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By James Kinneen
Hometown Weekly Reporter
With no chance of playing each other during the season, last week, the Walpole Rebels and Westwood Wolverines girls basketball teams decided to face each other in a scrimmage as a way to both gather information about their respective teams and get used to facing tough competition before the season begins.
“Life without Jill” may sound like a 90’s romantic comedy, but it was how Walpole coach Dave Wall described the Rebels’ need to adapt a new playing style and identity after losing last year’s leading scorer, Jill White. Without her, Wall noted that the team is going to have to rely more on their athleticism and defense, before their half-court offense comes along.
“I think it’s clear we need to play fast to be at our best and I think, at times, we have the ability to do that at a really high level. We’re super athletic and super tough, but we need to be better at communicating defensively and for us it’s going to be defense leading to fast breaks. That’s where we’ll make our money.”
While losing your team’s leading scorer is rough, Wall believes his team has a strong leadership base to get them through the season, with four starters coming back including Sydney Scales, who Wall considers the best athlete in Massachusetts.“We have four returning starters. All four guards are back - all starters - and for my money, Sydney Scales is the best athlete in the state of Massachusetts, so I’m lucky enough to have her on my team and I’ll take her any day of the week. She’s the real deal - we kind of go where she goes and she’s the single best leader I’ve ever been around coaching or playing, so that’s kind of why I have a little bit of confidence, and am at least comfortable with where we are. Is it going to be perfect? No. Are there going to be bumps in the road? Of course. But I think our leadership, starting with Sydney, down to Ainsley [Dundon] and [Elizabeth] Roche, we’re in a good spot. It’s a good year to have some young kids because they’re going to learn from some good kids how we do things, why we do things. And so it’s encouraging. We’ll struggle in the half-court sometimes, but we’re dangerous defensively, we’re dangerous in transition, and once we start knocking down a couple shots and get more comfortable with the offense, we could have a good thing.”
While the team returns four starters, Wall also noted that he has three freshman on the team whose role he is still working on determining. Also, while they were on the team last year, he expects both Shannon Jordan and Laura Giovaniello to play a larger role this year because of their defense and rebounding abilities.
“We’re a tough, scrappy team that hopefully other teams don’t like to play because it’s going to be hard. That’s our identity. I wish I had five All-Americans, but I don’t. I have five stud athletes that like playing together.”