Andover Golden Warriors Girls Basketball '07-'08

Cardio Kids: Andover's Hughes, Renfro and Thomann need no rest

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Friday, March, 14 By David Willis
Staff writer

ANDOVER | Even though it was only two days before the Division 1 state championship, the Andover girls basketball team was still running yesterday.

"If we miss foul shots in practice we have to run a lot," said senior Laura Renfro. "Today, for example, we missed a lot of foul shots, so we had to run."

The Golden Warriors had to make 14 free throws for practice to end. That proved to be a challenging task, and with each miss | six by forward Kelly Driscoll's count | the group had to run. And this was no pregame jog. Each miss called for a "16," or 16 sprints across the court.

But after coach Jim Tildsley had blown the whistle to end practice, Meghan Thomann remained on the court firing up shot after shot for the next five minutes without stopping.

That Thomann did not want to leave the court was no surprise. She never does. Neither do Renfro and Lauren Hughes. The three seniors have gained the reputation for playing literally every minute of almost every game.

"In the big games, they play all 32 minutes," said Tildsley. "They never come out, and that is a tribute to the kind of shape they are in, the style of competitors that they are and that they never get into foul trouble."

Unless the game is well in hand in the final minutes, guards Thomann and Renfro and center Hughes do not touch the bench between tip-off and the final buzzer, save for timeouts.

"What they do every game is amazing," said Driscoll. "To go the whole game takes a lot out of you. They are in unbelievable shape. I can't say enough about what they do."

Any time those three are on the court is good news for Andover. Thomann leads the teams in scoring at 12.0 points per game, Renfro is a close second at 11.1 and Hughes is fourth with 9.1.

Conditioning has always been a top priority for the three. During the off-season, Thomann worked on basketball fundamentals and conditioning with Boston Celtics strength and conditioning coach Walter Norton, a friend of former Andover basketball great and local businessman Carmen Scarpa.

She also played AAU basketball with many of her teammates and is also a four-year varsity player on the Andover volleyball team. Hughes also played AAU basketball, and learned tricks to conditioning as a member of the Andover cross country team. But it is Renfro whose endurance draws the biggest wows.

"I look at Laura and I don't think she ever gets tired," said Hughes. "I don't know if I was very good at cross country, but Laura was very good. And she needs it for defense."

Aside from her work as a 3-point shooter, Renfro, who trains at 180 Sports and Fitness in Wilmington and ran cross country, has the job of guarding the opponent's best player.

As hard as they train in the offseason, all three players credited the Andover preseason with taking them to the next level.

"As good as all the kids are being in shape, after the first five or six days of practice they are very ... very sore," said Tildsley with a smile. "Then, after I give them a few days off after the end of the regular season, we bring them back and really run them the next few days."

But after a full season of playing 32 minutes, the locations of the last two games have brought about new challenges. Instead of the traditional high school basketball court (84 feet by 50 feet) the Tsongas Arena and the TD Banknorth Garden have each had NBA-sized courts (94 feet by 50 feet).

"The last couple games have been tough because of the size of the courts," said Tildsley. "You could see the girls getting a little tired. I had my assistants (Dick Muller and Leo Lafond) keeping track so we could take our timeouts to give them a rest. They know when they are tired they can look at me and I'll ask if I should call a timeout."

Tildsley also stressed that the ability to stay on the court goes beyond conditioning.
"You have to be mentally tough," he said. "You are playing different types of kids and different styles. That's why playing more than one sport is so helpful."

The three have managed to avoid foul trouble all season, an especially tough task for Hughes, who spends her entire game battling with big players under the basket.

"That is the most important thing," said Driscoll. "Laura and Meghan are such good shooters and Lauren is clutch. We have to have them on the court late in big games to hit the big shots."

For all three, the key to staying on the court is the same.
"I just try not to think about it," said Hughes. "I want to be in the game all the time and competing. I mean, now we are playing in the state finals."

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