Even with a shortened season of only six games this year, Malden High School’s Girls Varsity Basketball Team still succeeded to end the season with a record of 3-3.
This year, the team was led by junior co-captains Nevaeh Cherilus and Yasmine Alayan. According to coach Scott Marino, both captains “gave everything that they could possibly give on the court” throughout the season, and were “leaders on both offense and defense.” With Cherilus averaging 14 points per game and Alayan averaging 12 points, these girls were able to help lead the team to a successful season.
Alayan stated that “as a captain, [she] had to check in on players more, make sure everyone was feeling good, and talk [to the] girls through the season.” Given the current circumstances in the world, one of the biggest changes for the girls was adapting to the new schedule imposed by COVID-19. In previous years, the team would practice six days a week, and this practice time was cut in half to only three days a week.
“[The team] missed out on a lot of learning opportunities and [they] lost a lot of [their] returning girls, but [the] underclassman who never played before really came through, it was just an adjustment,” explained Alayan.
One underclassman in particular who really stood out this season was freshman guard Angelina Colon. Marino remarked that Colon “played with confidence and quickly moved into our starting line-up.”
“[She] had fun, [but] it was hard being a freshman and playing for varsity,” Colon explained. “[Colon] had to push [herself] to be better because [she] was playing at a higher level and [she] had to prove to [everyone] that [she] can play at varsity level being a freshman.”
Marino also believes that the most improved player this season by far was sophomore guard Maritza Ramos-Perez. He expressed that “[Ramos-Perez] gained confidence as the year progressed. She shot the basketball with accuracy and was always one of the best players on the court.” Additionally, senior forward Kaitlyn Mini “stepped up and was the team's leading rebounder.”
Besides having less practice time, another major adjustment that the girls had to adapt to this year was wearing masks. Like any other sport being played this year, masks were mandatory to wear during every practice and game. Although this took a bit of adjusting, Marino stated that the girls were able to quickly “pull through this challenge.”
Colon agrees that wearing a mask during games was one of the hardest challenges. She explained that she adapted to this new adjustment by “pushing [herself] at practice,” and while “it was hard because [she has] asthma...that [did not] stop [her] from [reaching her] goal.” On top of this, adapting to the “different rules and the spacing [they] had to have between people” was another factor introduced by COVID-19, so “[they] had to adapt to the new changes.”
However, despite these new COVID-19 protocols, the team was able to adapt really well. With every protocol being strictly and successfully followed, Marino said that “the girls became an even closer group given all of the obstacles. Everyone quickly realized that the game of basketball was important to play” despite these “new rules/protocols in place.” Marino gives a lot of credit to Malden High School’s trainer Jennifer Sturtevant and athletic director Charlie Conefrey in helping to “ease the anxiety in getting a basketball season to occur.”
This year, the Girls Varsity Basketball team was also able to improve tremendously compared to last year. Malden averaged 40 points per game this season, up from the 32 points per game scored the season prior. On the court, Alayan stated that everyone really “stepped up as players offensively,” and “[the] girls just improved a lot during off-season.”
Colon adds that they were especially good at working together. “At first it was hard because [they did not] really know each other, but [they] started to realize [that is] what [they] needed to win.” Coming together as a team was important this year, especially with the limitations and challenges the team faced with the modified season. As Alayan sums up, “the team came together as a family pretty naturally.”
While the season went well overall, the girls also recognize that there is always room for improvement. Alayan expressed that one thing the team looks to work on for next year is stronger communication in the court. “There were too many times when the court was silent and we screwed on transitions on defense that was due to [lack of] communication.”
Marino brings up something else that the team tried to address throughout the season was the lack of size and rebounding. “Not having a consistent scorer was a problem when the team needed a basket or two down the stretch. While this was the case, the girls also “learned how to play with smaller players” and “really improved their scoring totals,” leading to their success.
According to Marino, “as a coach, [he] was very proud of [the] girls and how they persevered through new challenges both on and off the basketball court. [He] thought that [the] girls were eager to play, understanding of the new rules of engagement, and accepting of new challenges.” Although he wishes that they could have played more games and had a complete season, he believes that the Malden High School Girls Basketball Program is “in a position to compete for a Greater Boston League Championship and beyond.”
Overall, Marino expressed that he is “excited that every girls basketball player in Malden has bought into being more competitive than the boys. Exciting times are ahead for the Malden High School Girls Basketball Program. All of the credit goes to the Girls of Malden High School.”