Richard Polgar, the first-year girls’ basketball coach at the Hyde School in Bath, knew he had some rebuilding to do.
The Phoenix had won only three games the previous two seasons, including an 0-16 mark in 2011-12.
Beyond that, he said, “I didn’t want to hear or know much about last year. As I told the girls, ‘Let’s start fresh.’ “
That they have. Entering Tuesday’s game with Old Orchard Beach, the Phoenix are 13-0, ranked third in Class D West.
“We’ll see what happens when the season winds down,” said Polgar, who came to Hyde from Philadelphia.
“But we’re pretty proud of the turnaround.”
He can click off several reasons for the about-face — the return of senior point guard Kara Fischer, who suffered a knee injury in the first game last year; the additions of freshmen Chloe Blaylock (a guard/forward from Missouri) and Diamond Brown (a tough post player from Queens, N.Y.); a continuing stress on fundamentals in practice — but he points to a new attitude as the key factor.
” I think the chemistry of this team is incredible,” said Polgar. “It’s one of the best teams I’ve coached in that aspect, in the way the girls play together and bring out the best in each other.”
He later added, “My experience in girls’ basketball is that the girls have to believe in each other, have some fun.
“If they’re not, if they’re not working as a family, then you have a team going in three different directions, going in five different directions.”
The returning players also had plenty of incentive: “I think the struggle made those girls stronger and tougher and more determined to set things right.”
Fischer and fellow captain Katie Comeaux have been instrumental in bringing the team together. They average between 10 and 12 points per game, and provide great leadership.
“We’ve had our ups and downs,” said Polgar. “Sometimes we’ve won ugly. But sometimes, that’s what it takes.”
HUGE WIN for Wells on Saturday, beating Waynflete, the fifth-ranked team in Western Class C.
The win moved the Warriors to 6-8 and 10th in Western Class B. The top 12 teams make it into the playoffs.
“It gives us a little breathing room,” said Wells Coach Don Abbott. “But there’s still a lot of games left to be played.”
Three of Wells’ final four games are against Cape Elizabeth, Falmouth and York — teams that have already beaten the Warriors.
“It’s going to be a wild finish,” said Abbott.
The Warriors have been inconsistent, but improving.
“We had some good players back from last year,” said Abbott.
“But we also lost four senior starters. For the juniors, it’s been a process but we’re starting to play better at the right time of the year.”
Wells has been led by juniors Allison Furness and Nicki Moody. The pair were huge in the win over Waynflete, combining to hit 13-of-16 foul shots in the fourth.
SOUTH PORTLAND has lost guard Danica Gleason to a knee injury, but don’t count the fifth-ranked Riots out in Western Class A.
In their first game without Gleason, who was averaging about 18 points a game and was second in the SMAA in 3-pointers, the Riots played Cheverus tough before losing 43-33.
“I wasn’t sure what was going to happen,” said Coach Mike Giordano. “You never do until you’re in that situation. But I’m pleased the way the kids stepped up.”
Junior Mackenzie Bowring will step into Gleason’s starting spot. Gleason was hurt on Jan. 21 against Bonny Eagle. Giordano said she hit a 3-pointer, played defense and then came back down court. “That’s when her kneecap came out,” he said. “No one touched her. She wasn’t making a cut. Unbelievable.”
An MRI showed an MCL sprain and she’ll be out 6 to 8 weeks, but no surgery is needed. Gleason should be ready for the softball season.
Three of South Portland’s final four games are against McAuley and Deering, the top two teams in the region.
“It’s going to get us as ready as we can be for that tournament,” said Giordano.
“We’ll see who steps up. We’re all disappointed for Danica, but it presents an opportunity for someone else. That’s how we’re looking at it.”
Staff Writer Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or at: