By MICHAEL KELLY
Recorder Sports Staff
BROADALBIN -- When the Broadalbin-Perth Lady Patriots walk out onto the basketball court, opponents likely have a hard time matching up for defense.
Sure, players like Katie Herba and Kaitlin Wood -- averaging a combined 29.9 points per game -- make for tough players to guard, but the bigger issue for B-P opponents is figuring out which of the Lady Patriots are the guards and which are the forwards.
Besides the 5-foot-10 Wood, each of the four other B-P starters -- Herba, Kylie Gifford, Monica Magliocca and Rachel Orapello -- are 5-foot-5 or shorter, making the Lady Patriots one of the smallest teams in Section II.
"We're kind of used to it," says Herba, the team's point guard who plays down low in B-P's zone defense. "Most of the teams are taller than us and they're going to keep being taller than us, so we're learning how to play against taller teams."
Probably no Lady Patriot has had to make a bigger adjustment than Orapello, the team's power forward, by default.
"I used to be a point guard ... but we needed someone else to play down low," the 5-foot-4 Orapello says.
To make up for the Lady Patriots' size, B-P plays a unique 2-1-2 zone defense, in which the club uses a series of rotations to take advantage of the squad's speed.
"It started off as only a zone, but now we're opening it up," head coach Michael Magliocca says.
The most unique thing about the way B-P plays its zone is how the Lady Patriots use Herba in the middle of it. In a traditional 2-1-2, Herba's position -- the "1" -- acts as back-up for each of the other four players, always staying home to protect the paint. But, at 5-foot-4, Herba comes up a few feet shy of being a true rim protector, so the team instead has her run from side to side, using her to front the opposition's forwards. The move is counterintuitive to general basketball logic, but Herba's speed makes it work.
"That gives us some flexibility and lets us switch things up to confuse our opponents," Magliocca says.
Still, the Lady Patriots' lack of size is something the team will need to deal with all season. Luckily, it is a challenge the team enjoys.
"You just have to be more physical because there's usually bigger girls playing down low," Herba says.
That is, of course, except for B-P.
Sigh of relief
At the start of the fourth quarter Monday night, B-P's Wood got herself entangled with a Johnstown player and left the Lady Patriots holding their breaths when the senior forward hit the ground.
"We both went up for the rebound and I was to the side of her," explains Wood. "She got the ball and, when she brought it down, my arm was caught in [between her arms] and my arm went back and all the way down.
"Then, I fell on the arm," says Wood, who had a season-ending knee injury last season. "It was scary when it happened. ... I didn't want what happened to be like last year and not get to play the rest of the year -- but I don't think that's going to be the case."
Wood missed the rest of the contest and watched the remainder of the Lady Patriots' 39-37 win with a bag of ice on her right shoulder. She missed Tuesday's practice, but worked out a little bit Wednesday night and might play in today's Foothills Council home game against South Glens Falls.
"I'll use the NFL's terms -- she's 'questionable,'" says Magliocca. "We've upgraded her from 'doubtful' to 'questionable.'"
Magliocca says he wants to be cautious with Wood, as the forward is both the team's best scoring and rebounding threat.
"She really wants to play, but we need to think about our team and the whole picture," Magliocca says.
Monday's 39-37 win against Johnstown was a crucial one for the Lady Patriots (6-3, 1-3), who did a lot that night for their sectional seeding down the road.
"It was a big game for us," says forward Ciarra Dickson. "It was a Class B game, rivals ... it was going to be a big win for us if we got it. ... We wanted to go out there, show people who we are, and establish who we are for everyone to see."
That the Class B win came against B-P's main rival was a sweetener for the Lady Patriots.
"All we wanted to do this year was come back, start off new and be able to beat them," senior guard Monica Magliocca says.
"We needed that," Orapello says.
Playing in the Class A-heavy Foothills Council, B-P does not get many opportunities to play against the level of teams it will see in the playoffs. B-P's lack of Class B opponents also makes head coach Michael Magliocca's team a tough one to seed come the postseason, so every win helps the squad's case. Last year, the team had eight wins and garnered a No. 7 seed; Magliocca is hoping for something in the neighborhood of 10 wins this season.
"We've got to pick up a couple more wins in the Foothills," says Magliocca. "If we get three or four more wins, we should have a favorable seed ... [like] a 4 or a 5."
But sectional seeding is not B-P's top concern at the moment. Instead, the team is focusing on just getting a little bit better each day.
"I'm feeling pretty good about the team and the girls are feeling good about themselves," says Magliocca. "That's more important than anything else."