The 2011-12 girls' varsity basketball team
On Tuesday, February 7, the Pennsylvania Independent School Athletic Association (PAISAA) released its brackets for the girls’ basketball State Championship Tournament and named The Hill School the tournament’s top seed. The team’s first PAISAA game will be held at The Hill’s Gillison Court on Wednesday, February 15 vs. the winner of the Baldwin School/Friends Central School game on a date still to be determined.
The Lady Blues, who are riding a six-game unbeaten streak that has improved their record to 15-5 overall and 4-1 in the Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL), will be well-seasoned in playoff action by the time the PAISAA tournament tips off. On Saturday, February 11, the team will travel to The Hun School of Princeton for the MAPL Tournament, in which they are the second seed.
Defense has been a major factor to the team’s overall success this season, especially during the current winning streak that has seen The Hill allow more than 40 points only once.
“The key to almost all of our wins this season has been our defense,” said head coach Grey Simpson. “We’ve been doing a really good job keeping the opposition out of the paint and forcing them to take tough shots. The girls bought into our system and play with the tenacity and basketball IQ needed to execute well.”
The graduation of four key players from last year’s team opened the door for players to make increased contributions this season, and several girls have done so through their scrappy, high-energy defensive play. Taylor Silar ’13 and Shannon Ruane ’12 consistently pressure the opponent’s top players each game, with Kim Breeding ’13 and Monica Patel ’12 adding strong defensive depth on the floor. The additions of Sara Graham ’13 and Julia Sottosanti ’12, both of whom missed the majority of the past two seasons recovering from knee injuries, have provided the team’s size and interior presence.
Of course, strong defense can only take a team so far; in order to be outstanding, a team also must have a good offense. Through 20 games this season, Hill has been held under 50 points only four times, and has an average margin of victory of 24 points in its past six games. Leading the offensive charge for The Hill are Deanna Mayza '13, who recently surpassed 1,300 points for her career, and Claire Maree O’Bryan '12, who is taking a post-graduate year because school in her native Australia finished after the deadline for college scholarships to be awarded in the United States.
Mayza transferred to The Hill as a repeat fourth former in 2010-11 and has led the team in scoring in each of her two seasons. This year, she is averaging 17.6 points per game and also leads the team in assists (2.9 per game) and three-pointers (28), making her the ultimate all-around threat that is difficult for teams to shut down. The 5’10” O’Bryan, who brings size, speed, and international experience, has proven to be a factor in multiple facets of the game, averaging 14.3 points per game as well as 4.7 rebounds and 2.7 steals per game, both of which lead the team.
Before The Hill can think ahead to the State tournament, however, it first must focus on the MAPL tournament. By virtue of earning the second seed, The Hill has a first round bye and will face the winner of the Lawrenceville vs. Mercersburg Academy game in the semi-final on Saturday, February 11 at 3:45 p.m. A semi-final victory likely would result in a rematch of last year’s MAPL Championship game against Blair Academy, which was won by Blair. The Buccaneers handed The Hill its only MAPL loss this season, a 62-52 setback in which Hill shot only 31 percent from the floor and 9 for 16 from the free throw line.
“I think we would have a good chance to beat Blair in a rematch,” Simpson said. “Obviously, we need to shoot better, but we can’t afford to give up 62 points again. If we continue to defend like we have been lately and limit their opportunities in the paint, I think we can win.”