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NAC girls hoops preview: Hitchman now playing for Hermon-DeKalb

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DEKALB JUNCTION

September and October are usually busy months in a high school senior’s calendar, from filling out scholarship applications and financial aid forms to taking last chance college entrance exams to scheduling college visits.

But for Northern Athletic Conference All-Star Hunter Hitchman those months became downright difficult.

Lack of players for Clifton-Fine’s upcoming girls basketball season left the senior season for the school’s all-time leading scorer in doubt.

Low numbers, exacerbated by soccer injuries to two players, forced Hitchman and her parents, Richard and Bridget, to look outside the district. Hitchman established residency with her mother in the Hermon-DeKalb Central School district in order to play for Hermon-DeKalb.

“At the beginning of the school year, my dad — who also is my coach — went to the school’s administration and was looking to make sure we would have a varsity team,” Hitchman said. “As my coach, he was just looking forward to the winter sports season. When the numbers weren’t promising ... we started exploring mergers with other area districts.

“Getting answers on merging (with another district) was slow and it was nerve wracking. I just wanted to play basketball. I want to play at the college level. It was a very difficult decision moving into the Hermon-DeKalb district with my mother as a student.”

Weeks later, the Hitchmans learned the Harrisville School District approved a merger with Clifton-Fine on Oct. 28, but by then it was too late.

Hitchman is a Hermon-DeKalb Demon for her senior year.

“I really don’t why Hunter and her parents choose Hermon-DeKalb. But I’m glad to have her, along with (fellow Clifton-Fine transfer) Delaney Kerr,” Hermon-DeKalb coach Steve Morrill said.

“I would never want to be put in her shoes, especially not knowing where she was going to play or if,” Morrill added. “But Hunter has adapted well to school here and she’s respectful to the teachers. She’s just a great student athlete.”

Hitchman has accumulated 1,331 points in her three-year career at Clifton-Fine, averaging 23 points per game. She also has posted 321 assists, 299 steals, 231 rebounds and has made 154 3-point field goals in 50 games, which included a career high of 43 points against Heuvelton.

Hitchman said her new teammates have been supportive.

“The girls have welcomed me onto their team and I am ever so grateful for that,” Hitchman said. “I was nervous in the beginning, but the girls, Coach Morrill, the teachers and the administration made it easier for me to adjust. Basketball is a team game, and I am dedicated to my team.”

Morrill said he sees a lot of potential in the Demons this fall with the presence of Hitchman and Kerr, whose parents Danny and Darcy Kerr also moved their daughter into the school district.

“Hunter works extremely hard in practice,” Morrill said. “She comes every day to learn. She has a great attitude. She works hard to be a model citizen. Hunter is one of the best straight shooters I’ve coached.”

Morrill compared her to recent Hermon-DeKalb graduates Brianna Sayer and Brittany Whitton, both who went on to play college basketball.

“Definitely bringing two players with their ability is going to shake up the chemistry a bit,” Morrill said. “Players are shifting to different positions and roles and having different responsibilities. I’ve seen Hunter making sure to get everyone involved in the game and each play.”

The Demons also return four starters from last year’s team, including senior point guard Kasey O’Donnell and senior forward Courtney Harrington. Sophomore guard Bridget Rust and junior forward Chelsey MacKay also return.

“We lost Clarissa Davis, our best player, Abby Mott and Margo Barney but our returning cast is very solid. We’re definitely looking to run and get out in transition,” said Morrill who believes the NAC West will be a battle between Hermon-DeKalb, Heuvelton and Hammond.

Meanwhile, Hitchman will complete her high school career at another school, looking to add to her standout numbers.

“Coming together is the beginning, but keeping together and working together, we can achieve anything,” she said. “I am so excited for the season to begin I love playing basketball, and would love to continue playing at the college level. Not only am I excited for basketball, but I am also excited to continue my journey at Hermon DeKalb and graduate as a Demon.”

NAC OUTLOOK

Last season provided some exciting contests and this year should feature more of the same.

The Central Division figures to be a battle among Canton, Malone, Salmon River and Ogdensburg Free Academy. The Shamrocks reached the state Class B semifinals last year and return most of their key players, but lost senior Abby Kelly to prep school.

Chateaugay and Madrid-Waddington should be two of the top teams in the East once again. The West features perennial power Hammond, but the Red Devils lost standout Alyssa Crosby to graduation. Heuvelton, Lisbon and Hermon-DeKalb will contend as well.

Some top individuals returning include OFA’s Meg Dodge and Riley Luckie, Potsdam’s Shanielle Chambers, Hermon-DeKalb’s Hunter Hitchman, Colton-Pierrepont’s Morgan Doyle, Madrid-Waddington’s Tess Knight, St. Lawrence Central’s Lindsay Thayer and Heuvelton’s Paige McCormick.

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