After a hard three seasons filled with masks, social distancing, changes in coaching staff, and wins and losses, Abby Deane (‘23) and Paige Burt (‘23) will celebrate their commitment to the girls basketball team next Friday, February 17th, for their senior night. Deane and Burt will have a final showdown against their rivals, Coe-Brown, in the ORHS gymnasium. This game is a culmination of years of training and hard work. Neither plan to continue playing competitively after high school, so with a bittersweet taste in their mouths, they’ll enter the court, knowing they only have a few games left.
Things are already looking good this season, with eight wins and five losses. “We’re playing these teams that blew us out by 60 in previous years and coming close with them or beating them,” Burt said. Last year, ORHS faced Coe-Brown twice, winning once and losing the other. They have yet to face Coe-Brown this season, but recently Coe-Brown went neck and neck and ultimately lost to Kingwood, which ORHS blew out of the water earlier in the season.
Burt started playing basketball in first grade, the only girl on a team filled with sweaty boys. “I was on a team with like 25 crazy boys, and I somehow managed to make it past that and to my senior year,” Burt said. Burt is an only child but was influenced by her family to start playing. “We’re a basketball family. Even my cousin’s cousins play basketball,” she said.
Since then, Burt has spent every winter playing the sport. Taking a passion to it, she applied herself, playing on multiple teams at once, including ORYA [Oyster River Youth Association], Journey Men, Journey Men select, Cap-City, and other clubs and camps. With club teams being highly competitive, the school team was a respite, especially with the energy David Geschwendt, aka “Coach G,” brought. Some of Burt’s favorite memories of basketball come back to Coach G and the spirit he cultivated. He gave everybody nicknames; Burt still fondly remembers hers: “Paige the Rage.”
Abby Deane, referred to by Coach G as “Sausalitta,” was adamantly against basketball, refusing to play until she caved to her dad’s wishes in fifth grade. Despite her previous misgivings, she fell in love with the sport. Joining club teams, she was engulfed in the community and quickly developed game-winning skills. Deane enjoyed more competitive teams and the relationships that were built during them.
One of Deane’s favorite memories from her childhood is from an AAU [Amateur Athletic Union] tournament in Keene, New Hampshire. It was a weekend tournament, and the team was staying in a hotel. On the second day, “the gym was brutally hot, like it was probably 100 degrees in there,” Deane said. Yet, they played their hearts out and won the game. When the winner of the tournament was announced, it wasn’t their name over the speaker but the team that they had beaten. Confusion and anger flared up at this apparent unfairness, but it’s one of Deane’s favorite memories. It was the first time she understood “how competitive basketball can be fun… and appreciate the environment of playing through a hot gym, but everyone is suffering together,” Deane said.
Lockdown hit right after Burt and Deane’s freshman basketball season, locking them out of the school. But, even with no definite season for their sophomore year, they decided to stick with it. They played with masks and only schools closest to them instead of those in their division. “Our team had just come off an 0-18 record the past season, and I knew a lot of people who were quitting,” Deane said. “I knew it didn’t matter if we didn’t win many games or didn’t have a full ‘real’ season. I just wanted to play basketball.”
Their junior year came, and with it, a record of five wins and 13 losses. With their senior season came new coach Randy Kinzly, an ORHS alum. After three years of weirdness, their senior year was looking promising.
“It’s crazy how much the team has changed since Kinzly has become coach… he taught us how to become close as a team and play the game and for each other… it made us more of a family,” Deane said. Deane was on the hiring board for a new couch with Burt. Kinzly brought new energy to the team, having them practice hard over the summer and fall.
Reflecting on their years of basketball, Deane and Burt recognize through basketball they have learned and progressed so much as people. They have developed mental and physical toughness and have learned to play through the pain for something that they love. “It taught me a lot about passion, how putting time into something you love is so much easier and rewarding than doing something that you don’t enjoy,” Deane said.
Burt is looking forward to watching her cousin, Violet Burt, progress on the team. Violet is currently playing on varsity as a freshman with Burt. Although Burt’s basketball career is ending, she’s happy the Burt legacy is being carried on. “I’m really excited to leave it behind, knowing that it’s only getting better,” Burt said.
Deane is leaving proud of the team she and the other upperclassmen have built. She has worked to “change the attitude of what girls basketball is at Oyster River from being ‘they’re bad and never win games’ to a competitive sports team.”
– Hazel Stasko