Boston High School: Lexi Gifford

ESPN Boston MIAA softball All-State team

June, 22, 2012
6/22/12
2:21
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Starting Rotation – First Team
All-StateKiara Amos, Sr., Malden
The Providence College signee led the Golden Tornadoes to their first-ever state finals appearance after claiming the Eastern Mass. title. Amos went 15-1 for Malden, notching 195 strikeouts in 105 innings thrown all while boasting a 0.47 ERA. The right-hander set another first for Malden’s program as its first-ever Div. 1 college scholarship player.

All-StateMeghan Rico, Sr., King Philip
Rico concluded her high school career as one of the most decorated players in the state, a winner of two state championships and last year’s ESPN Boston Miss Softball. The George Washington signee went 17-3 for the Warriors this season, striking out 274 in 142 innings thrown while surrendering just 10 earned runs all season.

All-StateSarah Ropiak, Sr., Acton-Boxborough
Headed to Brown University next year, Ropiak was a three-time Dual County League All-Star and earned MVP honors in the large division this season. The right-hander posted an ERA of 0.69 while leading the Colonials to a Division 1 North final appearance.

Kendal Roy, Soph., Grafton
The second-year sensation lifted the Indians to their first-ever state championship with a win over Abington in the Div. 2 final. Roy went 18-1 with an ERA of 0.72 in 126 innings thrown with 176 strikeouts while allowing just 11 walks.

All-StateShannon Smith, Jr., Milford
The University of Kentucky commit was near unhittable this season while leading the Scarlet Hawks to an undefeated season and the Division 1 state title. This year’s ESPN Boston Miss Softball Award recipient was also named Massachusetts Gatorade Player of the Year for the second time (2010, ’12) in her career.

Starting Nine – First team
Katie Caruso, Sr. SS, Newton North
Caruso won the Bay State Conference’s triple crown, leading the league in batting average (.662), home runs (10) and RBI (47) while also clubbing a conference-best 51 hits. The Bay State MVP was also a standout on the Tigers’ hockey team. The four-year starter will continue her playing career next year at Southern New Hampshire University.

Lexi Gifford, Sr. SS, Natick
While Caruso may have been named Bay State Conference MVP, Gifford has been the league’s most valuable lead-off hitter during the last four years. The UConn signee hit at a .615 clip while driving in 33 runs for the Red & Blue this season. Gifford was also a true three-sport athlete at Natick, as a four-year letter-winner in soccer, basketball and softball.

All-StateBri Chiusano, Sr. CF, Mansfield
One of the most feared lead-off hitters in the state and a superb slap hitter, the Hockomock League All-Star showed off her power as well with four home runs this season. The Coastal Carolina signee finished second in the Hock in hitting with a .521 batting average.

All-StateOlivia Godin, Sr. C, King Philip
The UMass-Amherst signee was a four-year starter for the Warriors, helping guide the program to back-to-back state titles in 2010-11. The backstop hit .299 this season with three home runs and 18 RBI.
All-StateAlexis DeBrosse, Jr. SS, New Bedford
Already a three-time New Bedford Standard-Times Player of the Year award winner, the three-time Big Three All-Star hit .521 for the Whalers this season. The three-sport athlete also hit five home runs with 26 RBI and a slugging percentage of 1.099.

All-StateJulie LeClair, Sr. 3B, Coyle-Cassidy
Comprising one half of the state’s best left side of the infield, along with shortstop Patty Borges, the St. Anselm signee led the Warriors to the EAC crown with a league-best .527 average. The three-sport athlete also clubbed a league-leading five home runs along with 32 RBI.

All-StateBella Picard, Jr. SS, Blackstone Valley Tech
The nation’s leading hitter resided in Upton this year with the Beavers’ shortstop hitting an astounding .877 (57-for 65). The converted soccer player also tied for the state lead in home runs with 10 while driving in 43 runs.
All-StateMadi Shaw, Soph. SS, Bridgewater-Raynham
The second-year shortstop powered the Trojans to their first-ever Division 1 South sectional crown. Shaw hit .471 with eight home runs and 34 RBI for the Old Colony League champions.

Reilly Weiners, Jr. C, Agawam
Weiners helped lead the Brownies to the Division 1 West sectional title this season. The backstop led all Div. 1 players in Western Mass. with 35 RBI while knocking out 38 hits on the season, including three home runs.

