New leaders step up to fill West star’s void

Hamilton West senior Erin Septer, shown here in a 49-32 win against Hightstown Dec. 18, 2012, is one of the keys to the Hornets’ success. (Photos by Suzette J. Lucas.)

The Hamilton West girls’ basketball team is not only beginning a new era under first-year coach Erin Wolverton, it is also experiencing a new beginning as far as personnel is concerned.

For the past three years, Alexis Johnson had pretty much been the face of Hornets girls’ hoops. She graduated last year as the school’s all-time scorer for both boys and girls. This season Hamilton will depend on contributions from several different players–first and foremost senior guard Erin Septer and junior forward Courtney Adams.

“They will definitely be in key roles,” Wolverton said. “Both of them are captains (with Erin Ford) and they made it pretty clear early on they were accepting that leadership role and ready to lead this team. They will be our two key players both offensively and defensively.”

Septer is in her fourth year of varsity and Adams is in her third. Septer will be the outside Yin to Adams’ inside Yang.

“Erin controls the backcourt and is very vocal,” Wolverton said. “Courtney is our rebounder and our dominator down low. It’s nice as a coach to have the two of them balance each other out.”

Both have the skills to make up for Johnson’s loss and both understand things will be a little different this season, which got underway on Dec. 14.

“It’s a lot different without Alexis,” Adams said. “She was always on the other side of me. I knew if the ball went to that side she would be able to get the rebound or she could block shots that I couldn’t get to.

“This year I feel like I have to almost play both sides because I’m the tallest person and can get to all the rebounds, but it’s nothing I can’t handle. We are going to have to both work hard and score for the team.”

Johnson missed about two weeks worth of games last season, and in her absence Septer came up with some big scoring games. She also had a few others even after Johnson’s return.

“It’s a little different without Lex this year because she was our go-to person when we got in trouble,” Septer said. “But when she got hurt, I had to step up and I think I can do that again this year.

“That boosted my confidence a lot. Before I was a little timid about shooting just because in tight games I didn’t want to miss and lose, so I gave it to Lex because I knew she could make them. But now that I realize that I can actually shoot I will take the shot if it is there.”

Septer’s role in previous seasons was kind of a little bit of everything, but Wolverton plans on using her as a one and two guard this year while transitioning young Lashay Ross into the point guard spot. A natural athlete who excels in soccer and lacrosse, Septer appears ready for the role.

“She just has pure athletic determination,” Wolverton said. “She’s flexible, so whatever I need to do she gets done. It’s really a natural transition for her to take that role on the floor. She’s all over the place. She’s one of those players you love to have on the team, she’s non-stop.”

“I am excited to be the point guard this year,” Septer said. “I like making things happen and making scoring plays. I had played point guard all my basketball career and I feel very comfortable getting back into that role.”

Septer scored over 10 points per game last year, while Adams was second on the team at 11.5. Septer’s attentions are divided due to her other sports but she tries to put as much time as possible into basketball and will play with friends or shoot around by herself during the spring and summer.

The 6-3 Adams, on the other hand, is pure basketball and plays AAU in the summer with United in North Jersey.

“AAU is awesome, I love it,” Adams said. “It went very well this year, my team performed well and worked together well. It really helps because it gets me seen by college coaches, but it also keeps me in shape because we start two weeks after high school ends and we go all summer and fall until the week before high school starts.

“It makes me a lot better for high school every year. It’s a way more competitive type of play and there’s never an easy game.”

One positive for both players this year is that they will be able to allow their talents to flourish knowing they are going to be the key go-to girls. And since they are the focal points it is important they work well together.

“Erin and I have good chemistry on the court,” Adams said. “We can just look at each other and know what we want one another to do. She knows exactly how to hit me with a pass and she knows I can get to certain passes that aren’t directly to me. We work well together to get the job done and we both give our all every time we step on the court.”

They must also have a good relationship with the new coach and her new ways, which doesn’t seem to be a problem for either.

“Things have been great so far,” Adams said just prior to the season-opener. “I personally love her and I’m pretty sure I speak for the team. Things have been a lot different and we do little things to add up to the final product.

“Our new coach got the plays in quick and we go over them and over them so that they are perfect. She is putting people where they are strongest and she’s using everything that each player has to offer and so far it’s working out really well. And the one big thing that I feel is helping us so much this year is our conditioning. She has us all in decent shape which helps a lot during the game.”

Septer added that “She has shown a different perspective on a lot of things, like on defense and offense. We as a team are working together more, and coach instills in us hustle and hard work.”

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