By MICHAEL KELLY
Recorder Sports Staff
BROADALBIN -- For the past few seasons, Broadalbin-Perth girls basketball head coach Michael Magliocca's goal has been to create a program capable of surprising people and sneaking up on teams.
This year's batch of Lady Patriots looks especially capable of the latter -- literally.
"Our average height is 5-foot-5," states Monica Magliocca, the coach's daughter and a senior guard on the team. "That's going to make it difficult [to compete] in the Foothills (Council). But we're all confident and working together well, so I think we can still go far in sectionals and do well in Foothills."
In each of the past two seasons, the Lady Patriots have struggled in the Class A-heavy Foothills Council before springing upsets upon rival teams in the Section II Class B playoffs. A campaign ago, B-P looked set to go on a more substantial run in sectionals, but then star player Kaitlin Wood suffered a season-ending knee injury that played a role in the Lady Patriots not being able to get out of the second round of the playoffs.
"She's back, though, and she's feeling good," Michael Magliocca says of Wood, now a senior. "I thought she might be a bit tentative, but she worked through that this summer. She's doing great."
Wood's health and presence is even more needed this season for the Lady Patriots because of their lack of size. The 5-foot-10-inch Wood is at least two inches taller than every other B-P player, making the team's leading scorer and rebounder even more of a linchpin for the squad.
While there's no working around the value Wood's height adds to the team, Magliocca is trying to shake up his team's offense so opposing defenses can not key on his best player as much as they did a year ago, when Wood faced constant double teams and zone gimmicks designed to keep her from reaching 20 points. So, Magliocca is employing a motion-based offense designed to take advantage of the team's talent in its returning core of players.
"These five girls I'm bringing back -- Monica, Kaitlin, Katie (Herba), Rachel Orapello and Kylie Gifford -- they played a lot of minutes as young girls, and to have that plus our summer work ... we're very excited," Magliocca says.
"There's definitely more confidence here this year than last year," Wood adds.
That confidence should help the Lady Patriots' tempo this season, too. Where a year ago B-P liked to slow games down, the Lady Patriots plan to speed things up this season.
"We're trying to be more fast-paced this year," adds Herba, the team's junior point guard. "We have a lot of quick people ... and if we fast-break, we may have easy opportunities."
Creating more scoring opportunities for Herba is also a point of emphasis for Magliocca.
"Katie's so knowledgeable of the game and knows a point guard is supposed to run the offense and not shoot a lot," says the coach. "But we've got to get her out of that thinking a little bit."
To that end, Magliocca plans to play Herba off the ball at some points this season, giving the guard more chances to put points on the board herself.
Still, no amount of offense will fully overcome B-P's lack of size on its own. Instead, the team says it will need to work extra hard and pay attention to the smallest of details to have success this season.
"We have to be very physical on the court," says Monica Magliocca, the team's shortest player at 5-foot-2. "We have to make sure we emphasize things every play, like setting our picks hard. We have to do the little things."
The Lady Patriots open play Monday at home in a non-league game against Middleburgh.