered a tournament loss to Franklin in the second round last season, but they never bring it up.

“We don’t look at last year. We don’t talk about last year, and we don’t talk about the playoffs,” Martindale said. “What really motivates us is whatever team we’re playing that night. We are night afraid to lose, we don’t talk about losing, we’re not afraid of it, but we just focus on the goal we have at hand.”

GAMES OF THE WEEK

No.4 Billerica at No. 14 Andover, Tuesday, 7 p.m. — The Merrimack Valley is one tough conference. At this point any team is beatable. The Indians will travel to Andover for their first meeting with the Golden Warriors. Billerica will have a lot to handle with senior Devon Caveney. Caveney came up big for the Golden Warriors’ win over Central Catholic, and will look to be a big factor again against Billerica.

Revere at No.9 Lynn English, Friday, 7 p.m. — Lynn English has been on a roll lately, but they might encounter some problems when they go against Northeastern league foe, Revere. The Patriots handed the Bulldogs their first loss of the season and will be a tough match up. The Bulldogs will rely on junior guard Diondra Woumn to lead the way.

No.15 St. Mary’s at No.12 Arlington Catholic, Fri., 6:30 p.m. — Arlington Catholic will look for revenge for an early-season loss to Catholic Central rival Spartans. If the Cougars want to win this game they must contain Brianna Rudolph and crafty point guard Sharell Sanders, who controls the tempo.

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