There was considerable frustration for coach Lani Buskey and her Pinkerton Academy girls’ varsity basketball squad in March when – for the second straight season – they narrowly missed out on reaching the Division I championship game.
That frustration is doubtless intensified by the knowledge that in the 2013-14 season the Lady Astros were knocked off by the rival Londonderry High Lady Lancers in semifinal-round play, and that this winter the fifth-ranked academy side was eliminated by a Winnacunnet High contingent from Hampton that was the number nine seed in the tournament in the semis.
But during both intense campaigns, Buskey’s bunch featured talented players who refused to back down against any opponent. And at the ends of both seasons, the academy crew saw a few of those skilled cagers receive all-state recognition.
In the wake of the 2014-15 title game mid-March, the Pinkerton girls’ hoop program learned that senior forward Val Martin had collected First-Team All-State honors and diminutive senior guard Melissa Martel had received honorable mention status.
No one who witnessed Martin as an aggressive, intense, and talented freshman – in need of some polishing and experience then, to be sure – would have been surprised to learn that Martin would go on to be a First-Team All-Stater before finishing her high school career.
Martin and her abilities and fire had to be at the center of a great many discussions opposing teams had before facing off against the Lady Astros, and the tough 5-foot, 11-inch forward never backed down from any challenge on the court.
“She was our leading scorer with 14.4 points per game and our leading rebounder with 7.1 per game,” said Buskey.
And whatever Martel lacked in size at just 5’3” she made up for with court smarts and ability.
“She took over the role of point-guard for me this year and was our leading assist-getter with four per game, and our best three-point shooter at 29 percent,” said the coach. “Point-guard wasn’t her natural position, but she did a fantastic job this season.”
But even though another of Buskey’s battle-tested guards didn’t garner all-state recognition, she wanted to be certain that cager was recognized for her on-court specialty.
“If we could name an all-defensive team, I’d give my nod to (junior) Marissa Stacy,” said Buskey. “She was our defensive engine this year, and she deserves credit for that contribution.”