Grow Makes Giant Strides on the Warriors’ Court
Lily Grow was introduced to basketball by her mother Michelle when she was seven years old. Lily idolized her mother and always enjoyed hearing about Michelle’s glory days as a high school basketball player at Loomis Chaffee in Windsor.
Now a junior at Valley Regional High School, Lily has become one of the top players on the Warriors’ girls’ basketball team, earning All-Shoreline Conference honors for a squad that reached its league final and the state semifinals this winter. Lily averaged 11.5 points and 6.5 rebounds to go with a team-best 1.3 blocks per game for Valley during the 2022 campaign.
“I have been playing basketball for nine years. I began playing basketball because I knew my mom was a good basketball player in high school, and I always looked up to her,” says Lily. “I eventually started playing park and rec in elementary school, which led to travel basketball, where I was coached by my grandfather [Tom Geary], who made me love the sport even more.”
Lily’s passion for basketball goes beyond the competition on the court. Lily has formed many connections with both teammates and opponents alike, increasing her love of the sport.
“My favorite aspect is definitely the connections that are created between all of the players,” Lily says. “Basketball wouldn’t be the same without my teammates. My teammates inspire me to be a better player, person, and teammate. They’re like my second family, and they’re what makes basketball so fun.”
Lily has experienced plenty of notable moments throughout the course of her basketball career. One moment that Lily always looks forward to is getting a phone call from her grandfather Tom prior to every game. That phone call always gives Lily a little extra motivation before she takes the floor.
“Basketball has filled my life with various memorable moments as a player. Many of these moments are from when I was being coached by my grandfather,” says Lily. “My grandfather was my coach for four years and taught me how to be a good player, but also demonstrate sportsmanship. He still calls me before every game to tell me what to focus on.”
After earning Honorable Mention recognition in her sophomore year, Lily solidified her spot on the All-Shoreline Conference Second Team for her performance as a junior this winter. In her freshman season, Lily was named the Shoreline Conference’s Rookie of the Year.
Lily feels that she’s come a long way since her freshman campaign. Lily appreciates how the guidance of Valley Head Coach Jaimie Bickelhaupt has helped make giant strides as a basketball player.
“My freshman year, I sat the bench for the first couple of games, which I really did not like. From that point on, I realized I needed to work harder to be on that court,” Lily says. “Eventually, my coach gave me a starting spot freshman year, but she made me earn every second of my playing time. My coach continued to push me through my sophomore year, and now, I am a Second Team All-Shoreline player. I didn’t have the skill or mentality to be the player I wanted to be, but Coach Bickelhaupt helped me become the player I am today.”
Coach Bickelhaupt has enjoyed watching Lily progress on the court during the past three seasons. Bickelhaupt knows that Lily’s performance at the forward position played a huge role in the Warriors’ 22-win run this year.
“Lily is an athlete who I love having a part of our team. She shows up and works extremely hard at practice every day,” Coach Bickelhaupt says. “Lily is at her best running the floor in transition due to her speed as a post player and has a great connection with our guards because of that. From her freshman year until now she has made huge strides in her game, and I don’t think she’s even close to the potential she could get to if she works in the offseason to get there.”
Lily also feels that she’s learned a lot off of the court as a result of having to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic resulted in no state tournaments being held during last year’s abbreviated season, but Valley got to play a full slate of games this year and wound up going on a deep run in states, ultimately advancing to the Class M semifinals.
“Playing through was definitely a rollercoaster of emotions. My sophomore year, we had a shortened season due to COVID and only played half the amount of games we would in a regular season. We were all wearing masks, so my teammates and I couldn’t see each other’s faces, and we were all learning how to play basketball with the mask on,” says Lily. “At the end of my sophomore season, we were all quarantined because of a COVID case and didn’t get to play in the Shoreline Tournament. This year, COVID got less scary, and we were able to have a normal season.”
Looking ahead to next season, Lily’s expectations are for Valley Regional to bring home conference and state titles. The Warriors came close to accomplishing both of those goals this year, and Lily wants to do everything in her power to help them take the final steps in 2023.
“My expectation for next year is to go all the way. I believe my team and I can make it to the Shoreline and state championships. We were so close this year and now, with the experience we have from it, we are able to come back next year ready to go,” Lily says. “Overall, I think this season went really well. We made it to Shoreline finals for the first time in 20 years and made it to state semis, where we only lost by seven. Our team has so much potential, and I already can’t wait to be back on the court with everyone next year.”