Frank Speziale Photo
BAINBRIDGE – If one were to go watch the Bainbridge-Guilford girls varsity basketball team, and they were told to look for the star players and nothing else – Abigail Selfridge would be the first girl pointed out.
“It takes determination to be the best, it takes hard work in and out of the season, it takes the willingness to listen, learn and the ability to apply all of the above to compete and continue to improve,” said Bainbridge-Guilford varsity basketball head coach Bob Conway, with regard to Selfridge.
Conway is no newcomer to the world of varsity basketball coaching, having coached an impressive 35 years – while having the honor of coaching upper double-digit numbers in All-State players throughout that time.
Conway has an eye for talent, that is apparent.
“I have a passion for the sport (basketball), I am competitive and I really enjoy helping young athletes excel to their maximum potential,” said coach Conway. “Last year’s team was special, due to the fact that the players worked very hard, got along and wanted to be their best. They always strived to achieve to the best of their abilities. Abi is a player who wants to be the best in all that she does, works hard, listens and leads by example.”
Selfridge, although still young – just now approaching her junior year in high school – has amassed an impressive resume when it comes to high school basketball, let alone other sports.
In the 2015-2016 season, Selfridge was selected as a freshman to the NYSSWA Class C All-State 7th team.
Now having wrapped up her sophomore campaign, Selfridge has moved herself up the All-State list as a sophomore to be recognized as an NYSSWA Class C All-State 3rd team. Not only was Selfridge recognized on the All-State list, but the young student-athlete was named MAC league MVP for the second year in a row, while also being named to the BCANY top-15 list.
“I am very humbled to have been nominated to the All-State team. To be honest, it is my team that has allowed me to be given these opportunities. I would be nothing without Megan Palmatier’s stellar passes, or the exceptional outside shooting of Jillian Cannistra, Kori Thornton, and Erica Selfridge that draws out the defenders,” said Selfridge. “Making the list is an honor, but at the end of the day I play for the love of the game and to have fun. I have already said how vital my team has been to my success. In addition to this, I attribute a lot of that success to my coach, Mr. Conway.”
Selfridge averaged an impressive stat-line in her sophomore year – with it just being her third year playing varsity – averaging 20 points per game, 9.7 rebounds per game, while going 72 for 97 from the line for a 74 percent free throw accuracy.
“I always stress to the team that individual awards come from team success. This team, as well as the individuals within it are a very special group of young athletes. They work on and off the field of competition to be the best, and they show it every day by their respect of others and the respect of others for them,” said coach Conway.
The 2016-2017 Lady Bobcats were a terror for any opposing team, ripping off a crazy 22-game win streak, en route to finishing the season ranked 8th in New York State. This past year’s team finished the season 22-1, claiming a league championship and proving to hold down a 3-peat in the MAC Championship – that means their lone loss came in the playoffs, and for anyone who missed the game, it was a heartbreaker.
“Before the game starts, when we stand for the national anthem, I close my eyes and go through a checklist of what I need to do in a given game in order for the team to be successful. I also use visualization technique to mentally prepare. Leading up to every game, I get very nervous as well,” ,” said Selfridge of her preparation. “Whether it is a MAC League game, or the Section IV Championship, I am always worried about how both my team, and how individually I will perform. My team and I try to treat each game the same regardless of the opponent, because every game is important and you never know who may show up or what could happen in a given situation or game.”
The season culminated at the Section IV Championship, where ultimately The Watkins Glen Senecas ended the perfect season for the Lady Bobcats, earning their third consecutive Section IV Class C Championship with a 37-35 win in early March of this year.
“The loss in the Section IV Championship was definitely disappointing. Our team had the opportunity and the potential to make it happen, we just couldn’t follow through. It was a close game and looking back there are countless things that I could have done or improved that would have changed the outcome of the game,” said Selfridge. “While it was a tough loss and it remains a disappointment, it has definitely motivated my team and I to work harder in order to get back there next year.”
Watkins Glen employed Taylor Kelly who nailed the eventual game winning basket with just 16.2 seconds left – after B-G’s Erica Selfridge hit the tying jumper for the 35-35 game seconds earlier.
With time ticking away, Abigail Selfridge drove to the basket looking for the layup late in the game – where she was denied twice – a moment that decided the fate of the game. The final seconds were ticking off the clock following a Watkins Glen timeout, B-G junior Jillian Cannistra inbounded the ball from the back court, hitting Abigail in stride.
With 4.3 seconds left in the game, Selfridge drove to the basket – as time expired Selfridge’s shot rounded the back of the rim and rimmed out. A simple basket, with all the pressure in the world weighing down on it.
