‘I never have to ask them to put more effort in’: Girls basketball readies for a new season

Dec 8, 2023

Most seasons, players on the Dartmouth girls basketball team start practicing in November and play until March. But not this team: Players on the 2023-2024 varsity team took it upon themselves to practice and play all year, including over the summer. 

“We have a lot of girls that love basketball right now,” said head coach Brian Jalbert. “Their improvement with skills and physically getting stronger and quicker — it’s really noticeable this year.”

Jalbert, entering his 16th season with the school and his second as head coach, hopes that experience translates to a deeper tournament run in March. The Indians are gearing up for their first game of the season on Dec. 11 at Apponequet High School, and prepared the week before with two scrimmages. 

Last year’s goal, Jalbert said, was for the team to just make the cut on the competitive Division 2 tournament. They surpassed their target, winning the opening playoff game against Middleboro High School before falling in the round of 32 to Westwood High School. 

This year, he wants the team to finish with a higher seed to get a better start on the bracket. To reach that point, Dartmouth set itself up with some challenging teams, both locally and in the annual Spartan Classic tournament in Lynn at the end of the season. 

While Jalbert said the team needs to polish its defense and rebounding skills to stay competitive, the new lineup is “very quick,” and the speed will be an asset moving forward. 

The toughest matchup ahead will most likely be Bridgewater-Raynham High School, Jalbert said, which loses just a couple games a year and is consistently a force to be reckoned with. 

“They’re kind of at the top of the mountain and we’re all chasing them,” Jalbert said. 

Dartmouth’s new roster is both young and experienced: It’s full of returning players, but with only one senior among them. That means the team is in a good position for not just this year but the year after. 

While Jalbert is focusing on the season at hand, he can’t help but see the future: “It’s kind of like I look at this team and think two,” he said.

All of that experience is represented in the starting five. Point guard Lily Gangi and forward Kaelyn Zuber are returning sophomores, guards Remy Barber and Kat Cheesebro are returning juniors and forward Hailey Martins is the team’s sole senior. 

Cheesebro, one of the team’s captains, has also grown into a leadership role this year: “She’s another assistant coach on the court, to be honest,” Jalbert said. 

Dartmouth is gelling off the court too. The consistent group means teammates have become friends and created some community. 

“Togetherness … is more important than a lot of people think,” Jalbert said. “This is a great group of girls — I never have to ask them to put more effort in.”

Dartmouth’s first home game is against Old Rochester Regional High School on Dec. 13 at 6:30 p.m.