The Girls Varsity Basketball team earned the New England Preparatory School Athletic Council (NEPSAC) Class D championship.
Defeating Vermont Academy (last year’s NEPSAC Class D champs), the Holderness Girls’ Varsity Basketball team won the Class D championship on Sunday, March 4. They defeated Vermont Academy 65-54. This is the first-ever New England championship for the Girls’ Varsity Basketball team. Girls Holderness Hoops started in 1989-90. Athletic Director Rick Eccleston ’92 was impressed with the win, “Last year, as his first year coaching the girls as head coach, Joe and his team finished with a 2-17 record. This year is no comparison!”
This second season for Head Coach Joe Arsenault was different. He emphasized fun and teamwork and stated “Our program is founded on two principles: hard work and team first.” Our team is a family. It is an opportunity…to come together around their common love of basketball and support each other in every aspect of their lives…We take care of each other on and off the court.”
Facing strong and highly competitive teams, the Bulls regular season ended with a 10-14 record; they entered the NEPSAC tournament stronger from their competitions, perhaps more than the actual record reflected. Post-season play began against Montrose on the Holderness home court and the Bulls enjoyed an easy victory with a 54-16 win.
They next faced MacDuffie in the semi-final round whose regular season record was 13-9. MacDuffie took the lead early on and the Holderness team seemed to have a slow start. The MacDuffie girls had an aggressive defense and controlled the early portion of the game. It took the Bulls some time to hit their stride, but in the last quarter of play, something clicked and the Holderness team pulled ahead--making sharper passes, executing on defense, playing their own game, and not following MacDuffie’s lead. The game ended 48-30, but the score does not reflect the intensity of the match in the first three quarters of play.
Holderness played Vermont Academy twice during the regular season, losing both times by a healthy margin and were considered the underdogs in the final match. Vermont Academy was hoping for a repeat of their championship title and entered the game with confidence.
Perhaps learning from the semi-final game against MacDuffie, Holderness came out playing with gusto and quickly controlled the game. They never looked back. Vermont Academy had an overall height advantage, but the Bulls were not intimidated and accelerated their own speed advantage. Their quickness led to more rebounds. Darielle Matthews ‘18 played a gritty defense keeping, Vermont Academy from many second chances. Giah Moore ‘20 set up several screens so her teammates could have open shots. She was a force in both games, and while foul trouble limited some of her playing time, that did not deter Holderness. Macy Arsenault ’20 and Emilija Jakumaite ‘20 excelled in managing the ball up and down the court. KC Carter ’19 did not disappoint and scored 35 points. KC was double-teamed through much of the game, but the team’s coordination and fierce defense freed up KC with their bullet-like passing. KC was chosen as the MVP for the game.
The Bulls employed fierce focus, relied on excellent coordination, and commanded the game from the onset. Head of School Phil Peck and Chief Operating Officer Margot Riley, avid fans, thought the team played their best game of the season in the final. Ms. Riley remarked, “It was a very physical game and our girls were not intimidated. It was amazing to see Emilija drive the basket over and over against players who towered over her! The entire team really worked together.” Mr. Peck could not control his enthusiasm, “The girls were amazing and the game, all the games in the post-season, were wonderful. I am very proud of them!” Coaches Joe Arsenault and Kelly Pope might smile and also add that the girls love the sport, put team first, certainly had fun, and worked hard. Job well done!