One would have assumed that the final year of high school would be an easy one for Hunter Hitchman, considering she had been the best player on her girls basketball team for the first three years.
But Hitchman, who attended Clifton-Fine before this season, found out well before the season began that her school would not have enough players to field a team, so she and her parents, Richard and Bridgett, made other plans.
Unsure if a merger agreement with a nearby school like Harrisville would happen, the Hitchmans decided to move half the family to Hermon so Hunter could finish her career with Hermon-DeKalb, a team that had been one of her regular opponents in Northern Athletic Conference West Division games.
I think moving was the best decision I could have made, said Hitchman, who averaged 17.5 points for the Demons and earned NAC Most Valuable Player honors on this years All-North girls basketball team. I dont regret it at all. The team just accepted me. I was definitely nervous at first. But Hermon-DeKalb is a small school and Clifton-Fine is a small school, so it was easy for me to adjust.
It was also a strange situation for Demons coach Steve Morrill. At Clifton-Fine, Hitchman was known as one of the top scorers in Section 10 and Morrill focused his defensive strategy around stopping her when his team played the Eagles.
Morrill knew adding Hitchman would help his team, talent-wise, but until he met her he did not know exactly what to expect or how other players would react to having a former foe wearing their uniform.
She went in and made friends with her teammates and worked really hard to be a great practice player to help the team be better, Morrill said. She sacrificed some scoring for the good of the team at times. She moved the ball and really wanted to play team basketball. She worked hard on defense all year. I think she was the best defensive player in the league this year.
We had a good team, but she was on a pretty talented team the year before, which focused on her scoring. It centered around her scoring. Our team had some girls who could score also. She really focused on working herself into what we needed. She worked really hard on the defensive end.
The transition was smooth for Hitchman. The only real conflict she had all season was when the Clifton-Fine boys basketball team came to play their game at Hermon-DeKalb and she was in the bleachers watching.
I wasnt sure who to cheer for, Hitchman said. I know all the Clifton-Fine boys and Im from Hermon.
Hitchman said she just watched the game quietly.
While changing schools is difficult to do as a senior, Hitchman saw the move as a way to help her prepare for next season when she joins the St. Lawrence University womens basketball program.
Im really excited, Hitchman said about SLU. It took me a while to make up my mind. I decided on St. Lawrence because I wanted to stay close to home.
Morrills time with Hitchman was short, just one season, but he is eager to watch her grow as a player at SLU.
I never coached a player where the college coaches came and watched our games like we had with Hunter, Morrill said. We had multiple coaches at games to watch her.