Bullpen – second team
Megan Colleran, Soph., North Attleborough
Megan Cook, Soph., Bellingham
Mackenzie Coopinger, Sr., Lynn Classical
Audrey Dolloff, Sr., Bridgewater-Raynham
Courtney Girouard, Soph., Fairhaven
Trish Hansen, Sr., Mansfield
Shelby Higgins, Sr., Lowell
Kelly Norton, Sr., Abington
Shannon Orton, Sr., Case
Lauren Ramirez, Jr., Dracut
Jurnee Ware, Sr., Hudson

Bench – second team
Patty Borges, Sr. SS, Coyle-Cassidy
Tori Constantin, Jr. 2B, King Philip
Caroline Fairbanks, Jr. 3B, Milford
Courtney Hoban, Sr. OF, Boston Latin
Emily Hoffman, Sr. C, Malden
Nicole Lundstrom, Jr. C, Dighton-Rehoboth
Michaela Mazure, Fr. INF, Burlington
Kelsey Perron-Sovik, Sr. CF, Fairhaven
Christina Raso, Sr. SS, Burlington
Dakota Smith-Porter, Jr. P/SS, Turners Falls

COACH OF THE YEAR
John Furlong, Malden

Preseason MIAA softball All-State team

March, 30, 2012
3/30/12
3:02
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Today we kick off our high school coverage of the spring season with our preseason MIAA softball All-State team, as selected by ESPNBoston.com staff and state high school coaches.

STARTING ROTATION
Kiara Amos, Sr., Malden
Trish Hansen, Sr., Mansfield
Meghan Rico, Sr., King Philip
Sarah Ropiak, Sr., Acton-Boxborough
Shannon Smith, Jr., Milford

STARTING NINE
Taylor Archer, Sr. C/3B, Milford
Patty Borges, Sr. SS, Coyle-Cassidy
Alex Burgess, Sr. OF, Chelmsford
Bri Chiusano, Sr. OF, Mansfield
Lexi Gifford, Sr. IF/OF, Natick
Olivia Godin, Sr. C, King Philip
Nicole Lundstrom, Jr. C, Dighton-Rehoboth
Christina Raso, Sr. SS, Burlington
Reilly Weiners, Jr. C, Agawam

"BEST OF THE REST"
Meg Carnase, Sr. P, King Philip
Katie Casey, Jr. P, Braintree
Katherine Clark, Sr. P, Coyle-Cassidy
Allie Colleran, Jr. SS, Concord-Carlisle
Meghan Colleran, Soph. P, North Attleborough
Stephanie Cornish, Sr. SS, Abington
Abby Curran, Sr. IF, Bishop Fenwick
Alexis DeBrosse, Jr. 2B, New Bedford
Audrey Dolloff, Sr. P, Bridgewater-Raynham
Maggie Hoffman, Jr. P, Avon
Kaleigh Finigan, Jr. C, St. Mary's (Lynn)
Natalie Leone, Jr. 2B, Ashland
Rachel Levine, Jr. CF, Milford
Abby Johnson, Sr. SS, Chelmsford
Galen Kerr, Jr. P, Concord-Carlisle
Jackie Kielty, Jr. P, Middleborough
Kayli Moniz, Sr. SS, Fairhaven
Breanna Monroe, Sr. OF, Shrewsbury
Shannon Orton, Sr. P, Case
Kaci Panarelli, Jr. C, Shrewsbury
Meghan Rich, Sr. P, Chelmsford
Julie LeClair, Sr. 3B, Coyle-Cassidy
Cayleigh McCarthy, Sr. 1B, King Philip
Madi Shaw, Soph. SS, Bridgewater-Raynham
Alyssa Siegmann, Sr. SS, King Philip

D2 South Girls: Scituate 55, Natick 38

March, 10, 2012
3/10/12
11:59
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BOSTON -- Kelly Martin retired to bed early Friday night, knowing she had a chance Saturday to finish converting the worst feeling of her athletic life into her most glowing accomplishment.

Martin, one of Scituate’s stars, remembered last year’s crushing defeat to Hopkinton at the buzzer of the Division 2 South sectional finals. She thought about the TD Garden, her basketball holy grail, where the Lady Sailors would play next if they could oust Natick Saturday in this year’s finals.

Scituate was closing in on a perfect season, 23-0 entering Saturday, yet Martin felt last year’s pain was only worth it if the Lady Sailors could cement a sectional title.

Morning didn’t arrive as quickly as it normally does.

“I woke up at 4 a.m. and I kept waking up every hour until our team breakfast,” Martin said.

But she can catch up on lost sleep Saturday night, perhaps after a night of deserved celebration. She and her teammates are headed to the TD Garden on Tuesday for the Division 2 state semifinals after overcoming Natick 55-38 at UMass Boston’s Clark Athletic Center on Saturday night.

“I remember going in the locker room after last year’s loss and telling them, ‘If you don’t like this taste, remember it,” said Scituate coach Brian Buckley. “Remember it. You never want this taste again.”

