Senior Boys Help Nonnewaug Girls Hoops Pick up Pace in Practice


Kyle Brennan

From left, Andrew Greene, Ryan Ponte and Ben Shea are part of the girls basketball team’s practice squad.

Ben Stewart, Sports Editor

WOODBURY — The highly anticipated season of Nonnewaug girls basketball has started off well, landing the Chiefs in third place in the Berkshire League with a 10-3 league record with three league contests to play as of Feb. 9.

Hard work, perseverance, and working as a team are keys to achieving this, but in order to hone and polish their strengths for approaching competition, the Chiefs have also developed a male practice squad. 

“We scrimmage the girls varsity team at their practice before a big game,” said senior Ryan Ponte, one of six team members. “We get told what defense to run and what play style needs to be replicated for the team they are playing the next day.” 

Male players have been participating in women’s basketball practices across the nation for years, and the Chiefs now have their own practice squad. 

“The practice squad has helped by speeding up the pace of practice,” said assistant coach Toby Denman. 

This concept of using current students, or former high school boys players enrolled in college to push girls teams to their highest level, is implemented at the collegiate level and at the pro level. 

Nonnewaug’s new practice squad consists of six seniors: Ponte, Ben Shea, Nick Rose, Andrew Greene, Brett Davino, and Jay Brooks.

“We sometimes go the day before they have a big game,” said Shea. “They run specific plays against us, and we sometimes replicate the playing style that other teams have, like different presses and offensive positions. It’s also really fun for us.”

“The girls are already skilled, but I think the practice squad helps by forcing the girls on the team to make quicker decisions,” said Denman. “From a confidence perspective, I hope it helps them realize that if they can execute against the practice squad that they should also be able to execute when things get difficult in games.”

Some of the greatest women’s players to ever wear a uniform have been developed over the years with the aid of male practice players. The Chiefs hope that the benefits of this practice arrangement lead to a second-half surge in the BL regular season and the four-team tournament, which is set for later in February.

“The team has definitely benefited from practicing against people who push us to be sharper with the way we play,” said senior Mallory Tomkalski. “I think the practice squad should continue because it’s a great tool to use, and it’s fun for everyone.”