By PHIL BRODSKY
Orange Live Sports Writer
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When Michelle Martinik took over as Amity girls basketball coach two years ago, she found her roster full of young, inexperienced but eager freshmen along with a handful of more experienced upper classmen. While the Lady Spartans took their share of lumps and bumps that first year, they also won enough games to qualify for both the Southern Connecticut Conference and CIAC Class LL tournaments. Last year Martinik’s once totally inexperienced freshmen had matured into more experienced but still eager and willing to learn as much as they could about playing scholastic basketball.
Amity again qualified for both the SCC and State tournaments and ended up with an 11-11 record. Now, the former Masuk High of Monroe star cager and starting point guard on Southern Connecticut State University’s 2007-08 NCAA Division II National Championship Team, finds herself with a roster loaded with battle-scarred, veteran juniors that have a wealth of experience under their belts. Instead of hoping just to qualify for post-season play, the current Lady Spartans are expecting to move up and become a significant factor in their division and conference.
According to Martinik (who also teachers in Bethany), “After being so young two years ago, we now have a big junior class of veteran players. Because they have played together for so long, they know what to expect of each other. They also enjoy playing together and are all excited to see how much they have developed as individual players and as a team. Since this is their third year with me, I think they know what to do in most situations. They all love the game and have an amazing work ethic. I’ve never coached a team that’s this dedicated. It’s a special group of girls. Now, it’s time for them to take it up to the next level. If my girls show up every day, keep their heads, make their shots, and play like I think they can play, we should have a successful season.”
Martinik noted that Cheshire and Sheehan shared the Housatonic Division championship last winter and both teams return many of the same players this winter, but then added, “We want to and plan on being a contender in our division.”
In addition to the Rams and Titans, she saw Hillhouse, Career, Mercy, and Sacred Heart as the teams to beat in the SCC.
Co-Captain Kristen Post is one of the two seniors on the Amity roster. She is a tough, physical post player who is expected to be one of the team’s leading rebounders who can convert offensive rebounds into points as well as clearing the defensive boards to ignite Amity’s fast break transition game.
According to Martinik, “Kristen has the knack of always being in the right spot for rebounds.”
Joining Post in the front court are junior Molly Ronan and sophomore Caroline McDonald. Ronan is a very quick-footed post player whom Martinik hopes and expects will be a power on the boards as well as going strong to the basket. McDonald missed a lot of action last year as a freshman due to injuries, but Martinik hopes she will develop into a dependable rebounder, a defensive force under the glass, and a potent offensive player down in the paint.
Junior guard Chloe Brinton is an excellent ball handler and scorer who averaged about 12 points a game as a sophomore. A well-rounded, third-year starter who can handle the ball well, shoot well from outstand as well as put the ball onto the floor and drive to the basket, Brinton has played a lot in her first two years on the team.
“Chloe has been an integral part of our team since she was a freshman,” Martinik said. “Now she is a very mature experienced junior.”
At 5-11, junior Co-Captain Mikala Schmitt is the tallest of the Lady Spartans. Averaging 10 points a game last year, she is a rugged player who can post up and also step out and score from afar.
Martinik added, “Because she can score from inside and also from the outside, Michaela is our ‘Jack of all trades and very tough for opponents to match up with.”
Because she has a good sense of the game and is a good ball handler, junior Janea Graham will serve as point guard and direct the Amity offense. Martinik is also pleased with Graham’s ability to handle defensive pressure and push the ball up the floor. If Graham is left unguarded, Martinik is confident that she can take and hit an open shot.
Senior guard Sarah Rives is a dangerous outside shooter. Isabella Bierezowiec is a very smart junior guard who has the knack of being in the right place at the right time. Kathleen Feng is all-around junior guard who has a good shot and can get down low to battle on the boards. Junior guard Rachel Nevolis is another three point threat from the outside. Junior Amanda Vecchio (who also plays volleyball) is a hustling scrappy rebounder. Junior guard Ashley Wu is a strong defensive player. Elise Graham is the lone freshman on the Lady Spartan roster. Martinik rated her as “a very strong, athletic player whom I am looking forward to watching her varsity career develop in the future.”
The Lady Spartans’ third-year mentor lists several “must dos” if her team is to have a successful season. That list includes: rebound, play good active defense with multiple looks, keep opponent score in the 30’s, show improved offense over the last two seasons, push the ball and run when possible.
Martinik also said, “We have to look for each other at both ends of the court. I like transition basketball so when the opportunity presents itself, we want to play aggressive defense that can generate offensive opportunities.”
Amity opens its season Wednesday, hosting Sacred Heart Academy at 7 p .m.