By John Orrell, Contributing Writer
Grafton – Her surname is readily recognized throughout the town of Grafton and has been for literally decades. There have been athletes, educators, skilled professionals and more amongst her family tree that includes grandfather, sister, uncles, parents and cousins. All have left their marks in town in many positive ways.
But now there is one LeMay that is leaving an indelible mark on Grafton High School (GHS) in this, her senior year, and is doing it as a multi-sport standout with an abundance of athletic accomplishments to make her widespread family proud.
Gabriella LeMay, known to all by nickname Gigi, is a two-year captain on the GHS varsity basketball team who has been the spark that has lifted Indian teams to success with her leadership both on and off the court. She is a staunch defender on the varsity soccer team besides, a 400 meter runner and javelin and discus thrower in spring track, but it is her elite prowess on the hardwood that most will recall when her Grafton days come to a close, and all for good reason.
LeMay, a two-time T & G Super Team selection, averaged 15.5 points per games as a junior in leading her Indians to a berth in Division 3 semifinals. As a testimony to her role as team leader she was named SWCL MVP.
Move ahead to this 2016-2017 season and the numbers remain strong. Although hampered by injury, she has racked up a 14.1 points per game average, second overall in SWCL A, leading Grafton to a 10-5 record with district playoffs just ahead. But there is one individual accomplishment that places her in an elite yet elusive category, that being a career 1,000 point scorer with the record being set in a home contest on Dec. 30 30 versus Nipmuc Regional High School.
“I started off like I had to be strong and get the points quick and I kept trying but some of my shots weren’t falling so I said that it was okay if I didn’t get it this night,” said LeMay of her mindset on that historical milestone. “But then I started playing my game, passing off the ball and it just came. My teammates were talking me up and all wanted me to get it.”
When asked her preference of a district championship or the 1,000 point achievement, LeMay is quick to say that her team comes first, not surprising with the selfless manner in which she conducts herself.
“I wouldn’t have made it scoring a 1,000 points without my teammates past and present. It would mean so much more if we could win a title because with a 1,000 points, I’ll get my name on the banner, but a district championship will get our whole team on the banner. That would mean a lot more.”
“Gigi is a fierce competitor and continuously looks to make everyone on the team better,” said GHS head coach Jessica Shlager. “She has a high basketball IQ with exceptional court vision. She is able to anticipate and see others well and make the extra pass if needed. She does a very good job creating for others and leads the team in assists. Gigi will do what is needed to win.”
LeMay became taken with the game of basketball as early as third grade after following older sister Lexi, who would go on to forge a successful GHS athletic career of her own, into recreational league team play. By the time middle school came around, her infatuation with the game had led her into AAU basketball where skill development emphasis taught her the essentials of the game.
She would go on to make the varsity team as a freshman, a not all that often occurrence, and gives credit to veteran player Cayla D’Amico, a senior, who became her athletic role model and friend helping her push through those early and sometimes trying varsity years. It was this support that led her to embrace her current role of captain in supporting younger players.
“Being a captain has a lot more responsibility because even if you’re having an off-night you have to encourage someone to step it up,” said LeMay. “If they see your head down, they’re going to have their heads down too so you have to keep encouraging everybody.
“A lot of our starters are sophomores and one of our swing-in players is a freshman and they get nervous. I remember what it was like so you just have to keep encouraging them and let them know that they belong out there.”
“Gigi is a great leader on and off the court,” added Shlager. “She not only leads by voice but by example. Within the game of basketball she always has motivational words for her teammates before the game in the locker room and throughout game play.
“While on the court she is able to help control the game and make everyone better. She helps motivate the girls and give them additional feedback. Off the court she is a supportive teammate and friend.”
LeMay knows but one way to play the game of basketball and that is hard and physical. Her propensity to lunge full-out for loose balls, drive to the basket as if off on a mission and sacrifice the body for any given advantage is central to her approach.
“A lot of why I play so hard is for the love of the game,” she acknowledged. “The girls on the team are so much fun. We go out there and have a good time and that makes us play better but you’ve got to give it 100 percent all the time.”
LeMay remains undecided as to her post-graduation plans but would consider continuing to play basketball at whatever college she chooses if afforded the opportunity. In the meantime she will continue to work hard for her team all the while appreciating all the opportunities that GHS has provided her with her legion of family there to provide support.
“Grafton High is like a big family,” said LeMay at the conclusion of her interview for this story.
“We have a lot of great athletes, great teammates. There’s no other school I’d rather go to. I love Grafton. It’s a great school.”