SHEFFIELD -- After two years of near-misses, the Mount Everett girls basketball team believes this year will be its time.
"We have most of our core players from last year coming back," said co-captain Brooke Morehouse. "That might make the difference."
"We have all our starters back from last year," said Eagles coach Scott Rote. "This is the deepest team I've had since I've been here."
In addition to Morehouse and co-captain Deseraye Conaway, the Eagles return seniors Hannah Joyce and Natasha MacLeay and junior Hannah Herrick.
The Eagles were 7-10 last year, just missing the required .500 record to participate in the Western Mass. tournament. In 2011-12, they were 9-11.
There are no guarantees, certainly, but the Eagles are off to a good start: They are 3-0 so far, with all of their wins on the road. Having 10 of their last 17 games at home, with three wins already in the bank, has the team and Rote thinking positively about the postseason.
Rote takes particular comfort in the fact that his unbeaten team has not shot well in any of its games so far.
"But this year, our defense has been much better," he said.
"We've had three road games, and all of them have been one hour to an hour-and thirty-minute bus rides," said Rote. "And we've started slow in every game, at least our shooting. But our defense has kept us in games."
The Eagles won the Franklin Tech Tournament two weeks ago, holding their two opponents, Norfolk Aggie and Franklin Tech, to a combined 32 points in the two games. Morehouse was an All-Tournament selection, and Conaway was the tournament MVP. Most observers cannot recall when a Mount Everett girls basketball player was MVP of a tournament.
Everett's other win was a 39-24 road win over McCann Tech.
The Eagles have another ace in the hole, at least as Rote sees it: Former Monument coach Tom Kinne is an assistant coach with the program.
Kinne has coached basketball for an even 50 years, many of them at nearby Monument Mountain Regional High School. The last three, he's been Rote's assistant.
"He'd been bugging me for a few years about it," said Kinne of Rote. "Finally, I said, ‘Why not?' It's what I do. I love coaching. I love being in the gym. I love teaching and building a team."
"He brings a different energy level and years of knowledge," said Rote of Kinne. "Our players know him, and he has done a tremendous job helping them believe in themselves."
"He has helped us out a lot," said Conaway of Kinne. "Especially on defense."
Morehouse said Kinne keeps Eagles practices focused. He also keeps Mount Everett starters in line on the bench when they take a break during a game.
"I told Scott that, when one of our starters comes off the bench, they have to sit next to me -- and get an earful," Kinne said. "If nothing else, they don't like to make mistakes and hear me chewing their ear off."
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