By Tom Pedulla –
One overriding question surrounded the Irvington girls’ basketball team as it opened this season. How could the Bulldogs possibly replace point guard Lindsay Halpin, a four-year starter consistently ranked among the top 50 players in the state?
“It was a huge adjustment,” said Coach Gina Maher. “It was not only her talent as a basketball player but her talent as a leader and making the team a cohesive group.”
Promising sophomore Abby Conklin succeeded Halpin, and the Bulldogs pulled together even more. They relied on the senior leadership of Mary Brereton, Kelly Degnan, Heather Hall and Olivia Valdes and closed the regular season at 19-1, the same mark they achieved with Halpin orchestrating the offense last year.
“I think we work together better because we’re another year together,” Degnan said. “Any team would be.”
At key junctures in a game last year, Irvington might have looked to Halpin to take over. This season, different players stepped up.
“Not relying on one person, relying on the whole team, gave us a greater advantage,” Degnan said after the Bulldogs entered the Section 1 Class B Tournament as the top seed.
Conklin has done an admirable job in Halpin’s place.
“It was a lot of pressure,” she said. “But the starters, the whole team, helped me become a better player and a better person.”
Halpin knew how to position teammates for the best possible scoring opportunities. That is difficult to replace.
“It was definitely very challenging in the beginning because she was our point guard. She played such a huge role on the court,” Brereton said of Halpin. “Abby has done a really good job. Over the season, she’s really grown.”
Maher credited all of her players for adjusting.
“There are times when it doesn’t work so well,” she said, “and they figure out a way to make it work well.”