“It means you are one of the best in the section as well as the state. You have the opportunity to allow your team to compete at the top level of competition. We always strive to be competitive,” said coach Conway of the Section IV Championship loss to end the season. “I know the game didn’t end the way you’d have like it to for the girls. It was disappointing, but now gives us something to continue to strive for and hopefully improve in the areas that we will need to, so that we can reach the next level.”
With a few months to reflect on the loss, one can see that Conway and his players seem to be thinking quite alike – showing that the loss has done nothing but motivate the team to produce even better results in the coming season.
“The last game was an extremely tough loss. Personally, there are so many things that I could have done that would have impacted the outcome – if I had made the baseline layup that I took with under a minute to go to put us up two points, or if I had hit the jump shot in the last seconds of the game to tie the score,” said Selfridge. “It was really disappointing as well as frustrating, all the things I could have done that would have made a difference, but it was a learning experience and has only made me and my team stronger and more determined for the future.”
Despite the disappointing end to a stellar season, one might ask how a sophomore girl from Bainbridge-Guilford High School has garnered the attention of so many officials, coaches, and sports writers, and her fellow athletes – to be named to the 3rd team All-State list in Class C – a long and tedious drive to succeed that began many years ago, that’s how.
It all started with coach Conway, knowing that in order to succeed in the years to come – one must invest in the youth of a program. That eye for talent can be inspiring to young athletes, starting a perpetual motion that carries into their later playing days.
“At a young age, I had no clue that I would ever really get into basketball. No one in my family was big into basketball when I was growing up, so I was never really introduced to the sport. My mom (Tami Selfridge) helped out with the volleyball program at school and my older sister played on the school team, so volleyball was always the focus. For this reason, I never thought about playing basketball because at the time, volleyball and basketball competed for athletes as they were both winter sports. But for some reason, I decided I would try it out when I was in the fourth grade. I found out basketball wasn’t all that bad, but I didn’t exactly love it either,” said Selfridge. “The turning point for me was in the fifth grade, when the varsity coach, Mr. Conway, came to one of my practices. I think that it is great that he would take the time to come to a youth practice, and, as luck would have it, he must have seen something in me that day, and in the sixth grade he asked me to be the manager of the varsity team. The rest is history.”
And that history isn’t done just yet.
Since that day when coach Conway visited the youth practice, Selfridge and the other B-G girls basketball players have been hard at work to improve their basketball skills. That work hasn’t stopped when they were on their 22 game win streak, blowing teams out – it hasn’t stopped with the devastating loss to Watkins Glen. And with the offseason and summer in full swing, that work has done nothing but continue, as the lady Bobcats strive for greatness, on and off the court.
“As soon as basketball ended, track started almost immediately. In addition to this, in the weeks following the end of the season, Mr. Conway starts up AAU basketball, and we play at local tournaments for several months throughout the spring. As for club volleyball, we start about halfway through the school basketball season and end just as AAU begins a couple weeks after school basketball ends,” said Selfridge of her busy schedule. “A lot of volleyball this summer. I’m headed to three camps, and am headed back down to Fort Lauderdale, Florida to the High Performance Championships with IREVA High Performance, a regional based team from New York. We also played in a basketball summer league up in Johnson City a couple nights in June, but that’s about it for basketball. My parents have instilled in me from a young age that school comes first, so academics have always been a priority.”
Coach Conway backed up Selfridge’s claims to staying busy and constantly improving, saying that the team is ready to take the next step come next season.
“We will continue to work on the parts of our games that need to improve. We will work to get back and hopefully have a chance at being the best we can,” said coach Conway. “Abi has all the tools, as long as she continues to work hard she will continue to improve and we will see where she ends up in a couple of years. Abi is determined to be the best. She is physically strong, knows the game, shows leadership and never quits. She strives on and off the field to excel in all that she does.”
With months to go until the 2017-2018 high school basketball season begins, the focus for Abigail Selfridge will be volleyball – which starts in the fall for Bainbridge-Guilford. Don’t sleep on Selfridge in the sport of volleyball either. In 2016, the Lady Bobcats advanced to the finals of the Section IV Championship as well, ultimately falling.
However, being one step away from making a state appearance in both basketball and volleyball the B-G Lady Bobcats, including Abigail Selfridge will return with a vengeance – if Selfridge has anything to say about it.
“Our program expects the utmost from our players. She is one of many who has a great attitude, work ethic and demeanor that allows her and the others to be respected as players as well as individuals. It is a joy to know that the players who play the game the correct way and treat others with respect, are recognized,” said coach Conway.