Sports Person of the Week
Grow Earns Starting Spot as a Freshman
Freshman post player Lily Grow has secured a starting position in the paint for the Valley Regional girls’ basketball team this year. (Photo courtesy of Lily Grow )
Lily Grow has learned a lot about herself as a basketball player through her family’s roots, and that foundation is helping her have a fruitful freshman season with the Valley Regional girls’ basketball team. Lily earned a starting spot on a young Warriors’ squad this winter and has shown significant improvement through the course of the campaign.
It was a big moment for Lily when she was named a varsity starter for Valley. Lily feels proud that she identified what she needed to do to make that happen and then get it done.
“It was amazing that first game out on the floor. It was like all my hard work every single day at those practices just paid off,” Lily says. “Everything was just making sense now. I knew I had to play my hardest to deserve that spot. I couldn’t have done it without my coaches and my teammates, either.”
Lily has seen many minutes on the court in various leagues, beginning in the 4th grade, when she played for the Valley Travel League team coached by her grandfather Tom Geary. Lily became interested in playing basketball after watching her older brother Jake Grow, who’s currently a senior on the Warriors’ boys’ basketball team. After starting consistently through the 8th grade, Lily had her sights set on doing so as a freshman, but quickly realized that nothing was guaranteed.
“In middle school, I averaged 20 points a game. I expected to play varsity,” says Lily, who lives in Deep River. “When I wasn’t, I started working harder on my skills. I realized that I needed to work hard and push myself. I worked so hard in practice and whenever I had the opportunity in a varsity game. I think that’s how I proved myself and got to where I am now.”
Lily has a good handle on her offensive game. A post player, Lily is out to score points for the Warriors any way she can.
“I would say I’m more focused on offense. I’m playing against girls that are 6-feet tall, which makes it a lot harder for me to make shots,” says Lily, who’s 5-foot-9. “I shoot a lot from around the foul line. I can drive and make lay-ups, and I am working on my 3-point shot.”
Lily doesn’t consider herself an especially great individual defender, although Valley’s team defense can be tough to get through when all the pieces are fitting together. Lily knows that it’s important for the Warriors to turn good defense into efficient offense.
“We work on the press every practice, and we know what we’re doing when it comes to that,” says Lily. “On offense, we need to learn when to push and when we need to slow down to run plays when we get stops. We can better use those opportunities to score.”
Even though Valley is a relatively inexperienced club, Lily and her teammates managed to claw their way into the postseason this year. Lily takes pride in the fact that the Warriors are competing in the playoffs.
“It feels really good. As a young team with no seniors, it’s a big accomplishment making the postseason,” Lily says. “Then you add in all of us having a new coach and adjusting to that, I think it was all new for us. I think we all played a big role in getting there.”
First-year Head Coach Jaimie Toto has been impressed with Lily’s emergence as the season has worn on. Toto believes that Lily will be a key component for the Warriors for years to come.
“Lily has been a consistent offensive contributor during the second half of the season,” Toto says. “She’s shown a willingness to learn and is extremely coachable, which makes it fun for the both of us. She is going to be a strong player for us in the coming years.”
Lily is grateful to Coach Toto, along with fellow coaches Lauren Budney and Allyson Pitney, who have encouraged her during her transition to the varsity level. Lily also received a great deal of support from her fellow post players to get her up to speed.
“I think Coach Budney and me have a very special bond. I feel like I can go to her with anything. I feel the same way with Coach Pitney,” says Lily. “Coach Toto taught me so much about basketball, my position, and myself this year. She played my position, so she’s taught me a lot about basketball.”
Lily feels excited about the growth of Valley girls’ basketball and thinks the program has a bright future. Lily likes that she gets to compete for a tight-knit team like the Warriors.
“We just need to work better on offense and score more points, so that we can win the games that we deserve to win,” says Lily. “Our team is very close, and we work very hard for our coach and for each other.”