AUBURN — To sub, or not to sub? It’s rarely a question Edward Little girls’ basketball coach Craig Jipson asks himself.

“People see me and ask me, ‘Why do you sub so much,'” Jipson said. “‘You sub more than any coach in America.'”

Hyperbole aside, Jipson does rush players in and out of the game like subway turnstiles at rush hour.

“It’s kind of a college thing,” Jipson said. “You see it in college, where kids are specialty kids. We talk about taking what you do well and how you do that a lot. Our kids have always embraced that really well.”

Using the bench and subbing frequently is nothing new for the Red Eddies. Jipson has always had a number of players that could enter the game and provide some quality minutes. This year, the frequency of those substitutions has increased, especially for guards Kaylee Jipson and Grace Beaudet.

“I love it, just playing defense,” said Kaylee Jipson, a junior guard and the coach’s daughter. “When we press or have foul shots, I’ll go in and try to do my job and do whatever is best for the team and try to get a steal.”

Jipson is a standout defender on the EL soccer team, as well, so she takes to the defensive side of the game naturally, and does it effectively. Beaudet is her counterpart. She and Jipson are often switching. Jipson plays ferocious defense while Beaudet can handle the ball in the offensive set.

“She plays the defense and I play the offense and we just try to make something happen while we’re out there for a short amount of time,” Beaudet said.

Senior Francesca-Beth Haines and freshman Grace Fontaine are part of that rotation off the bench, as well. They come in and bring fresh legs and a spark. 

“She’s a star in her two other sports and she’s our eighth player right now,” Jipson said of Haines. “She’s never complained or been bitter. Jade Perry moved into the starting spot and Fran has just been so supportive of her. She’s just been the best.”

Fontaine, who could be an impact player in seasons to come,  and Jipson have been sort of a package as well, tossed into the fray as defensive stoppers. 

Coach Jipson said the team has been very low maintenance this season, thanks to a group of players that looks to find its role and do what it can for the team.

The result has been one of EL’s strongest defensive teams on record, one that has allowed just 34.9 points per game this season.

“When a kid goes in and plays 30 seconds and comes out and doesn’t pout, it sends a huge message,” Jipson said.

It might sound like a challenging task — to get thrown into a game and then yanked only after a brief stint, but the players in that role understand it and try to thrive while doing it.

“We got used to it after a while,” Beaudet said. “We’ve accepted it now.”

Beaudet says its fun and that it keeps her in the game. When she, or the others, come back to the bench, they know they have to be ready at a moment’s notice.

“It’s not hard at all,” Kaylee Jipson said. “We know, me and Grace, have played together. We’re usually the ones switching. So we’ll make eye contact right when we’re going to sub in.”

Those players sit in close proximity to the coaching staff and the scorers’ table.

“This year it has been more often,” Kaylee Jipson said. “I know exactly what I need to do. I’m getting used to it. It helps knowing what I need to do for my team and what needs to happen.”

Coach Jipson said its all part of a continuity that starts from the coaching staff on down. Assistants coaches Bill Walton and Chris Cifelli have been with Jipson for all 11 years. Newer coaches Dawna Daigle and Annie Foster are former players of Jipson’s at Edward Little and Oxford Hills, respectively. 

It all creates an atmosphere of team and family, where players work for each other and embrace whatever roles that allow them do to their part. It’s something many of these current players learned from previous EL athletes.

“Kaylee grew up watching Alyssa Levesque and Emily Hartnett,” Jipson said. “Emily played on a team that went to the regional. She scored one point the whole season. I’m not letting any secrets out, but Kaylee hasn’t taken a shot yet this season.”

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