On a beautiful summer night, Bob Hohne sits in Old Rochester’s gymnasium, dreaming of the winter.
“We have all these pieces coming together,” said Old Rochester’s varsity girls basketball coach as he watches a practice of the Bulldogs' summer league team, directed by coach Greg Yeomans. “I’m excited about December.”
And Hohne should be.
If their summer league success is any indication, the Bulldogs will be a team to watch this winter.
After finishing second in the National Conference regular season standings, Old Rochester was unstoppable in the Mattapoisett Summer League playoffs, beating Dartmouth (48-36), Apponequet (48-40) and previously undefeated Falmouth (33-24) before clinching the championship with a 49-34 win over American League champion Bishop Stang. It was the Bulldogs’ first MSL title since 2007.
“It was awesome,” said Old Rochester freshman point guard Cassidy Yeomans, who was named league MVP after scoring 26 in the title game. “We played so well together, especially in the playoffs. I’m just really excited for the winter to see what happens.”
Seeing how well Yeomans fits in with Old Rochester’s returning core was pleasing to Hohne.
“We’re just sort of building on some of the pieces we have left from last year,” he said. “We knew Cassidy Yeomans was coming in and she’s very good. Also Bri Machado is a (school) choice kid from Acushnet. It’s getting those pieces to fit together.”
The MIAA rules do not allow high school coaches to work with their players in the offseason, but the summer league provides an opportunity for those coaches to see their players’ progress under the direction of someone else.
“Many of the coaches sit here and watch,” said Hohne, who has been the league’s director for more than three decades. “None of us can coach, but you can evaluate individual talent and you can evaluate team talent. I think it lends itself very importantly to the idea of team chemistry. When it comes down to it at the end, team chemistry is ultimately the deciding factor of who wins and who loses in those close games.”
Rising junior captain Maddie Demanche and rising sophomore Mary Butler already sense a bond between their teammates from their summer league participation.
“It’s good,” she said. “We get to know each other and how we all play.”
Butler said she benefited from playing on the summer league team prior to her freshman year in 2016-17, when she was named to the Standard-Times Super Team.
“I think it helps the incoming freshmen to know the team,” she said. “I think the chemistry is going to be really good for the team. We’re together on the court, but we’re all really good friends off the court.”
Sophomore Meg Hughes added, “We have a lot of incoming freshmen after losing all those seniors, so it allows us to get to know them and their playing styles.”
Greg Yeomans said the potential for Old Rochester’s varsity team is through the roof with a young, talented group. The summer league championship roster featured one senior, two juniors, four sophomores and three freshmen.
“I think this summer was a real eye-opener in some ways,” he said. “Every program has it’s ups and downs, but I think Old Rochester is going to have a pretty good run for the next several years because there’s a lot of girls that really like basketball. They play other sports, but they like basketball.”
Butler, who also plays soccer and lacrosse at Old Rochester, jumped at the opportunity to play basketball in the summer.
“It really helps you,” she said. “I play other sports, but when I play basketball, it gets me in the zone again. I find it important to get touches on the ball.”
Hohne started the indoor summer league in 1981 to give girls an opportunity to play basketball in the offseason. It began with six teams and has blossomed to 16.
“As the reputation of the league grew, so did the number of teams,” Hohne said, noting that the games are played at Old Rochester three nights a week. “It gives the kids 20 games of experience and experience is so important in the game of basketball.”
The league featured teams from Apponequet, Barnstable, Bishop Stang, Bourne, Dartmouth, Durfee, Fairhaven, Falmouth, GNB Voc-Tech, New Bedford, Old Colony, Sandwich, Somerset Berkley and Wareham, in addition to a pair of squads from Old Rochester.
“It’s the best of the SouthCoast,” said Greg Yeomans, whose team plays this weekend in the Assumption Summer Slam. “Some schools don’t have all of their roster playing in summer league because of conflicts, but there were some good players out there. It’s a competitive league and we took it pretty seriously. It just shows the commitment and they want to win.”
Regular season games run two 20-minute halves with 30 second shot clocks and game officials. During the playoffs, it switches to four eight-minute quarters.
“They are real games,” Hohne said. “What we try to stress is the idea that basketball ended in March, so have you worked on your game since then? Let’s see how it goes in the summer league and then you’ll know what you have to work on for basketball season.”
Greg Yeomans knows how important offseason training is for basketball.
“The way that I think a program is sustainable is if they’re not just playing basketball during basketball season and they’re playing AAU or summer league. That’s how you get better and that’s what is happening here,” he said. “If you’re not collectively working together as a team, it doesn’t matter. That’s why these types of things help because you really saw some success with no practice but just pickup games together. When this group gets together Dec. 1, it’s going to be pretty impressive I think.”
Follow Laurie Los on Twitter @LaurieLosSCT