Respect is the Nobles way
Coach has guided team to new heights
You will never see Noble and Greenough girls’ basketball coach Alex Gallagher at an AAU basketball tournament. You will never see him at a skills camp. You’d be hard-pressed to find him bragging to any player or coach about the athletic strength of his alma mater, either.
That’s because when it comes to recruiting local talent, Gallagher doesn’t participate in the chase.
“What we do is every year we get the most out of the kids that we have,’’ said Gallagher. “We’ve been lucky over the years to have great basketball players be interested in our program and in our school, but you’re never going to see me out on the road trying to convince kids to come here or to apply here.’’
If Nobles is any worse for wear, the damage is not evident.
Gallagher returned to the Dedham campus 11 years ago after an impressive run as the boys’ coach at Weston High, guiding the Wildcats to three Dual County Championships, two North crowns, and the 1998 state title.
The transition was more than seamless.
Gallagher has led the Nobles girls to nine straight Independent School League championships and a sterling 106-2 mark in league play. And Gallagher has no trouble recalling those two losses: Milton Academy at the buzzer in the final regular season game of the 2003-2004 season, and Governors Academy in the second to last game of the 2006-2007 regular season.
With Nobles currently riding a 63-game ISL winning streak, two straight senior classes have not suffered a loss in league play.
This season, the success culminated with a New England Prep Class A Championship, a 53-43 victory over New Hampton, on the 25th anniversary of the program’s only other Class A championship. The win also allowed the Bulldogs (25-1) to enact some revenge on New Hampton for handing Nobles its only loss of the season.
“It’s a pretty cool thing to go out your senior year as New England champions, but I’d say it felt so much more than a team win, but a program win,’’ said senior center Karly Finison of Needham, who will play at Wesleyan in the fall.
Citing Finison and Dartmouth-bound senior center Lauren Taiclet (11.8 points, 10.8 rebounds per game) of Wellesley as examples, Gallagher said the real mantra of the team is that “one teammate’s success is not your failure.’’
“They’re each other’s biggest cheerleader, but because we play a one-post system, they’re always sharing time. They could always be upset about the other person getting more time than them on any given day, but they don’t. They support each other because it’s all about succeeding as a team.’’
“We push each other a lot,’’ added Finison, “and I think as much as it is preparation for the next game during the season, it just makes us better players because each day, two college basketball players are going up against each other.’’
Senior Alli Parent of Walpole, a three-sport captain whose true passion is field hockey, tore her anterior cruciate ligament playing lacrosse last spring. After months of rigorous rehab and immense dedication, she was able to return to the court in January, and proved to be a crucial piece to the championship puzzle.
“The tireless effort she put into rehabbing to get back to this team, to get back to give to her teammates and to give back to the program, was a real inspiration,’’ said Gallagher.
“Without that level of sacrifice, we wouldn’t have been able to do what we’ve done.’’
The Bulldogs will graduate their captains: Finison, Taiclet, and Parent, but retain the ISL co-MVP in sophomore Lauren Dillon (3.5 steals per game) of Wellesley, a player Gallagher said “is the most dominant defensive guard I’ve ever coached,’’ in addition to sophomore Kate Kerrigan of Wellesley and junior Hannah Peterson (13 ppg. against teams with .500 record or better) of Cambridge.
But it’s never been about continuing the ISL domination or repeating as Class A champions. For Gallagher and his players, it’s always been about keeping the program as a family, and they’ve done just that.
“I’m a huge [Mike] Krzyzewski fan,’’ said Gallagher. “I’ve read all of his books, I like watching his interviews, and he said this one thing one time about how his goal every season is not to win a championship; it’s a locker room full of crying kids. Not because you won or loss the last game, but because you don’t get to go to practice together the next day.
“That was very much how we felt this year. That’s the goal we set for ourselves every year, and I think when that respect and love for one another is your top goal, you can accomplish a lot of things.’’
As season ends, eyes on next year
Three area girls’ teams - Braintree, Scituate, and Fairhaven - had their seasons end on the parquet floor at TD Garden Tuesday night, in the state semifinals. Next season will bring new challenges, but there is still promise for the future.
Scituate ripped off a 20-0 regular season and then charged through the Division 2 South bracket before falling in overtime to fellow unbeaten Reading in overtime, 71-64.
The Sailors will be forced to say goodbye to 1,000-point scorer Megan Otto (Babson) and the dominant inside presence of Shannon Brady (Bowdoin), but will return floor leader Kelly Martin. Scituate is 62-9 with her at the point.
Fairhaven knocked out perennial power Archbishop Williams for the Division 3 South crown. In their 53-39 loss to Pentucket at the Garden, the Blue Devils could not shake the loss of junior point guard Ashley Brown, who took a nasty dive into the scorer’s table chasing a loose ball, and was taken out of the arena on a stretcher. Fairhaven will graduate four seniors, but will return Brown and five players 5-foot-9 or taller, a height advantage most teams can’t compete with.
Braintree should be back in the conversation for a repeat of the Division 1 South title. The Wamps will graduate Bay State Conference MVP Paige Marshall and Annie Kate Joyce, but 6-foot-1 center Molly Reagan returns for her sophomore year.
Reagan rarely met an opponent she couldn’t outreach or outmuscle, and has shown that she can perform under pressure; she sealed the Division 1 South title with two free throws in the final few seconds.
“She has a lot of confidence in herself,’’ said Braintree coach Kristen McDonnell, “and we have a lot of confidence in her.’’
Andrew MacDougall can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.