The Mountain Times

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The Lady Phantoms bring home the basketball state championship in Division 4

(Above:The Proctor Varsity Lady Phantoms display their state championship trophies in Division 4 when they arrive home after beating #1 seeded Twinfield earlier in the day 61-52, giving PHS their first varsity girls basketball championship in almost 30 years. Pictured in the team photo are (1st row) Nicole Valach, Carissa Elrick, Mikayla McCormack, Mikayla Tanner, Megan Carter, Carly Trombley, (2nd row) Alyssa Valerio, Megan Elrick, Brodie Langlois, Erin Keefe, McKenzie Hickey, Coach Lisa Hughes, Coach Chris Hughes. Missing are Riley Coombs and Coach Jacob Tanner.)

This was the magical year where everything seemed to mesh for the varsity Lady Phantoms. After struggling four years ago with a 1-19 record, coach Chris Hughes was hired and his leadership along with the growing maturity and skill of the players turned the program around to become an 18-1 team in 2011. The girls earned a second seed ranking in the state for division 4 and went on to win the championship for the first time since 1984.

The road to the championship was a tough journey.

The Phantoms didn't seem to have a problem with their first match up against Black River winning easily 67-23. Next they faced Blue Mountain. After a slow start the Lady Phantoms got into their rhythm in the second half and came away with a 57-46 victory and earned a trip to Barre Auditorium for a semi-final match up against long time rival West Rutland. Proctor was able to handle the Golden Horde and earn a birth into the championship with a 58-41 victory. On March 17 the Phantoms defeated #1 seeded Twinfield 61-52 with an impressive display of defense and foul shooting.

By winning the state championship this year Coach Chris Hughes has accomplished a feat very few coaches have ever done: he has coached a state championship team at the varsity level for both boys and girls. Coach Hughes coached the PHS varsity boys team which won the state championship back in 2000. PHS boys had not won a championship since 1972, a 28 year drought. That 28 year drought is exactly the same length of time the PHS girls varsity experienced between championships.

Many call Chris Hughes the "Rainmaker" because he put a stop to both boys and girls championship droughts.

The coaches this year not only directed the girls on the court but had the girls participate in some off-court activities this year that helped them not only grow as basketball players, but as mature, caring and sensitive young ladies. They honored the 1984 Lady Phamtom Championship team on Jan. 7 in front of packed house. The champs and their coaches, Wade Mitchell and Judy Franzier, were honored at halftime with flowers, hugs and a 1984 music tribute during timeouts and quarter breaks.

They also conducted a fundraiser called Lady Phantoms vs. Cancer on Feb. 28. The girls showed their support for cancer survivors and current patients by wearing customized purples tee-shirts for warm ups. Each player and coach collected at least one sponsor for the fundraiser and the Proctor boosters donated their half of the 50/50 to the cause. The high school also donated $1 of each paid admission. By the end of the night the generosity of the community had helped raise $1375 for the American Cancer Society.

Along with the state championship, Proctor was honored and recognized in many other areas. Coach Chris Hughes was named the MLV D4 Coach of the year and the State of Vermont D4 Coach of the Year. The Lady Phantoms won the MVL Division with their 10-0 league record. Mikayla Tanner and Carissa Elrick were named to the All MVL 1st Team and Mikayla McCormack and Megan Carter were named to the All MVL 2nd Team. The North South All State Player Representatives were Mikayla Tanner and Mikayla McCormack. Carissa Elrick was also named to the All Under Classman Dream Team. Congratulations to all.

Coach Chris Hughes was nice enough to answer some questions about himself, his coaching experience and what he thought needed to be done this year to win the championship.

Q&A with Coach Chris Hughes

How long have you been coaching the proctor girls basketball team?

I have been coaching the Proctor varsity girls for three years. They were 1-19 the year before. Our first year we won seven games, our second year we won 10 games and then this year we won 22 games overall.

Did you play the basketball in high school?

Yes, I played for Proctor High School graduation class of 1984, the same year his classmates won the only girl state championship to date.

What was the difference this season that made you think you had a very good chance at the state championship? What was the team dynamic?

Experience and maturity. The girls were very athletic, we were able to run the floor and use the athletic ability we had. We went very deep in our lineup utilizing our 11 players in most of the games. A huge advantage was our team chemistry. It evolved to the point of our team being completely in this quest together (us coaches had been working on this "together chemistry" for three years and this group absolutely came together to make this season as magical as it was.) The team had team dinners together, encouraged each other in good times and in times of struggle… each and every player needed to know that they were supported by players and coaches, each and every practice and game.

What was your game plan going into the championship. What did the team have to do to win against the #1 seed?

Gameplan: we wanted to make Twinfield very uncomfortable, we thought with our man-to-man defense, they'd have a problem. They seemed to be used to having their way on offense and we weren't going to let that happen.

On offense, we wanted to go inside and put a lot of pressure on their interior defense. We wanted to get the ball to Tanner, Carter and McCormack inside as much as possible. We scouted Twinfield and our girls (most of them) knew how to win a championship already, being part of this past fall's D4 soccer championship, so we had to come in and play relaxed and confident. (We had a very fun and energetic Premier Bus trip to Barre for the finals... our girls were dancing and singing and really being lose and having fun…that was important to us.)

Can you give me your thoughts on the game and what you thought worked well?

I think we played very confidently and ran the floor really well, I especially think our captains and seniors Mikayla Tanner and Mikayla McCormack were true leaders in that effort. They played like seniors and captains that they are. We continued, right to the end of the game, to play to win and not play 'not to lose'. We went at it strong and hard and knew "we go hard, or we go home."

Tagged: proctor place, Proctor Phantoms, lady phantoms, Chris Hughes