Megan Otto, Scituate’s second-leading scorer, recalled the bitter taste. She used it to motivate her all season long, and when Scituate fell behind 23-13 midway through the second quarter on Saturday, Otto even turned to last season as a crutch.

“If you saw our game last year, it didn’t seem nearly as bad," Otto said. "I actually wasn’t scared at all, because of last year and because I know we’re a second-half team."

Otto, who finished with 14 points and eight rebounds, had seven points in the next four minutes as Scituate climbed within 25-22 by halftime.

The Lady Sailors could have been nervous in the locker room. They had more 50-point wins (three) than single-digit wins (two) while running up a 23-0 record this season. The tight score – never mind a halftime deficit – wasn’t the most familiar territory. Plus, Natick’s Lexi Gifford had already netted 18 points and the Red and Blue clearly wouldn’t be shoved aside easily.

“And last year’s loss was on this same court,” Buckley pointed out.

But with so much reason to fear, Scituate’s locker room at halftime resonated with nothing but confidence.

“There was no yelling. We weren’t down at all. We were screaming, celebrating. We knew we could come back and get it, and just really carried it onto the court,” Otto explained.

Shannon Brady, who paced the Lady Sailors with 18 points while adding seven rebounds, got hot to begin the second half, and the hard-nosed Scituate press began to force turnovers and rushed shots, turning the three-point halftime disadvantage into a 43-32 lead after three.

Brady poured in eight points during the third quarter. So did Kelly, who was on her way to a 12-point night. And Scituate finally began to slow down Gifford, who scored only three of her 21 points after intermission.

At a frantic pace, Scituate remained calm and poised. This was a crew forged by last year’s loss. A strong wave may cause damage, but it’s the current's force that leaves behind smooth shells.

And when redemption had finally been achieved, Otto returned to her place of motivation. Even in triumph, last year’s crushing defeat came to her. But now, the sting had turned into thanks.

“Last year’s loss helped us,” Otto said. “It’s going to sound weird, but I told Kelly after the game, I actually think last year’s loss was worth the win this year. I think there’s a lot to be said for getting down and working your way back up again to the place where you want to be.”

A heartfelt Goodbye: With less than a minute remaining, Natick coach Dan Hinnenkamp sent in substitutes to replace Gifford and two teammates.

The score was 54-38 by then. But that did not stop the Natick crowd, witnessing the school’s first berth in the girl’s sectional finals, from rising to its feet for a collective standing ovation.

Chants of "M-V-P" rained down on Gifford as she walked off the court.

“Lexi’s an unbelievable athlete," Hinnenkamp said. "She’s a 1,000-point scorer for us. She’s been our point guard for four years. She wanted this game more than anything, so she came out and gave it her all, and I think that was evident."

Gifford scored 18 of Natick’s 25 points in the first half, scorching the Scituate defense for four triples in the first 16 minutes.

But with Scituate more focused on denying her opportunities, Gifford slowed down in the second half, mustering just three points.

“They’re undefeated for a reason. They came out and their defense was strong. We had a tough time scoring – it was all the defense, I think,” she said.

If there is a positive to the loss for Gifford, it’s that she can begin hanging out with her old friends again.

“This team is so tight. We’re like a family. We just played our hearts out every game. Of all my teams I’ve ever played for, this is the most fun one. We’re just all friends. We go out before practice, every practice, team dinners. We don’t have any other friends during the basketball season,” she said.

Quick and unselfish: Two characteristics stand out when watching Scituate more than any others: The Lady Sailors move the ball like they’re playing catch with a flaming coal, and they play at an abnormally quick pace.

The game’s final field goal stood as a symbol of Scituate’s playing style. Martin caught an outlet pass on the left wing, took one dribble and threw a perfect assist to Brady, who, even as a 5-foot-8 center, had beaten all her opponents down court for the open layup.

“Especially when we only play eight kids for the most part, our pace is incredible," Buckley said. "Our practices are super. That’s how we practice every day. We said that’s going to be the difference down the road. And today, it really showed. On a big court, to be able to run like that."

“We run a drill that incorporates that type of passing every single day in practice, and when you see it on the floor, it’s sweet,” he added. “Of course, you have to have the right players passing it and catching it, too.”

The Lady Sailors certainly had the right players, who will look to extend their bid at perfection at the TD Garden on Tuesday.

To say they’re excited about playing at the home of the Boston Celtics would be an understatement.

“I’ve wanted to play at the Garden since I first started playing basketball,” said Martin. “Once I knew I even had the opportunity to go there, that’s all I’ve wanted. And coming off last year’s loss to Hopkinton – I knew we could come back. I knew we had the chance, so there’s no way I was going to give up even until the last whistle.”

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