SCITUATE — As the Scituate High girls warmed up for their matchup against visiting Duxbury on Tuesday night, a dozen or so players from a Scituate youth travel team filed into the gymnasium and sat in the first row of the bleachers opposite the Sailors’ bench.
It didn’t take very long for the players to spot and cheer on one particular Scituate player, senior captain Kelly Martin .
“Let’s go Kelly!” they shouted, some of them holding hand-made signs in support of No. 11. “Kelly!”
Their enthusiasm was undeterred even when the Dragons took a commanding lead on their way to handing Scituate its first loss of the season, 72-43.
The young girls came to see Martin, so it was mission accomplished.
That’s because in Scituate, “Kelly Martin” is synonymous with “girls’ basketball.”
The 5-foot-10, four-year starting point guard, who recently netted her 1,000th career point, has the Sailors off to a 5-1 start in her final season donning the white and blue.
“There’s some times at practice where if the team is a little bit sloppier, it’s always Kelly to be the first voice [to say], ‘C’mon girls, get your head in it. Get ready to go,’” said fellow captain Sarah Hoffman .
“She’s always the one pushing herself as far as she can, and she steps up the level of the rest of the team.”
Martin has been an integral part of the program’s success the past four years, but this season in particular, with the graduation of standouts Shannon Brady (Bowdoin) and Megan Otto (Babson) last June.
The Stonehill College-bound Martin, also a two-year lacrosse captain, has been such a presence that when eight-year coach Brian Buckley retired at the end of last season, she worked her way onto the school’s selection committee for a new coach.
The committee, which also included another senior on the squad, Melissa Harris , selected 33-year-old Matt Lewis, who was the junior varsity girls’ coach at Cohasset, and who had played at Norwell High and Guilford College (the alma mater of former Celtic M.L. Carr) in North Carolina.
“He’s the type of guy that is all about the hard work,” Martin said of Lewis.
“We’ll win a game on Friday and then Saturday we’ll be running sprints on the court. He doesn’t look back, which is a good thing.”
The team makeup is certainly different from a year ago.
Minus the 6-foot Brady and 5-11 Otto, the Sailors are lacking size.
At 5-10, Martin is among the team’s tallest players. Senior captain Annie Miller said the result has been more finesse in the post, and a lot more grit everywhere else.
Lewis has also placed a high priority on defense: The Sailors limited four of their first six opponents to 40 points or less. And on occasion, the coach has made his point in unorthodox ways.
Hoffman and Miller described, while laughing, one drill that involves the players holding duct-taped bricks above their heads while doing defensive slides.
“It’s fun in a weird sense,” Miller said. “It’s something different that we’ve never seen before. He just brings something new to the table.”
With a little grit and a lot of defense, Scituate is off to a good start under its new skipper.
“It’s not what people expected, so that makes it even better,” Martin said.
“We came in as a team that people looked at as one in a rebuilding year, so a 5-0 start is something that we didn’t even think to imagine. Now with Coach we feel like he sparked a new way to get things going.”
Martin has been front and center, averaging a team-leading 25 points, 8 rebounds, and 4 assists per game, prompting Duxbury to throw double teams her way Tuesday night. Hoffman (9 points, 10 rebounds per game) and Miller (7 points, 9 rebounds per game) have stepped forward.
“We played the best guard in the state as far as I’m concerned,” Duxbury coach Bob Sullivan said of Martin. “I have the utmost respect for that lady, and it took two people to cover her. That’s how good she is.”
Martin still managed to net a team-high 17 points.
“Any time you have a player like a Kelly Martin, it makes your job a heck of a lot easier,” Lewis said. “Even to have her for a year, I’m grateful. That’s the word I can use because some people aren’t as lucky to inherit a player and a team like I’ve inherited.”
Duplicating last year’s magical 24-1 run and trip to the state semifinals will be difficult to match, but the players remain confident.
“It ends up being up to us at the end,” Hoffman said, “and how far we push ourselves.”
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