DRACUT — It’s been a season of firsts for the girls who play on Team Liberty in the Girls Junior League of the Dracut Basketball Association: first-year players; first-year basketball coaches and a first-place finish in the regular season.
“They came into this looking to have fun. They were wide-eyed with big smiles on their faces,” said coach Dan Cameron, whose daughter Shaye is on the team. Cameron has coached soccer, but never basketball. Jessica Sherman, whose daughter Shayla, is on the team is also a first-time basketball coach.
The girls on Team Liberty are third- and fourth-graders. The Dracut Basketball Association sponsors town-wide leagues, so the girls come from different elementary schools.
Girls from one school didn’t know girls from the other schools, so they had to get to know each other to build the team. Some have played basketball before, but others haven’t.
“There was never anything cliquey about it.” The girls became a team quickly,” Cameron said. “In fact, my daughter was invited to a birthday party recently that she wouldn’t have before.”
Italia Stavrou, mother of player Toula Stavrou, agreed, adding: “They’re working together and making close connections.”
Crowding around their coaches and a reporter, the girls yell out answers to questions. “It’s really been special,” says Shayla. “It’s been a new adventure and a challenge.”
Raising their hands to speak, but mostly speaking all at once, other girls said playing basketball is “fun.”
“We definitely help each other,” says one team member. “And we work hard.”
They have worked hard, finishing the regular season with a 12-0 record.
In addition to players Stavrou, Cameron and Sherman, the team members are Zoe Gorman, Talia Lowney, Jayden Rowe, and Isabella Viviani
Parents are “super excited,” according to Cameron. They’ve been explaining to their daughters what it means to have an undefeated record.
The season has been about more than a winning record, however. The girls worry about girls on teams that don’t have a 12-0 record. Cameron and Sherman make sure they understand that they still have to play aggressively even while feeling badly about other teams.
“We don’t want them to limit themselves,” he said. League rules permit scorers to stop recording baskets on the electronic scoreboard, but real final scores are kept and turned in at the end of game.
At this point, “It’s not about running up the score,” he said.