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KP Girls Quintet Heading in the Right Direction

KP’s captains are, from left, Elizabeth Molla, Olivia LaFond, and Julia Marsden.

KP Girls Quintet Heading in the Right Direction 

Warriors Adapting to New Coach  

By Ken Hamwey
Staff Sports Writer

Jeff Miszkiewicz is the third coach the King Philip girls basketball team has had in the last four years. And, although the transition to a new coach has been frequent, it doesn’t necessarily translate to disruption or confusion. At least not with Miszkiewicz. 

Jeff Miszkiewicz is in his first year as KP’s girls basketball coach.

“The girls are very coachable and willing to learn,’’ said the 31-year-old Miszkiewicz, who was the girls junior-varsity coach for the last two years at LaSalle Academy in Providence, R.I. “They’re good listeners and they’re all on the same page. And when that occurs, it leads to improvement.’’

The Warriors definitely are improved.

At Local Town Pages deadline, the girls had compiled an impressive 5-1 record.

“We’re off to a good start and our opening-game win over Foxboro was great for the program and great for building confidence,’’ Miszkiewicz said. “The girls are working hard and our offense and defense are meshing well.’’

The team has a plethora of strengths and Miszkiewicz is banking on those assets for the squad to achieve its goals for the 2021-22 campaign.

“The girls rely on effort and energy,’’ Miszkiewicz said. “Their attitudes are positive and they’re eager to improve. We don’t have a lot of players with varsity experience but we have depth, athleticism, speed, quickness and height.’’

The players and Miszkiewicz have listed four goals and they all seem like they can be achieved. 

“We want communication and that means on defense,’’ he said. “Communication also leads to being positive and supportive. We also want good team chemistry — where everyone is working for the greater good of the team. We also want to be better than .500. If all those things happen, then we can qualify for the state tourney.’’ 

KP’s trademark will be an up-tempo style on offense with on and off pressure on the defensive end. “We want to push transition, fast break and apply defensive pressure at strategic junctures,’’ Miszkiewicz emphasized.

Three players who’ve worked diligently to ensure that style and approach are the senior captains — forward Olivia LaFond, guard-forward Julia Marsden and guard Elizabeth Molla. 

“All three have been fantastic in the leadership department,’’ Miszkiewicz said. “They’re open and positive about what our staff is striving to achieve.’’

As far as their strengths go, LaFond is athletic, Marsden knows how to run the offense and Molla is a good shooter. LaFond is averaging 7 points and 9 rebounds a game.

“Olivia is best at attacking the rim,’’ Miszkiewicz noted. “She’s capable at scoring inside and her mid-range shot is effective. A physical player, she’s tall (6-feet) and can rebound. Julia is an excellent passer who can score inside, outside or mid-range. She’s got good court vision and she’s athletic. An off-guard, Elizabeth is our best shooter, especially from three-point range. She’s got a high hoop IQ, has experience and can drive and pass.’’ 

Senior Devyn Dugan, a 5-foot-10 guard, is an effective knock-down shooter. “Devyn is a great shooter who can hit threes or shoot from mid-range,’’ Miszkiewicz said. “She’s got good count sense and her length is a plus on offense and defense.’’ 

Senior Mia Bennett can play either point guard or on the wing. “Mia is versatile,’’ Miszkiewicz said. “She’s a high-energy player on defense and her quick hands and feet help her to be aggressive on that end. A strategic offensive competitor, she’s a capable passer.’’

A pair of juniors are playing key roles for the Warriors. Jaclyn Bonner is a guard and Miszkiewicz calls her “our best pure shooter.’’ Emily Sawyer, a 6-4 center, was KP’s most dominant player last year. Bonner is averaging 15 points a game and Sawyer is averaging 12 points, 13 rebounds and one block.

“Jaclyn can drive, hit threes, pass and finish inside,’’ Miszkiewicz said. “Her quick hands and feet allow her to create turnovers on defense. Emily is a force on defense. She blocks well and is a solid rebounder. She’s a physical presence inside, able to score and get put-backs.’’

Sophomore Jordan Bennett, who can play point guard or on the wing, is averaging six points a game off the bench. Against Stoughton, she poured in 18 points. “Jordan is athletic, has speed and quickness and is an effective shooter,’’ Miszkiewicz said.

The first-year coach has assembled a capable staff. Denise Ryan is directing the freshmen; Brett Coderre serves as the jayvee coach and a varsity assistant; and Hannah Carroll is a varsity assistant. “All of us strive to be teachers of the game,’’ Miszkiewicz said. “We emphasize basics and our drills are game-based.’’

Miszkiewicz is acutely aware of the high caliber of play in the Hockomock League. “From top to bottom, it’s the most competitive league in the state,’’ he said. “The teams are talented and the coaching is top-notch.’’

A former combo guard at Cumberland High School in Rhode Island, Miszkiewicz graduated from the University of Rhode Island in 2013, getting degrees in English and Secondary Education. After a year of teaching at the middle school level in Central Falls, he joined the faculty at LaSalle Academy where he’s taught English for the last eight years.

A quality coach is a teacher first and Miszkiewicz displays that aspect when he’s defining his competitive philosophy. “I want our players to have a positive experience,’’ he emphasized. “And, I want them to improve and reach their potential. When those two things are occurring, then winning will follow.’’

As far as basketball helping his players learn valuable life lessons, Miszkiewicz lists three. “Sports should help players develop positive relationships,’’ he noted. “And, athletics can help players become good leaders and good teammates. It’s a place where they can use their voices effectively.’’

So far, the KP girls have displayed an ability to adapt, adjust and be flexible. Their record has matched their energy and effort and it’s obvious the Warriors are on the right track to make good things happen.