From the same mold
Friday, March 1, 2013
The scene has played out several times this high school basketball season.
Hollis Brookline has the ball, and a Flaum ends up with it behind the 3-point line. Before anyone can think, a shot is flying toward the hoop, and chances are good the shot will be on the mark.
The only question is, which Flaum shot it?
If it’s a boys game, the answer is PJ, who has helped the Cavaliers win their last seven games, as they’ve crept into the top four in the standings in Division II.
If it’s a girls game, the answer is Ellie, the most experienced returning player from a team that was decimated by graduation, but has still helped HB to a 12-win season and a fifth seed in the Division II tournament.
Both have given the Cavs exactly what they needed this season – a steady, reliable scorer who most affectionately can be described as a basketball junkie or a gym rat.
“Definitely a gym rat,” HB boys coach Mike Soucy said of PJ and Ellie Flaum, twins who, as seniors, have helped the boys and girls basketball teams perform better than most people outside of Hollis or Brookline may have thought possible.
“It’s a whole family affair, it really is,” Soucy added. “We’ll have a practice until nine o’clock at night, and PJ will want to stay. He’ll bring his mother in and she’ll rebound for him.”
And if Ellie doesn’t have anything else to do, it’s a safe bet she stuck around after the girls practice to jump in and participate with the boys.
Experiencing that change of pace has had a huge impact on her game and has, in turn, been a boost for the girls team.
“It’s helped immensely,” HB girls coach Bob Murphy said. “The boys are so much faster, to play with them, she’s gotta keep up. It increases her speed so that the girls game is kind of in slow motion. She can hold her own with the boys and that’s a great experience.”
A sixth man for the Cavs at the start of last season, Ellie was forced into the starting lineup because of injuries. That made her transition from role player to focal point of the offense much easier this season.
“Last year, I didn’t score that much and I didn’t feel that I had to,” she said. “This year, I’ve felt like I’ve had to kick it up a notch. A lot of people said that they didn’t think we’d be good this year because we lost our big five girls from last year. I think we’ve kicked butt so far.”
Murphy is glad to have her this season.
“We don’t have too many other shooters,” he said. “She was close to averaging 17 points a game, and the next highest was nine. It’s huge having her. Some teams have been playing a box-and-one (defense) on her, trying to hold her back.”
That’s where PJ believes he has had an easier senior season than his sister. While he’s been the Cavs’ leading scorer, there are other options that opponents have to consider when defending HB.
“She’s got a bigger challenge this year than PJ does because he has a bigger supporting cast,” Soucy said. “Not that they’re not good. But she has so much responsibility to handle the point and to score and defend. It’s a lot of pressure. It’s a lot to ask of somebody, and she’s been able to keep it up.”
PJ has learned to a do all of the same things for HB over the years, specifically the defense. As a defense-first coach, Soucy requires all of his players to be solid on that end, and it’s something PJ takes seriously, almost as seriously as his offense.
“After school, I shoot for two hours. I try to do as much shooting as I can,” he said. “I go to practice on top of that. Even though there are painful films, I try to see my mistakes. Sometimes, in games, I’ll realize the mistakes that I’ll make. When I watch film, I’ll notice things, like opportunities that I missed in the game or if I’m not in a good stance on defense.”
Both Murphy and Soucy used the same words to describe each of the twins’ games – quick, excellent shooter, not afraid to go to the basket, hard-working.
All those traits date back to their days in Chicago, where the family lived before moving to New Hampshire the summer before their eighth-grade year. Both PJ and Ellie go back during the summer, working with the same trainer, Mike Ipjian.
“Out there, (basketball) is a lifestyle,” PJ said. “There were some tough days there. When I started seeing (Ipjian) in seventh grade, he changed my game. (Ellie) had the same trainer, too.”
About the only things the twins haven’t done yet is lead their respective team to a Division II title, and play together in a varsity game. While they both get to work on the former in the next couple of weeks, they – and their coaches – can only dream about the later.
“I think that he’d get on me about everything I do wrong, but we’d play well together,” Ellie said. “When I’ve played at the guys open gyms, we’ve played together, and he knows he can trust giving the ball to me and I always knows where he is.”
PJ’s game plan would be simple.
“I would drive and kick to her all game long,” he said. “She shoots lights out a lot of the time. She is quick. Over the last couple of years, she’s gotten that first step down. She’s as hard to guard as some of the best players I’ve had to guard. And she’s not afraid.”
Soucy had some ideas of his own.
“I’d put them on both sides of the floor,” he said. “You get a point guard who can deliver them the ball, and it’s unbelievable. Who could stop us?”