In Central Catholic girls’ basketball coach Sue Downer’s trade, coaches do not stomp up and down the sidelines wearing baseball caps and sunglasses. But her program can be summed up by a speech to his players once given on the concept of team by the late University of Michigan football coach Bo Schembechler. It is easy to imagine his words echoing through the minds of each Central player during every play of every game:
“No man is more important than The Team. No coach is more important than The Team. The Team, The Team, The Team! And if we think that way, all of us, everything that you do, you take into consideration what effect does it have on my Team?
That attitude materialized most clearly during a single play during the March 16 state final in Worcester against Holy Name.
It was not a signature drive and score by captain and all-everything Casey McLaughlin. Nor was it a sweetly soft mid-range jumper by Courtney Walsh, a rainbow three-pointer by Caitlin Dell’Orfano, or an elegant low-post move by Amanda Williams. It was a turnover – committed by Central Catholic.
After being arm-barred, hand-checked, and jostled by her Holy Name defender, Central guard Alexandra Nagri lost possession of the basketball. Holy Name started to break the other way, and looked to have the advantage to convert the error into two quick points.
Nagri could have pouted about the lack of a foul that should have been assessed to Holy Name. She could have visibly chided a teammate for not coming toward her more quickly to receive a pass. She could have slowly jogged back the other way at the tail end of a Holy Name lay-up. She did none of those things.
Nagri knew that her primary responsibility was to stop the basketball – immediately. She sprinted back to defend the rim, positioned herself perfectly between the goal and the Holy Name player dribbling in toward the basket at full speed. Nagri stood her ground, took a brutal charge, and negated the turnover by drawing an offensive foul on Holy Name. It was a great individual effort. If you have ever sacrificed yourself to take a charge, you know that it was also a great team play and what a great impact it can have on an entire team.