TOWNSEND — North Middlesex lost a couple of key pieces to its Western Mass. championship finalist team a season ago in Mackensey Farina (graduation), and 6-foot-4 sophomore Erin Antosh, who transferred to Lawrence Academy in Groton.
But when NM took its annual trip to Connecticut for a preseason tournament against teams from around New England, the Patriots won four games over the weekend against some very tough teams.
Murphy thinks it was a good experience for his girls.
“The team learned a lot about themselves this weekend,” he said. “They learned where they are at right now, and what they can be. Our kids felt pretty good afterwards. We really only got beat up once against a state champion team, who lost only one player from a year ago. It was a very successful trip.”
But head coach Pat Murphy will rebuild, just like he always has. The Patriots, somehow, some way, always find a way to field a competitive team.
“You can’t replace a girl like Farina,” Murphy said. “Every year you go through the same process of evaluating your talent and developing a playing style that best suits them. There are no two kids who play the same. This year’s team will be more guard-oriented because we don’t have that size.”
Brittani LeBlanc, junior shooting guard, returns to the Patriots lineup after a Midland A division league All-Star selection a season ago. LeBlanc averaged 7.2 points-per-game during the 2013-2014 season.
“Brittani was a very special player for us last season,” Murphy said. “She had a great off-season. She played in the Bay State games and for a couple of AAU teams. I expect Brittani to have another great season at the four for us.”
Seniors Emily Valacer and Kristina Osborne have worked hard in the off season to improve their game.
“Valacer has great size and excellent speed,” Murphy said. “Emily handles the ball extremely well — she will probably play center for us sometimes. Valacer will be able to use her speed and quickness to the ball on defense as well. Kristina Osborne has really improved her three-point shot in the off-season, which will be a big contributing factor for us this winter.”
North Middlesex is not a very tall team inside, but what they lack in size, they make up in their basketball intelligence. Among the returners are Grace Young, Emily Flavin and Delaney LeDoux.
“Everyone on our team will bring something at some point during the year,” he said. “Flavin will end up playing at power forward for us. LeDoux will be our big outside threat.”
Earning spot minutes will be sophomores Riley Walsh and Katie King, as well as freshmen Hadley Beauregard and Maddie Harrington.
“Harrington will give us whatever size we have,” Murphy said. “Maddie is a six-footer, who is still learning the physicality of going from middle school to varsity. She is a hardworking kid, who I expect to make a solid contribution for us towards the end of the season.”
North Middlesex looks to be a team with a strong perimeter game.
“We are Mount St. Mary’s Northeast,” joked Murphy. “We are going to have to shoot ’em when we got ’em.”
North Middlesex opens the season tonight on the road at Algonquin in a Midland B v. Midland A crossover game. North Middlesex will compete in the Midland B this season with the likes of Groton-Dunstable, Quabbin, Marlboro and Nashoba.
Follow Ed Niser on Twitter/Tout: @EdNiser.