Guilford Girls’ Hoops Pumped Up to Jump it Up
Senior captain Moira Kellaher and the Guilford girls’ basketball team recently learned that they will be hitting the court and shooting hoops this winter. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier)
Junior Miabella Diaz will be leading the Guilford girls’ basketball squad alongside senior captain Moira Kellaher and fellow junior captain Faith O’Donnell during the 2021 campaign. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier)
Junior captain Faith O’Donnell and the Grizzlies have been participating in virtual workouts as they prepare to storm the floor for the upcoming basketball season. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier)
Junior Lauren Cunneen and the Guilford girls’ basketball team are looking for a return trip to the playoffs after making both SCCs and states last season. Also pictured for Guilford is No. 22, junior captain Faith O’Donnell. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier)
When the Guilford girls’ basketball team completed its 2020 season, the athletes on the squad knew that they were primed to succeed in 2021. While the prospects of playing basketball were up in the air for the past few weeks, Guilford has now been given the green light to shoot for its hoop dreams this winter.
After losing eight of its first 10 games last year, Guilford finished strong by winning six of its last 10 regular-season contests to qualify for both the Southern Connecticut Conference Tournament and the Class L State Tournament. Guilford went on to post a 44-21 victory versus Naugatuck in the first round of states before taking a second-round loss to Wethersfield to finish at 9-14 overall.
Guilford is bringing back the vast majority of its athletes from last year’s team. Consequently, second-year Head Coach Bernie Brennan has high hopes about what his club can accomplish on the court this year.
“We are a young team with only one senior, but have some good athletes that are coachable and want to learn and are hungry to get back on the court,” said Brennan. “We had a difficult schedule last year in the SCC, and this only made us stronger when we got to the postseason. We lost only two seniors from last year’s team that qualified for the CIAC State Tournament.”
Guilford bid farewell to last year’s senior captains, Elle Petra and Sam Leiby. This year, the Grizzlies will be captained by senior Moira Kellaher and juniors Miabella Diaz and Faith O’Donnell, who are all guards. In the meantime, Coach Brennan has been splitting his team up into four groups to do a variety of exercises in virtual meetings as a way to stay in shape for the season. Three of the groups are being led by a captain with the other one led by junior center Lauren Cunneen.
“We have had a few virtual meetings with the team, and the girls on the team have been competing in a team challenge involving push-ups, sit-ups, cardio work, and skill work,” Coach Brennan said. “The team leaders on the team—Moira, Miabella, Faith, and Lauren—split the players into four teams and are competing against each other in these four categories, trying to get points for their teams by working out every day, doing as many push-ups, sit-ups, cardio work, and skill work as possible. Everyone is anxious to get back on the court and get started.”
One challenge that Brennan sees persisting throughout the season is the potential lack of fans in the stands due to COVID-19 safety regulations. Brennan knows that his players will have to build up their own intensity through both their actions and words in order to compensate for any silence in the gym.
“We will have to create our own energy. I showed the girls a video of what the bench is supposed to look like during a game, using a video of highlights of NBA and NCAA team’s benches going crazy during games,” said Brennan. “This will probably be hardest for the parents. I never missed one of my daughter or son’s high school games, so I imagine this will be more difficult for the parents than the coaches and players.”
Heading into the upcoming season, the Grizzlies created a list of eight culture rules by which the team wants to live. This includes no energy vampires, having a positive attitude, communicating effectively, encouraging your teammates, displaying maximum effort and focus, being enthusiastic, serving your teammates, and letting the score take care of itself.
Guilford’s athletes came up with the culture rules as a way to promote positive energy, and they even hung a poster in the locker room to remind everyone of their goals. Meanwhile, during the offseason, Coach Brennan read about 30 books on leadership, team building, and developing a positive team culture in order to prepare for the 2021 campaign. He also attended several webinars hosted by Division I college coaches.
“I am working hard to build a great program for the town of Guilford. I am excited to keep building the program,” Brennan said. “There were some growing pains last year getting used to a new coach and a new system. That is now in the past, and the girls are really buying into the system the new coaches are bringing to the program. I am excited to get started.”
Guilford’s roster for the 2021 season includes senior captain Moira Kellaher, junior captains Miabella Diaz and Faith O’Donnell, juniors Lauren Cunneen and Bella Weekes, and sophomores Corinne Puchalski, Sara Iglesias, Olivia Weekes, Ava Lepro, Scout Climie, and Hailey Hutchinson.