It was unavoidable. Arlington Catholic girls’ basketball coach Dave Brady knew this year would be different. After two seasons with star guards Emma Roberson and Nicole Catizone running the show, and landing the Division 2 state championship in 2010-11, the Cougars would be forced to find a new identity.
“We weren’t exactly starting over,” Brady said, “but we were just rebuilding from something that had been established for so long with Emma and Nicole. So we were just kind of finding our roles, and when that’s happening, things aren’t perfect, but we’re getting there.”
Not perfect, maybe. But still very good. At 16-5 Brady’s team has proven that it will once again be a factor in the Division 2 North sectional tourney.
And for a program that has made the sectional’s final game at the Tsongas Center each of the last four years, the expectations remain high.
“We expect big things every year,” said junior captain Maura Buckley , who played a big role two years ago in the team’s state title run.
“People might not expect as much from us, but being the underdog is better in a way. We weren’t expected to win it two years ago. Hopefully we can have the same result.”
Buckley has been key to keeping Arlington Catholic among the state’s best teams. The 5-foot-10 forward fills up the stat sheet each game, averaging 19 points, 11 rebounds, and 5 assists per contest. But it is far from a one-person show.
The team’s other four starters — junior guard Brittany Kotzuba (averaging 9 points per game), junior center Presley Silva (8.5), sophomore point guard Melissa Rogers (7.5), and senior captain Allie Whitney (6.5) — all have the ability to put up double-digit points.
“For people that think we’re not good enough, we want to prove them wrong,” Whitney said. “We thrive on proving that we’re better than people think.”
Brady’s team can score, but it does not score at the rate it has in past years.
With Roberson and Catizone, the Cougars played at a faster pace, averaging almost 60 possessions per game.
Now they are closer to 40 possessions per game, and play a gritty full-court man-to-man defense.
It is a different look, but it has worked.
“Every year we lose great players,” said senior captain Mary Kate Brady , the coach’s daughter. “But we’re still a great team because we work so well together.”
The Cougars, as usual, will be one team to watch come tournament time.
Here are four more area girls’ teams to keep an eye on in the win-or-go-home postseason.
■ Algonquin Regional (17-3): It is not necessarily the teams with the best records that do well in the tournament, it is the teams that are playing their best when the postseason starts. The Tomahawks have a great record, but after back-to-back losses in the middle of the season, they won eight in a row. Behind junior Amanda Murphy (who scored a combined 44 points in wins over Westborough and Franklin), they are on a roll going into the Division 1 Central bracket.
■ Medfield (19-2): There are not many trios better than what the Warriors have to offer. Between junior point guard Lauren Petit , the co-MVP for the Tri-Valley League, senior forward and former TVL MVP Jen Narlee , and junior slasher Kristin Fechtelkotter , the Warriors have a variety of options if one of its standouts happens to go cold in the Division 2 South tourney. They closed out the season by handing Oliver Ames its first loss, 61-55.
■ Nashoba Regional (18-2): The Chieftains look poised for yet another deep run in the Division 2 Central tournament with one of the bracket’s deepest lineups. In sophomore forwards Erin Cressman and Nicole Boucher , sophomore guard Kelly Poole, and junior guard Emmalie Keenan , coach Beth McNamara has a choice of players with the ability to score that she can send out on the floor. Nashoba ended the regular season on an eight-game winning streak in which they beat their opponents by an average of 25 points.
■ Weston (10-11): After missing out on the postseason last year, the Wildcats could be dangerous in the Division 3 North tournament, building on the experience of their difficult Dual County League schedule. Plus, having one of the state’s best players, three-time DCL Small Division MVP Saliah Serrette , on your side cannot hurt.
Phil Perry can be e-mailed at paperry27@ gmail.com.