Southampton Academy ‘girly girls’ end great season

Published 8:51 am Friday, April 3, 2009

The Southampton Academy Lady Raiders finished a very successful season 23-2 with only one conference loss and one state playoff loss in overtime.

Prior to the season we expected to have 10 players returning, but three girls decided to cheer and another developed health issues. The six remaining girls were smart, skilled and hard-working. One junior varsity player, Courtney Beltrami, in order for us to have seven players, offered to play both JV and varsity, which meant two grueling practices a day. This sacrifice was greatly appreciated.

Our first five wins went smoothly, and the team was developing a style of play that included tough man-to-man defense, fast break, multiple half-court offenses, and ball control to protect a lead. One week prior to exam week and Christmas break, disaster struck during a practice. Our top scorer broke both bones in her shooting arm during a rebound drill. This, combined with a flu bug in two other players, cost us our first and only conference loss. Good luck followed in the fact that we had more than four weeks until our next game to heal a broken arm and fight the flu.

Our team seemed to gel as the season progressed as each player learned her role. Catherine Glover, our sophomore point guard, got stronger with the ball and became comfortable running the offense. Alison Pulley, rock solid on both ends of the court, had a knack for making a big play when we really needed it. Sophomore Ginny Taylor shared starting time and became our most improved player.

Late in the season our players intercepted some Internet blog from the state’s fifth-ranked team that referred to us as a bunch of “girly girls.” We embraced the name and later crushed this team 32- 13 in the conference championship finals. The SA girly girls were the Virginia Commonwealth Conference season champs and VCC tournament champs and reached a state ranking of third. We racked up all kinds of awards and firsts for the season.

Gabby Gatten was All-Conference, conference Co-Most Valuable Player, All-Tournament, tournament MVP and became the first SA girl to ever score 1,000 points. Lindsay Raulston was All-Conference, All-Tournament, All-Academic and became the second 1,000-point scorer. Forrest Best, a defensive standout, was All-Conference honorable mention.

The SA coaching staff, including my assistants, Chuck Lilley and Connie Poland, received for the second year in a row Coaches of the Year in the VCC.

I have coached a number of different girls basketball teams over the years. I’ve had several YBOA national championship teams, several AAU state championship teams, national AAU runner-up and other VCC championships, but none compare with the enjoyment I have had with this group of overachievers. These girly girls were tough as nails.

SA was always the smallest team in stature but the biggest in heart. This group was so smart that they ran 12 different offenses, executed multiple presses and inbound plays, and coaches could make game adjustments that the players actually grasped.

Most important, this team enjoyed playing together and appeared to have fun both on court and off. Go, SA Girly Girls!