Inexperience leads to Girls Bball Loss

Published in the December 12, 2007 issue of Stow Independent

By Jordana Bieze Foster

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To listen to Gary Kozloski, the new head coach of the Nashoba Regional girls basketball team, you might think the Chieftains' loss to Shrewsbury in their season opener Friday night was a close one. To Kozloski, more important than the final score (59-24) is that the number of positives for the Chieftains grew exponentially as the game progressed and that the team's negatives are things that can be corrected.

“We didn't do many things wrong,” he said. “We just kept on doing same things wrong over and over.”

The inexperienced Chieftains, who returned just two key players from last season's 12-8 team, started slowly against the defending Mid-Wach A champion Colonials. Nashoba's starting center, 5'10” Rebecca Krantz of Stow, picked up three quick fouls while battling against taller Shrewsbury centers Kelly McKenna and Kelsey Giedymin and did not play for most of the first half. Meanwhile, Giedymin and other Shrewsbury sharpshooters neutralized the Chieftains' zone by connecting repeatedly from behind the three-point arc. By halftime, the Colonials led 31-8.

“I'd like to play the first quarter over again,” Kozloski said. “They had an answer for everything in the first quarter. They were ready to play, and we weren't.”

What can a coach say to his players at halftime after a start like that? As third-graders from Stow and Bolton took the floor for a halftime scrimmage, Kozloski told the Chieftains to relax and try to have some fun.

They responded by cutting down on turnovers, tightening up on defense, and closing the gap. Krantz stayed out of foul trouble and finished with 9 points and 13 rebounds, while senior guard Katherine Polido of Stow (2 points) teamed with senior backcourt mate Madison Hawkins (9 points) in executing a relentless press that had the Colonials rattled despite their comfortable lead.

“They were up by 30, but we forced them to take a time out because we ran off eight straight points off steals,” Kozloski said. “That was probably the best part of the night.”

The effectiveness of the Chieftains' defense was particularly encouraging to Kozloski, who plans to utilize as many as six different presses during the course of the season, because the press is something the players have had to learn. Against Shrewsbury, they exceeded the coach's goal of 30 deflections per game, finishing with more than 40.

That type of defensive effort will likely be needed in the Chieftains next matchup, a Dec. 17 away game against another traditionally strong Mid-Wach A opponent, Algonquin Regional. In addition, Nashoba will spend the next week working on executing the new fast-paced offense that Kozloski believes will maximize the talents of his undersized but athletic players. Although many of the Chieftains players have more experience in sports like soccer or field hockey, the conditioning and competitiveness engendered by the coaches of those other sports will ultimately benefit the basketball team as well, he said.

“Nashoba's always had great athletes, and they pick up on things really quickly,” Kozloski said.

The team's tri-captains are Hawkins, Megan Goodnow and Hannah Pirez, all seniors.

“They're all very different,” Kozloski said. “Madison is more of an on-court leader. Hannah brings everyone together. And Megan is more of the quiet leader behind the scenes.”

Polido, like Hawkins a captain of the Nashoba soccer team this fall, did not play basketball last year but brings an aggressiveness to the court that belies her 5'5” size.

“She's a real competitor,” Kozloski said. “She hustles, hits the floor every time there's a loose ball. She doesn't get pushed around.”

Though Kozloski was an assistant coach of the girls basketball team at Oakmont Regional before coming to Nashoba, he coached boys for eight years (including five years with the Nashoba JV team) before that. Which explains why, when describing Krantz, he draws a comparison with a highly successful former Chieftains center who just happens to be male.

“I would compare her to Pat Collier,” he said, referencing the 2002 Nashoba graduate who went on to play at Brandeis. “He could catch the ball in mid air and score, just light it up. She has hands like that.”

The controlled fast-break offense and multi-zone defense that Kozloski envisions for the Chieftains should make for some exciting basketball. But as the season opener demonstrated, it may take a little while for team and coach to become comfortable with the new system.

“Anybody can bring in these types of ideas,” Kozloski said. “But it's the girls who actually have to carry them out.”

The Chieftains' next home game will be Thursday, Dec. 20 against arch-rival Clinton. The varsity will tip off at 7 p.m.

Copyright 2008 Jordana Foster – 24 Kirkland Dr, Stow, MA – Email: – Fax: (815) 346-5239