Young ConVal girls’ basketball team faces growing pains

ConVal freshman Olivia Healey beats her Bow defender. 

ConVal freshman Olivia Healey beats her Bow defender.  PHOTO BY BEN CONANT/BEN CONANT PHOTOGRAPHY

ConVal freshman Colby Harris shoots a free throw. 

ConVal freshman Colby Harris shoots a free throw.  PHOTO BY BEN CONANT/BEN CONANT PHOTOGRAPHY

ConVal's Ava VanHorn splits two Bow defenders. 

ConVal's Ava VanHorn splits two Bow defenders.  PHOTO BY BEN CONANT/BEN CONANT PHOTOGRAPHY

ConVal freshman Ava VanHorn leaps for a save against Bow. 

ConVal freshman Ava VanHorn leaps for a save against Bow.  PHOTO BY BEN CONANT/BEN CONANT PHOTOGRAPHY

ConVal girls' basketball head coach Kyle Murray talks to his team before their game against Bow in Peterborough on Friday, Dec. 22.

ConVal girls' basketball head coach Kyle Murray talks to his team before their game against Bow in Peterborough on Friday, Dec. 22. PHOTO BY BEN CONANT/BEN CONANT PHOTOGRAPHY

ConVal sophomore Opale Barrick dribbles upcourt against Bow. 

ConVal sophomore Opale Barrick dribbles upcourt against Bow.  PHOTO BY BEN CONANT/BEN CONANT PHOTOGRAPHY

 ConVal sophomore captain Savannah McCarthy runs the offense in the second half. 

 ConVal sophomore captain Savannah McCarthy runs the offense in the second half.  PHOTO BY BEN CONANT/BEN CONANT PHOTOGRAPHY

ConVal sophomore Zara Anderson dribbles in the frontcourt. 

ConVal sophomore Zara Anderson dribbles in the frontcourt.  PHOTO BY BEN CONANT/BEN CONANT PHOTOGRAPHY

By BEN CONANT

For the Ledger-Transcript

Published: 12-23-2023 10:08 AM

The ConVal girls' basketball team has plenty of time to get better, which is fortunate, as the Cougars went into the winter break with a fourth straight blowout loss to remain winless on the year.

"We're a very young group,"  said ConVal head coach Kyle Murray after Friday's 50-18 loss to visiting Bow. "We know what situation we're in, and they're very realistic in the situation they're in, but they've been doing a really good job of keeping it serious and maintaining a positive attitude in terms of finding ways to improve and to get something beneficial out of these tough games. They've been pushing hard to the very end, not giving up and really working hard to  gain a little momentum and get a little bit better each time." 

The Cougars start two freshmen and three sophomores and don't have a single junior or senior on the team, and their inexperience has given opponents something to exploit thus far this season. ConVal has been outscored 260-59 this season, and on Friday, the Cougars turned the ball over 15 times before scoring once. Bow ran a man-to-man full-court press to open the game and kept ConVal from even entering the offensive front court for the first four minutes. 

"[Bow has] really good man-to-man defense, really good at sliding their feet and staying in front,” Murray said. “That really challenged our ball-handling."

ConVal was held scoreless in the first and third quarters, but did look good in some short spurts. Sophomore captain Savannah McCarthy connected on three three-pointers for a team-high nine points, while freshman Olivia Healey was tough in the second half and made a couple late buckets in the paint.

Sophomore captain Brielle Proctor, freshmen Colby Harris and Ava VanHorn and sophomore Opale Barrick played hard and showed spirit throughout, unafraid to get on the floor, and sophomore Zaira Anderson didn't back down despite a tough game at point guard.

"It's just tying all those pieces together," Murray said. "We have the shooting ability, we have the dribbling ability, but now we need the experience to be able to tie those things in on how we can use it with purpose to get to the win."

The Cougars would need a major turnaround to even make the postseason, but immediate results aren't as important as long-term goals, and this trial by fire will temper the young team for success over the next couple years. 

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"If we can figure some stuff out to cut down those turnovers, to decrease the offensive rebounds we let up, and to start get things moving a little bit cohesively in an offense, then we're gonna gain a lot of momentum to be able to push into subsequent seasons," Murray said.

ConVal (0-4) is at Hollis-Brookline (2-1) on Tuesday, Jan. 2.