Londonderry Welcomes Girl’s Basketball Champ

Editor’s Note: After a recent move, Casey Evans, Blaze All Star Girls’ Basketball Team member, now resides in Londonderry, NH. The following story of her team’s championship win took place shortly before her move into town.

The Blaze All Star Girls’ Basketball Team soared to capture the Championship of the 2010 Bay State Games 7th and 8th Juniors Division. The 2 day event was held at the Reggie Lewis Athletic Complex in Boston. This year’s event was particularly competitive with the increased interest in girls’ basketball locally and nationally.

The highly talented Blaze All Stars included 5 eighth graders and 5 seventh graders. Although limited in preparation practice time for this event, the girls had a familiarity with one another and shared common interests and goals which brought them in to a harmonious group within a short period. They bought into the philosophy of a team concept and desire to play as a unit. The chant defense was synonymous with this group and it showed throughout their tournament play. Trapping and doubling up on their talented opposition was indeed in vogue and how the team members supported one another was something in which each took pride.

The path to the Championship game saw each member contributing in various ways. Day one included pool play whereby the team with the best record in each pool would move on to the Semi Finals on day number two. The heat outdoors found its way into the gym venue which added to the complexity of attaining victory in this competition. It should be noted that the Blaze quintet had a vocal cheering section of family and friends, who despite the uncomfortable temperature with the gym, helped bolster the resolve of the players to capture the gold.

In the first pool game, the Blaze began by playing this year’s 13AAU D2 champions, the Mass Frenzy. Given that this was the Blaze girls first time on the court together as a team, it took some time for the team to gel. In this first game, the boards were controlled by Maty Diabate, Ally Esielionis and Casey Evans. Jill Pinard and Justine Butler contributed on the offensive and defensive ends at the small forward spot. The guard play of Alexis Gibbons, Amy Fnine, Cailey Mastrangelo and Kelly Poole was just too much to handle by the Frenzy, as the Blaze defeated the state champions 46-35.

The Blaze All Star Girls' Basketball Team after their championship win. Front Row (l-r): Kelly Poole (Lancaster), Amy Fnine (Fitchburg), Jill Pinard (Shirley), Ally Esielionis, Asst. Rick Gibbons; Second Row (l-r): Jr. Asst. Rosie Quinn, Justine Butler (Marlborough), Alexis Gibbons (Shirley), Casey Evans (Westford); Third Row (l-r): Head Coach Joe Bibbo, Cailey Mastrangelo (Shirley) , Maty Diabate (Jefferson), Brittany Charlonne (Rutland), Asst. Donna Mastrangelo.

In the second game, the Blaze girls showed even more their tenacity, especially on the defensive end to defeat the Tri-Valley Heat by a score of 46-20 to qualify for the medal round.

The final proved to be a classic an emotional triple overtime victory by the Blaze All Stars in a hotly (both in the play & the room temperature) encounter against the North Shore Bobcats, earning them the Gold. The Blaze trailed most of the game but was able to gut out a comeback that resulted in a tie in regulation. In the first overtime, the Blaze girls again found themselves down early, but clamped down on the defensive end, stifling the Bobcats tying the game once again sending the contest into the second overtime. In the second overtime, the Blaze were on the brink of a silver medal, down three with 8 seconds left. A timeout was called, and the play was drawn up. The girls executed perfectly, with the inbound from Justine Butler to Brittany Charlone who found Kelly Poole coming off the double pick to hit the tying three pointer with seconds left on the clock. The Blaze again played their refuse-to-lose defense to force yet a third overtime.

In the final OT, the Blaze finally were able to break free, and won the gold, 49-46. In the euphoria, the girls circled up at center court, arms around each other, showing how close and how far that had come in such a short time. Coach Bibbo indicated that this was a group of girls who would just not quit and how each girl should be extremely proud of what they pulled off and for all that they accomplished.

The Championship team comprised primarily of girls living in the Nashoba Valley, was coached by Joe Bibbo of Pepperell and assisted by Rick Gibbons and Donna Mastrangelo, both residing in the Shirley Community, along with Rosie Quinn of Acton. This was the first time that brother and sister Bibbo and Mastrangelo teamed together.

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