Wells girls’ basketball coach Sandi Purcell watches a drill during the Warriors’ first practice of the season on Monday in Wells. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

WELLS — The practice was minutes away from ending, but as her team ran sprints to close out the session, Wells girls’ basketball coach Sandi Purcell wanted to give her players a final push.

“Payton Fazzina has won every sprint today,” Purcell told her team. “I want to see someone beat her.”

The basketball season began across the state Monday with the first practices of the winter, and at Wells, the theme of conditioning and competitiveness was present throughout. With 10 players on the team, down from 14 last year, the Warriors are going to need plenty of both.

“I said it to them very bluntly. We have 10 players on our team, we are not going to have the opportunity to have a deep bench,” said Purcell, starting her second year as coach. “We’re going to have to be the best conditioned team on the floor each night.”

The players that are back, though, give Wells a good returning core from a team that went 16-2 during the regular season last year. Top scorers Megyn Mertens, a sophomore forward, and Maren Maxon, a junior guard, are back, as are junior guards Kendall Maxon and Hailey Marshall, and sophomore guard Payton Fazzina. All five started or played significant minutes last winter.

They’re not the biggest team, but the Warriors feel confident they can be one of the better ones.


“It’s really a good feeling going in with most of the same girls,” Maren Maxon said, “and being able to be confident in who we’re playing with, and already have the building blocks set for the future.”

Junior guard Maren Maxon dribbles two basketballs while running through a drill Monday. Maxon is one of several key returners for the Warriors, who hope to take the next step after losing in the Class B South semifinal last season. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

And Purcell doesn’t need to worry about instilling a sense of determination and focus with her team. The Warriors fell short in the B South semifinals last February, losing a third-quarter lead and suffering through an ice-cold, one-point fourth en route to a 38-24 loss to Spruce Mountain.

Nine months later, the loss still stings. And motivates.

“It definitely sparked a fire in everyone,” Kendall Maxon said. “That’s definitely our goal, to get back there.”

The Warriors are eager to move on from the way last season ended, while also learning from it. There were four sophomores in Wells’ lineup that game, and the Warriors acknowledged that nerves were a factor.

“As a freshman, I’d never been to the Expo before, I didn’t really know what to expect,” Mertens said. “You’re putting on lanyards, you’re like ‘Oh, I feel pretty cool.’ But when you get on that court, there’s no feeling like it. But this year … I’m ready to conquer that again.”


Junior guard Kendall Maxon puts up a layup while running through a drill with teammates on Monday in Wells.

The players weren’t alone. Purcell said she, too, felt the weight of the moment.

“When we look at the people that played for us last year, 90 percent of them were sophomores and freshmen. Getting up on that big stage, it’s frightening and it causes a lot of anxiety,” she said. “… And, self-admittedly, my first year coaching, that big stage was a growing experience for me (as well).”

Experience will help, as will preparation for when things break down.

“When you get into a game like that, you rely on the things that have always worked for you. If that’s not working, it’s really easy to be like ‘Now what? We don’t know anything,’ ” Purcell said. “We were kind of static. … We’re definitely looking into adding some quick-hitter plays, to get some movement going.”

Junior guard Kendall Maxon receives a pass before putting up a layup during the first day of practice for the Wells girls’ basketball team on Monday. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

That should pay off when the pressure of the playoffs returns. First, though, the Warriors have to reach that stage. With 10 players, it’s a more uphill task than it was a season ago.

“This year, having 10, it just motivates us to get in better shape and get stronger and make sure we don’t get injuries,” Kendall Maxon said. “All 10 of us are going to be crucial aspects to the team.”

The Warriors, however, like the 10 they have.

“I can already feel our energy is 1,000 times up. It’s just good to be back in the gym,” Mertens said. “I just can’t wait for a great season.”

Comments are not available on this story.

filed under: