20-in-'12: Highland girls basketball
Coach: Jim Delmar (11th season)
Last year’s record: 15-7 (won the Section Nine, Class B championship for third year in a row)
Returning starters: 3
Shannon Ward, F/C, 5-9, Soph. – Ward is Highland’s version of Magic Johnson. That is, she is big enough to play center, aggressive enough for power forward, quick enough to play shooting forward, adept from the outside enough to be the off-guard, and can handle the ball well enough to play the point. Opponents are going to have fun trying to guard her this year.
Kelly Murphy, F/C, 5-10, Sr. – Murphy is back from last year and helps given the Huskies even more of a presence on the frontline. Few teams will be able to challenge Highland inside.
Alex Garcia, G/F, 5-7, Sr. – Garcia is the unsung hero of Highland girls’ basketball. All she does is seemingly make every big play when it needs to be made, whether it’s a steal or banging a pair of free throws late in the game.
Names to learn
Holly Cordero, C, 6-0, Jr. – Delmar brought Cordero up from the jayvee last year midway through the season and she helped anchor Highland’s frontline.
Samantha Valentino, F, 5-9, Jr. – Another call up late last year from the jayvee, Valentino gives the Huskies great depth and can also knock down short-range jumpers to help extend the defense.
Julie Planke, Leslie Chardon, Tianna Pittman – These are the only three new players on a veteran varsity team this season. All three were on jayvee last year.
Jan. 3 at Red Hook – The Red Raiders are in something of a rebuilding year having lost leading scorer Sabrina Eggink, so this will be a good test to see where Highland is coming out of the holiday break.
Jan. 6 vs. Marlboro – Fellow Mid-Hudson Athletic League Division II opponent Marlboro is stacked this season. This should be the first of two great games between the archrivals as they battle for the division championship.
Jan. 17 at John A. Coleman Catholic – Speaking of stacked, Coleman is the defending MHAL champ and the New York State Class D champion.
Shannon Ward, F/C, 5-9, Soph.
Kelly Murphy, F/C, 5-10, Sr.
Alex Garcia, G/F, 5-7, Sr.
Holly Cordero, C, 6-0, Jr.
Samantha Valentino, F, 5-9, Jr.
Stephanie Byrne, G, 5-5, Sr.
Victoria Pratts, F/C, 5-9, Sr.
Alex Decatur, C, 5-10, Sr.
Jayne Parker, G, 5-5, Sr.
Itzel Castellanos, G, 5-4, Sr.
Courtney Pineiro, G, 5-6, Sr.
Julie Planke, G, 5-5, Jr.
Leslie Chardon, G, 5-4, Jr.
Tianna Pittman, F, 5-7, Soph.
Story of the season
So, very quietly, Delmar has built up quite the little dynasty in the hamlet of Highland. And, despite losing twin sisters Stephanie and Jennifer Porter, the Huskies have to be considered one of the favorites in the MHAL and to win a fourth consecutive Section Nine, Class b crown.
“We like the experience, that’s for sure,” Delmar said. “We have 14 girls on the roster and eight are seniors. I think it’s a matter of some of them stepping up and being true senior leaders this season.”
Delmar is blessed with speed, perimeter shooting and height.
“We’ll tinker this year,” the coach said. “We like the idea of playing four 5-8’s or bigger and Alex Garcia running the point so we can put in a real big lineup. But we also have enough depth to run. I mean, our bigs can really get up and down the floor.”
The wild card is Ward. A tremendously talented sophomore, Ward can dictate the play on the floor from anywhere.
“She can, and will, play all five positions,” Delmar said. “She’s just tremendously improved over last year. Even though she’s only a sophomore she’s been through the wars of the league with the core group. She knows what to do.”