Girls' Basketball: Veteran squad set the table for next year

Senior-laden, veteran-driven and hyper-experienced.

The 2007-08 vintage of the Douglas girls' basketball team carried plenty of labels into the season, along with a host of high expectations.

As it wrapped up, the Lady Tigers managed to deliver on all fronts, clinching the school's first home playoff game in four years and moving up to a tie for No. 2 on the program's all-time wins list. Just for good measure, the Tigers brought home the state academic championship as well, garnering a team GPA of 3.7.

"They were just such a good group of kids," Douglas coach Werner Christen said.

"They were a coach's dream. They got along, they all did the right things on and off the floor and I enjoyed coaching them a lot. I looked forward to coming to practice every day with them."

It was the oldest team Christen has coached in his 11 seasons at the helm of the girls' program. It was the first time he didn't have a sophomore or freshman on his roster. It was one of his largest senior classes (eight) that he's seen come through.

And in the face of that, Douglas will still return three of their top five scorers next year.

"It's a weird deal, we're losing a great bunch of kids but we're getting a great bunch of kids back next year," Christen said.

Among those Douglas will say goodbye to is point guard Bridget Maestretti, a two-time all-region pick and a four-year starter in the backcourt.

"She just had a knack for finding the right player with the ball and making the big play," Christen said. "She developed a good knowledge of the game and put it into practice every time she was on the floor."

The centerpiece of the lineup, however, will be among the group coming back.

Junior Jessica Waggoner established herself as one of the top post players in the state this season, averaging 16.25 points per game and often scoring the entirety of the team's points through long stretches of the game.

Starters Gina Pfaffenberger, Allie Hughes and Lisa Christen gave Douglas a trio of three-year, veteran players on the floor at the start of every game, but Douglas' depth hardly ended there.

Douglas entered the season with so much experience that Christen found himself in a situation where the starters were simply the first five out on the floor.

"We had so many two-headed monsters at so many positions," Christen said. "Kids pretty much split time in each spot."

Indeed, the Tigers often ran up to 12 players deep in its basic rotation, even in key league contests. That represented a luxury of depth not seen much around the rest of the region.

Seniors Nicole Didero, Katie Buffo and Sarah Hartley and juniors Taryn Williams, Danyelle Heidt, Helen Fillmore and Ally Freitas all saw extensive minutes off the bench. Heidt finished the year as the team's No. 3 scorer, Williams was the No. 4 scorer and Didero provided important minutes when Waggoner went to the bench.

Buffo was one of the team's top outside shooters, Fillmore stepped up late in the year at the forward position and Hartley and Freitas provided change of pace options in the backcourt.

Senior Sara Phillips and juniors Jessica Gorton and Maci Pfaffenberger rounded out the Tiger lineup.

"There were so many kids this year who stepped up at different times and carried us when we needed them to," Christen said. "We were able to depend on these kids to work hard and do the right things."

The team's on-the-floor success wasn't built in the last season, or even in the last three seasons.

"This is a unique group because they have been playing together since they were 6 years old," Christen said. "They were out there in the Saturday morning youth leagues and right on up through middle school.

"They know each other very well."

The first-round exit in the playoffs was especially tough on the team considering the length of time they'd played with each other.

"We started telling them around Christmas to enjoy every moment because the league schedule was going to fly by," Christen said. "Unfortunately, it went extremely fast. We wanted to keep going."

Despite losing eight senior contributors, the cupboard will be far from bare as Douglas fielded strong JV and freshman teams this year. The junior varsity team won its league title.

"We've got some good kids coming up and some freshmen who could make the jump," Christen said. "We'll throw them out there this summer and see how it shapes up."


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