On Sunday, March 8th, the Tilton School Girls’ Varsity Basketball
team was named New England Preparatory School Athletic Council (NEPSAC) Class A Champions in a 54-52 victory against Marianapolis Preparatory School
. This win marked the Ram’s seventh in nine championship game appearances under the leadership of Head Coach and Athletic Director
“Seven championships in and I still get the same incredible feeling,” Brisson said of this 2020 win,
"From the day we arrived on campus in September, this was a group of kids that had a goal of winning a New England championship..."
"...It was that saying of ‘your actions are so loud I can’t even hear what you’re saying,’ and it should be that way.”
After victories over Phillips Andover Academy (67-34) and Loomis Chaffee School (51-45), Sunday’s tight score is indication of a hard fought battle. When looking back on footage of the game, there is a bench clearing moment for the Rams where it becomes clear they won’t be stopped.
With about 20 seconds left in the final quarter, Jaxson Nadeau ‘20 (Wakefield, Mass.) pushed the ball up the floor, finding Liza Field ‘21 (Nashua, NH) in the middle. Field kicked it to Sophie George ‘22 (Laconia, N.H.) in stride. George shot on a “catch and shoot,” sinking a three pointer from the wing and giving the Rams a two-possession lead of 54-50 with 20 seconds left to play. The players on the court and on the bench went wild in celebration. Brisson’s Assistant Coach Kyle Losardo sprung to his feet, both hands extended fully in the air. “That’s the shot of the game,” the announcer said. NEPSAC named George the game’s most valuable player.?
Up until those final minutes, Marianapolis held the lead. The Rams made the first basket, but struggled to score throughout the rest of the first half. At the end of the second quarter, Marianapolis led by six with a score of 25-19. During the half, Brisson hoped some adjustments defensively would continue to bother the Golden Knights. Instead of cutting it down to two as planned, Tilton was down by 10 with five minutes left to go in the third. After scoring a bucket and another despite being fouled, Brisson subbed in Sophie George ‘22. The Rams dove and kicked it to the corner, where George hit her first three point shot of the game. Tilton trailed Marianapolis by four going into the fourth.
In the last eight minutes, the Tilton Rams truly dominated. Over the course of the game they forced 22 turnovers and made only nine themselves. Marianapolis had only five offensive rebounds, with Tilton’s defensive rebounding percentage playing a huge factor, limiting Marianapolis to one shot each possession. After a consistent grind defensively with “a stop and score,” the Rams were within two points with the score at 42-40. Jaxson Nadeau ‘20 drove to the basket and kicked it to Zeynep “Ekin” Celikdemir ‘20 (Istanbul, Turkey), who hit a three pointer. Now in front 43-42, it was their first lead since 2-0 to begin the game.
For the remainder of the final quarter, Tilton would never relinquish that lead. The last two minutes were a nail biting back-and-forth, but the Rams went up by three points with 45 seconds left. Marianapolis executed great offensively, scoring a layup and cutting the Tilton lead to one with a little over 30 seconds to go. Then came the push from Nadeau to Field to George, who sank her second crucial three pointer and brought them up by four.
Following Brisson’s final timeout, Tilton had one last great defensive possession where Marianapolis didn’t score until an offensive rebound with four seconds left. The Rams then inbounded the ball quickly before the buzzer sounded and with a final score of 54-52, the Tilton Girls Varsity Basketball team were officially declared NEPSAC Class A champions.
Brisson said what made this team successfully unique was their drive, hard work, and depth.
“They never missed a beat. They were focused at every extra workout we asked them to be at. They were the ones texting us for extra shots,” she said, “Once we got into season, they were super tough, mentally, physically, and emotionally. We were able to just get better every single day; to learn from losses and improve from them.”
An obvious aspect of Brisson’s 2019-2020 Rams was their synergy as a team. This became evident early in the season; the enthusiasm on and off the court, the versatility of the entire team, and the sheer length of the bench. Every single player understood their role. Brisson said she believes the team’s talent and depth was among the best in New England, and a major reason they won the championship.
She also noted her coaching dynamic and relationship with Assistant Coach Losardo as another reason for the team’s success. Losardo is also Tilton School’s Assistant Football Coach and a member of the math faculty. Among his many contributions to the program, he has curated a speed training work out for the team that is admired by players and faculty members alike.
“Anyone who comes into this program, I want to make sure that you are as totally invested as I am. From the get go, Kyle has never skipped a beat. I tested him a little in the beginning, because that’s who I am. Now in year three, he’s the person I’ve trusted the most in a really long time. I don’t even know how I could ever say thank you to him.”
Coach Losardo and Coach Brisson with the NEPSAC Championship Trophy
In May, the girls’ varsity basketball program will graduate six senior players from this team. In addition to team accomplishments through the years, Tilton Girls’ Varsity players have also found individual success, including 38 NEPSAC All-Stars
in the past ten seasons. Further, 33 student-athletes have gone on to play collegiate basketball during the past ten seasons, including 16 players at the Division I level. These numbers do not include this season.
The legacy of the basketball program at Tilton is a treasured one. It goes beyond players. Even those who attended Tilton School but did not play basketball recall cheering from the stands as some of their proudest moments. This was evident by the amount of alumni who travelled to Dedham, Mass. to support the Rams in the championship, and even more so by those who showed their support on social media. This legacy is the aspect of her career Brisson is most proud of.
“The amount of people who were there, who didn’t even play for me, that were proud to say they went to Tilton School...or the kids who did play for me, who were like ‘we were champions then and we’re champions now.’ To me, that’s what feels the best when you win.”
“I feel really lucky to be in the position where I can have an impact on somebody’s life positively that they’ll remember forever.”
Congratulations to the 2020 NEPSAC Class A Girls’ Basketball Champions: the Tilton Rams.