Led by returning tri-captains Michela North, Katelyn Norton and Shannon McLaughlin, new head coach Bob Sullivan’s girls’ basketball team won’t be lacking for experience, or a positive attitude, as the veteran coach returns seven juniors to the 2011 squad that qualified for last year’s MIAA Division II playoffs.

With over 20 years of coaching experience, Sullivan isn’t about to admit he has all the answers to taking his team deep into 2012’s playoffs. But he seemed to do pretty well in his first two years of varsity coaching at Bourne HS where he led the girls’ program to its first league title in 25 years in his second season. Along with that title was a 20-3 record and his selection as the DIII Mass. Coach of the Year. Not only does Sullivan have experienced talent to put his DHS varsity coaching career on the right track, but alongside Sullivan will be Rockland HS legend Kerry Flynn, who scored over 2400 points in her high school career and went on to star at Bentley College before heading over to Europe for a professional career.

Great coaching starts with great talent. Both coaches are aware of that and have formulated a roster of young veterans and promising freshmen that should make the Lady Dragons a team to reckon with this season.

The Lady Dragons have plenty of height up front in juniors North (6’2”) and Bridget Quilty (6’2”), while McLaughlin, the lone senior on the team, is no shrinking violet at 5’9”.

Sullivan had yet to finalize his starting lineup for Friday night’s home opener with a powerful Quincy squad that knocked off Brockton in its season opener on Friday night. But if things go well in practice this week, it’s possible Norton will be back in action after undergoing surgery several weeks ago to address her knee.

“Michela is a tremendous player and is a force whether facing the basket or playing with her back to it,” said Sullivan. “One of the keys this year will be finding dependable outside shooters who can hit those shots and forces opponents to play defense and back off North and open up things inside for her to operate.”

Sullivan is hoping Norton passes the test this week, as her outside shooting is just what Duxbury needs.

“Kate is our point guard, who is very athletic and can take the ball to the basket,” said Sullivan. “Without her, we’ll need to go to our two freshmen guards to take over.”

The Duxbury coach is hoping that McLaughlin and Quilty can do some damage underneath, as the double coverage on North should open up the weak side where some strong rebounding by both players could lead to some easy points.

“Bridget is very athletic and has a nice touch around the basket,” said Sullivan. “I’m trying to encourage her to shoot more from the outside and I expect her to make some three-pointers this year.”

One of the more intriguing players on this year’s roster is senior Lily Peterson, who stars on the girls’ soccer team, but hasn’t played organized basketball since the eighth grade.

“She is an outstanding athlete and I’m confident she’ll be able to provide some intense defensive ability out there when she comes back from a concussion,” said Sullivan.

Also adding a great amount of athleticism to Sullivan’s squad is junior Christina Curley, another member of the famous Curley basketball clan. An all-star in softball and volleyball, Sullivan predicts hard work by his 5’10” forward could earn her a third all-star recognition in basketball as well.

Junior forwards Heather Dorn (5’10”) and Megan Sullivan (6’0”) will make the Lady Dragons one of the tallest teams in the league, if not in eastern Mass, and should provide Sullivan with some added scoring with Dorn’s 15-foot jumpers and Sullivan’s weak side scoring.

Rounding out the varsity roster is a trio of freshman that should see important playing time in their rookie seasons.

Guards Jackie Sullivan and Maddi Foote, along with 6’1” Catherine Harrison, come to varsity with plenty of AAU experience, having been coached by Sullivan’s friend, Mike Tierney, on the AAU Cape Cod Wave team which won last year’s Division II state title.

Jackie, the younger sister of Meghan, is extremely fast and can finish with both hands taking it to the basket, said Sullivan (no relation) and can bury it from mid-range.

Foote is also a capable point guard with great speed and comes with the added weapon of being a three-point shooter. Sullivan expects both freshmen to see significant playing time this season, especially should Norton have problems with her recovery from surgery.

The Dragons are certainly blessed with height up front, but they only get bigger and tougher when Harrison is added to the mix.

“This kid has a huge basketball IQ and is a solid all-around player,” said Sullivan. “She’s physical and is a tenacious rebounder.”

Sullivan plans on having plenty of depth on his team and will have juniors Emma Fiskio and Kylie Dame, along with sophomores Kelly Dame and Kate Scavongeli practicing with the varsity, while playing on the JV team.

“We’ll have a much more aggressive style of basketball with a man-to-man defense and an offense that loves to run, because our big kids can get up the floor,” said Sullivan. “We want to build a program here, and by that I mean we’ll have our JV team run the same offense and defense in practice as we will, so they’ll be ready when they come up to the varsity program.”

Sullivan knows there are big expectations for this year’s team after they went to the playoffs with such a young team in 2010. He’ll find out right away if the Lady Dragons are up to the challenge, as they open with Quincy, followed by games with Oliver Ames, New Bedford, and Oliver Ames again to open the season.