PENDLETON — Megan Reed was excited to get back to the gym.
Those on her Starpoint roster were already internally motivated, as she rattled off half a dozen names in a matter of seconds who kept getting better. And with that year-round hunger from her players, it’s no surprise Reed was ready to get back in full swing as soon as possible, considering how much the group accomplished in a short time.
Going from zero wins to a 15-8 record in two seasons was a monumental program turnaround for the red-and-gray, ending as the Section VI Class A-2 runner-up following a 58-44 loss to Williamsville South in March.
The outcome wasn’t what the Spartans had hoped for, as a victory would have marked their first sectional title since winning in B-2 in 1995. But, as it sharpened its proverbial swords through an off-season of training, Starpoint found its silver lining that the program was ready to compete on the big stage.
Now, as the new season begins, Starpoint will take its experience to another level as it was reclassified as a Class AA school over the summer. The Spartans will start the season on the road against Clarence at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday. In the eyes of head coach Megan Reed, getting a taste of playing for a sectional championship set “an expectation” for the season ahead, even if there will be a different path.
“I think that our team is going to be put to the test this season,” said Reed, who enters her sixth season leading the varsity program. “We do have a lot of solid matchups. But I think that recognizing that and seeing that we can go as far as (the) sectional finals, it’s only instilled in them, hopefully, the confidence that they should have had all along. So, getting at that spot is just allowing us to recognize as athletes, and the team, that we are competitors and that we should be there.”
A major benefit for Starpoint going into the new season is the amount of experience coming back. Ten players return from the Spartans’ team that also finished third in the ECIC II standings, including seven juniors, like 6-foot-2 center Megan Milleville and point guard Sophia Waliszewski along with senior shooting specialist Ava Anastasi.
Milleville emerged as a top player in the paint as she averaged 8.9 points, 11.7 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game and recorded nine double-doubles. Waliszewski and Anastasi formed a strong backcourt duo for Reed.
Waliszewski finished second in the section in steals (132) and averaged a team-high 3.2 assists along with 8.2 points per game. Anastasi led the Spartans in scoring with 12.3 points per game and showed her capability to score all over the floor, including 54 made 3-pointers, the 16th best in the section.
From Reed’s perspective, the experience is a plus, as, because she has coached them the last three years, it’s now an expansion of the knowledge already implemented. Going into the off-season, Reed said a major focus was improving defensively, specifically in man-to-man situations, especially with communication.
“Sometimes, I think we like to go after the ball as a team and get the steals but sometimes when we reach, it allows the other person to burn by us and then we put ourselves in a ‘help defense’ situation,” Reed said. “So, it’s really just playing it and being more experienced with it for the most part. It’s not any one specific thing off of man-to-man but just getting better at it as a team. Knowing where each other or each other person is and being able to talk and communicate through it.”
For Milleville, the opportunity to compete for a sectional championship was an achievement because she and her teammates never realized the goal could be accomplished. Some of the opponents will be different now for the Spartans, which Milleville noted as one of the challenges. Along with the aforementioned Clarence, Starpoint will also face teams like Williamsville North and West Seneca West.
But Milleville and her teammates aren’t fazed, as she said, Starpoint will need to want to chase the goal in order to make a return to the finals. Consistency at both ends of the floor, Milleville said, for an entire game is a must, noting the inconsistency that occurred at some points one year ago.
“I just want us to have pride when we play,” Milleville said. “I think we’ve always had it. But just to be proud of where we are and how far we can get. I just want us to be confident in our offense (and) defense and to show it.”
After facing Clarence Tuesday, Starpoint will then continue its season at 6:30 p.m. Friday at Grand Island. The Spartans return at 7 p.m. Dec. 14 to host Sweet Home in ECIC II play.