By Greg Klein
---- — It is pretty safe to assume the Cooperstown’s girls varsity team is going to have a good basketball season this year; the question is how good?
“We are excited about this season,” coach Mike Niles said. “I think we can challenge for the league and section title.”
Despite being a veteran team, the Cooperstown’s girl basketball squad may find its future in the hands of a freshman.
The Redskins have everything going for them this season, following last year’s C2 semifinal loss to Fabius Pompey. Leading scorer and leading candidate for Center State Conference player of the year center Nicole Cring returns for her senior year. Forward/guard Sumer Murdoch and forward Lexi Bloomfield also return, giving Cooperstown a front court to fear.
The biggest question mark is at point guard. With Holli Erkson now preparing for a season playing at Wells, the Redskins will have to find someone to handle the ball.
“We may be point guard by committee to begin with,” Niles said. “It is looking like it may be a freshman who starts for us.”
Freshman guard Liz Millea has been the surprise of early practice, according to Niles. If she can fill Erkson’s shoes and Murdoch and Maggie Hall can take over at the two guard position for Megg Vann, who also graduated, then the backcourt will match the frontcourt for scoring power.
“(Hall) and Sumer could be finishing with 20 to 25 threes apiece,” Niles said.
The two will also spell Millea at the point.
Hall, a junior, and senior Alannah Haggerty, will both be needed to play bigger roles than last year when both missed significant time because of injuries.
“Alannah is an instinctive defender, strong athlete, good rebounder,” Niles said. “Looking forward to having her around healthy for a full season; she lets us do a lot defensively.”
Still, Cooperstown’s biggest strength is Cring, the senior whose college future may be in softball, but is excelling on the basketball floor as well. Cring finished last year with 9.5 points per game, shooting 47 percent from the field. She had 8.7 rebounds per game, and 5.7 blocks per game, eighth and second in Section III respectively. She was selected by Center State Conference D III first team all star.
“Nic rebounds and block shots very well, which puts her high in a lot of stat columns consistently,” Niles said. “She is very competitive, and playing at an elite level with softball has reinforced that.”
Cooperstown will also have depth.
“I think we are going to have 10 girls that will contribute,” Niles said. “I am looking forward to what we can do defensively, I think we can mix looks and athletes a lot. I think we have a talented, consistent inside/outside mix on offense as well.”
Mt. Markham replaces Madison in the division this year. Niles said he believes that Waterville and Hamilton will be the Redskins’ biggest rivals for the league title, and in the section, Little Falls, WestCanada and Thousand Islands will be top seeds.
The Redskins will get a sense of just how good is very early. They open with a home game against Sherburne-Earlville on Dec. 5 and travel to Unatego for a non-conference game on Dec. 10.
“We’ll be tested right away,” Niles said.