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The defense never rests with Thomaston’s VanOrmer

THOMASTON –  When it comes to basketball think of Lily VanOrmer like this– She’s the gum you can’t get  out of your hair. She’s the tax bill you can’t escape.  She’s the glue or pine sap you can’t get off your hands no matter how hard you scrub.

Simply put VanOrmer is the Thomaston High girls basketball team’s best pest and opponents on-going irritation and annoyance. Translation – she’s a defensive stopper of the first order.

Gregarious and a smiler off the court, come game time VanOrmer is big-time blue collar, a bundle of intensity and energy, ultimately a major cog in the Bears championship season. She always plays a major part of the Bears’ fortunes. Like most who do and thrive on doing the dirty work, there aren’t many headlines in the offing. But her teammates and those who watch the Bears know what she is all about.

“She’s the best defender in the Berkshire League, maybe in the state,” says the Bears All-Stater Nicole Decker.

“Because all she does doesn’t show up in the scorebook she isn’t appreciated for all she does,” Thomaston coach Brian Mozelak said. “But, I have had fans come up to me after games and tell me what a great job number 22 did. Fans realize how she changes strategy and how good she is. She’s the most underrated player in the Berkshire League, probably the state.”

To the Berkshire League’s credit, coaches noticed this season and she earned first team All-Star honors on the strength of her defensive prowess.

VanOrmer gets to guard every team’s best player unless there is an overwhelming size difference. Soon to be the Berkshire League’s all-time leading girls scorer junior Emily Arel, Northwestern Regional’s all-time leading scorer Maddie Topa and Nonnewaug’s Juliette Nichols and other team’s potent player are on VanOrmer’s guest list.

“It’s intimidating but exciting,” VanOrmer said about the challenge of guarding the top players. “It gives me a chance to prove I can make an impact.”

For the curious, VanOrmer knows the talent she is guarding but admits Arel, speedy with tremendous range and the green light to shot early and often , poses a particular challenge.

“Arel is intense. She can play mind games with you,” VanOrmer said. “I always make eye contact with who I guard and she looks right back with this glare.”

Arel topped the 30-point mark 12 times this season and is over 1,700 career points, however in two games this year, VanOrmer was instrumental to holding the scoring savant to 16 and 21 points. In three games, the talented Topa was held down to 11 and 13 points while pumping in 25 in one other game.

After scoring 18 points the first time around, Nonnewaug’s Nichols managed just  nine points in the second matchup between the two teams and with VanOrmer in her face from start to finish.

“It’s hard to play against her, I can’t get open,” Nichols said. “She’s really fast and knows all the tricks I do.”

Speed is one of VanOrmer’s great assets. Also a BL All-Star in soccer her favorite sport, watching her run the length of the soccer field during Thomaston’s BL championship and Class S finalist season, there were few who can match her.  It translates well to basketball.  Getting around her is difficult and getting the ball at times near impossible. She gets up close in suffocation mode.

VanOrmer  doesn’t just relay on her physical skills. She concentrates on what is at hand and is a student of the game.

“I have to get in the right head space,” VanOrmer said. “I’m very nervous, glitchy. I watch video on players and prepare. “

“I don’t know if Lily differentiates between good players,” Mozelak said. “She says what do you want me to do and goes after it on defense or grabbing rebounds or hitting shots.”

While defense is the specialtly, VanOrmer has found an offensive game this year, averaging eight points a game. She has developed an outside shot and was instrumental in the Bears semifinal win over East Catholic with a much needed nine points. There was an 18-point career-high gem against Gilbert during the season. She has become a shooter than can make a difference.

And VanOrmer always knows the team knows the team appreciates her.

“The teammates and Mozey (Mozelak) remind me all the time,” VanOrmer said. “Nicole and Ava (Harkness) make me feel special. I love them all. “

You might not pay attention to VanOrmer’s name in the scorebook but you will be forced to to notice her work on the floor. She will play a major role in the Class S championship game against Somers.

She always plays a major role for the Bears. Whatever the outcome Thomaston, Somers and the fans will know she is there.

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