`It's great to have them both': Guachione, Steinman each finding a home on St. Anselm women's basketball team
SPRINGFIELD — Six minutes into the first quarter of a women's college basketball game Friday night, St. Anselm guard Peyton Steinman came off the floor. Steinman has started each of her team's last six games.
When the former Pittsfield High School standout went to the bench, her place was taken by Pittsfield's Grace Guachione.
"Most of the time, yeah," said Steinman, when asked if that has been the case since she went into the starting lineup six games ago.
"Obviously, I'd rather be playing with her," said Steinman. "If someone comes in for me, I want it to be Grace."
Guachione, who graduated from Miss Hall's School in June, was Steinman's sub for three quarters. They played together in the fourth quarter as Division II St. Anselm held off Northeast-10 Conference rival American International College 64-56. Guachione came on to replace Ali Glennon, who fouled out midway through the fourth quarter.
"It's funny," said Guachione. "We're happy for each other when we sub in. It's not a rivalry thing. We are best friends.
"We're very interchangable, so it works."
It worked pretty well on Friday night. Steinman and Guachione both played important roles for St. Anselm in the Northeast-10 win. The Hawks are now 11-7 and 7-4 in the conference. It was their first conference road win of the year, and extended a winning streak to three games.
"I'm sure for everybody back home [in Pittsfield] for them to be on the same team now, and for us to be subbing them in and out for each other, I'm sure they get a kick out of that," St. Anselm coach Corey Boilard said after the game. "They each bring something different to the game. They impact the game in different ways.
"It's great to have them both."
On Friday, Steinman had 11 points and was one of four St. Anselm players to score in double figures. She was 11 of 12 from the foul line, making her last 11 free throws, including 6 for 6 in the fourth quarter to help ice the victory. Steinman was 0 for 3 from the floor. She did have a game-high nine rebounds, four on the offensive glass. She had two assists and two steals.
Guachione finished with six points and five boards. She was 1 for 7 from the floor, 1 for 5 from beyond the 3-point arc. She had three assists and three steals.
St. Anselm used a 14-3 run in the first quarter to take a lead and was up 14-12 after one quarter.
AIC post player Dana Watts tied the game just nine seconds into the second quarter. One minute later, Guachione lined up a 3-point shot from the top of the key and drained it. That shot started an 8-2 run for the Hawks, who never trailed again.
St. Anselm's largest lead in the game was 12 points midway through the fourth quarter. Sara Messler led St. Anselm with 15 points.
Finding Steinman and Guachione was like a Christmas present for Boilard when he arrived on campus. He was hired as the head coach in June after spending the previous five years as the head coach at Division III Johnson & Wales, where he was 84-52 with a pair of NCAA Division III tournament appearances.
Boilard replaced Julie Plant, who stepped down after the 2016-17 season. It was Plant who recruited Steinman and Guachione as part of a group of five freshmen.
"All the credit in the world to them," Boilard said of the two Pittsfield guards. "Coming into a new situation with a new coach, you're not sure. They came in with an open mind and maybe had to make an adjustment to the different styles of coaches. They have done a great job with that.
"Two really nice guards that can make plays."
Both players competed against tough foes during their high school careers, but Steinman said that college basketball has been different.
"It's tough," she said. "These girls are a lot stronger and faster. Preseason was dedicated to lifting three times a week and conditioning.
"It's a different ball game up here."
Steinman started the year coming off the bench, but has now started the last six games. She average 6.2 points, and 3.8 rebounds per game, going into Friday. Her season high was 14 points in a loss to Roberts Wesleyan.
Guachione was averaging 5.2 points per game and 2.8 rebounds. She had 14 off the bench in a January win over NE-10 foe Southern Connecticut.
Both of them have been among the better rebounding guards in the Northeast-10. Steinman had a career-high 10 boards to go with 13 points in a win over Daemen on Dec. 29. Guachione had five boards against AIC, matching her college-best.
For both freshmen from Berkshire County, being at college and playing hoops hasn't been easy all the time.
"It was a tough transition. But having Grace helped a lot," Steinman said after Friday's win. "You make a new family with the team, and you get in the flow of things, and it all works out.
"It took a little longer than I expected. It's a different game than high school."
Guachione said it's been a huge transition from Miss Hall's to St. Anselm.
"It's nice to get in the flow of things," she said. "The older girls are just so good about accepting you. If I didn't have them, I'd feel like it would be a little more of a struggle than it is."
Guachione said she had a feeling she could succeed at this level by playing with Steinman on the Lady Stars AAU team.
"We had a new coach coming in, and we didn't know where he would play Peyton and I," Guachione said. "He wanted me as a backup point guard, which was different. I always thought of myself as a two or a three. It's really good.
"My role model on the team is [guard] Claree Putnam. She's a senior. I've been following in her footsteps and kind of initiating a leadership role as a freshman. I guess he wants that out of me."
Both players are succeeding in the classroom, and Steinman made sure to remind a reporter that Guachione has the highest grade-point average on the St. A's roster.
The Hawks opened Boilard's first season as coach with a nifty 5-2 record in November. They dropped to 3-4 in December, and have rebounded to be 3-1 in January. St. Anselm is off until Wednesday, when it travels to NE-10 rival Pace.
The Northeast-10 is one of the tougher Division II leagues around. Going into Saturday, St. Anselm was fourth in the conference, behind perennial power Bentley, Stonehill and Southern New Hampshire. Bentley, at 15-1 and 9-1, is ranked seventh in the national Division II Top 25.
"We kind of started off well, but this was the first away game that we've won in conference," said Steinman. "That was huge for us.
"It's taken some time. We have seven new girls and seven returners, so it took some time to mesh. But I think we're figuring it out."
Howard Herman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, at @howardherman on Twitter, and 413-496-6253.
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