Girls Basketball Out For Redemption in Shortened Season

The team starts off practice with a social-distance team huddle. Photo by Emilia Patalita ’22.

Eleven months ago, the Jamesville-Dewitt Varsity Girls Basketball team ended a consistent eight-year stretch of dominance in girls Class A basketball by losing the Sectional Championship to Christian Brothers Academy. With this abrupt ending of the season, they expected a regular upcoming season for redemption. Then, when the COVID-19 virus hit, the athletes were unsure of what was to come for the next year.

This year, even with all the circumstances due to COVID-19, they are still aiming for redemption against the teams ahead of them.  

“Although there’s no championship this year we’ve been working hard to prove we’re still one of the best teams around,” Senior Momo LaClair states. 

Even just a couple months ago, the basketball season was not a guarantee due to the pandemic. Fortunately, through persistent pushes by the Onondaga County Executive and student athletes and coaches, basketball was given the green light to start on February 1st and the girls began practice.

Social distancing is prioritized as much as possible. Photo by Emilia Patilita ‘22

In order for the season to happen, there are many precautions and guidelines that need to take place. This includes mandatory masks at all times, weekly COVID testing, wearing gloves during water breaks, sanitizing, and social distancing as much as possible. Knowing that this season could end at any moment, the athletes have understood not to take any moment for granted, but are still determined to go out undefeated. 

While having to abruptly start off this year with no postseason, a new coach, and the loss of six key seniors last year, it was obvious many things would be different this year. 

Luckily, the team is being led by their senior captain and D1 Drexel University commit, Momo LaClair, who has been on the team for five consecutive years now. Along with Momo, the other four leaders to watch out for on the court consist of seniors Lily Loewenguth, Kailey McKenna, Everly Kessler, and Hannah Brooks.

Returning sophomore, Macy Durkin, and freshman Aniyah Neal are also big contributors to the Red Ram team. Neal was pulled up last year during the end of the season, while originally on the junior varsity team. Durkin also was pulled up from junior varsity mid-season last year and has been exceptional on the team ever since. 

Masks are on at all times, even in scrimmages. Photo by Emilia Patilita ‘22.

The team’s new coach, Kurt Sweeney, who used to coach the 7/8 Modified teams at Jamesville Dewitt, accepted this position knowing COVID-19 would play a huge factor              

in the season. He’s still exceedingly determined to bring the senior Jamesville Dewitt girls out with an undefeated season this year. 

“Our team has the mindset to win every game. You don’t step on the court to lose.” 

The team is also led by two assistant coaches, Coach Cantor and Coach Cottet. 

Even though some players have decided to not participate because of reasons regarding their own personal health and safety, the team has a positive outlook and is grateful to have a season through this pandemic. 

During the girls first two games so far in this 2021 season, Momo LaClair was inching her way up to the 1,000 point club. Finally, she reached it during the team’s second game against Christian Brothers Academy during the fourth quarter. 

“I always dreamed of reaching it ever since I saw Meg Hair reach the milestone when I was in 8th grade,” LaClair states.   

Obviously, this was a huge accomplishment that not only did she reach 1,000 points, but the Jamesville Dewitt girls also ended up beating Christian Brothers Academy by over 20 points for redemption from last season. 

‘This was my chance to send a message back at them.”      

Last year, the team made it all the way to the sectional championship game, then devastatingly lost to Christian Brothers Academy with a final score of 42-45. Momo LaClair went out in the first quarter of the game with an ankle injury and didn’t return until the fourth quarter, still hurt. In addition to this, senior key player Gabby Stickle had gone out mid-season with an ACL injury before the championship, so the team already was facing a big challenge. They never fully had their starting lineup going into the sectional championship for 2020.  

This year, there are many things to come and redemption to take place with the team’s total of 7 games due to COVID-19.