SPRING VALLEY — When Marc and Hunter Galassi talked about having daddy-daughter date nights, they didn’t have tea parties or go to the movies, go to McDonald’s or go to a dance.
They went to the gym to play basketball. Their dates consisted of shooting hoops. Those times spent in the gym, over the course of the past eight years, not only bonded their relationship as father and daughter, it also developed Hunter into a top basketball talent.
Galassi was the best player on the best team in the area this season, arguably the second best team in Class 2A.
She was an unanimous all-conference selection in the Three Rivers East and a Second Team 2A All-State selection by the Associated Press.
And she repeats as the BCR Player of the Year, receiving top honors for the 2016-17 season. She is the first Lady Devil to repeat as Player of Year since fellow Cherry Comet Kailey Klein won four straight from 2003-06.
Marc first started taking Hunter and her older sister, Taylor, hunting and fishing to spend time with them. As they got into sports, he found that was a way to spend quality time with his daughters.
“Being girls I didn’t want to go shopping and stuff, so I figured if I could get them involved with stuff I liked, I’d spend more time with them,” Marc said.
The memories of the dates in the gym with her dad will always be special for Hunter.
“Made me so sad, because the last time we went in, he kept saying, ‘This may be the last time we’re going in the gym together.’ I was like, ‘Ah, I’ll come shoot over the summer,” Hunter said. “That’s something we’ve bonded over ever since I started basketball in fourth grade at Cherry.
“Those are always some of the best times I’ve had in basketball, just going to the gym with my dad. Those are some of the best memories I’ll remember.”
“We’d come spend time together and she’d talked to me. It worked out good for her. I think she enjoyed it,” Marc said.
Their games of HORSE and Around the World became pretty competitive. Hunter found her dad to have a pretty good game, having played for Chips Giovanine’s L-P Cavs and a Hall of Fame team at IVCC.
“I never let her win. She’s just like me. She didn’t want to win if I was letting her win. She wanted to beat me,” Marc said. “It got pretty intense. She’s got a mean streak that no one ever sees. I can get her upset pretty good.”
The Lady Devil got on a pretty good roll against the old Cavalier, often shooting out and not giving dad a second turn in Around the World. Then came their final meeting during sectional week.
“He went first and he beat me the last time. I said, ‘Oh no, we’re coming back,’” she said.
It was those dates in the gym that not only bonded a dad and daughter together, but also started to shape the second leading scorer in Hall girls’ hoops history (Galassi finished with 1,300 career points, second only to Klein, who scored 2,496 points).
Marc Galassi helped his daughter on her skills as well as the mental approach to the game.
“He’s always taking me up there and even when I’m not in a good mood and getting frustrated, he’s like a calming presence for me now at my games. He’s really helped through all the years, taught me so much,” she said.
And he’s always coaching and playing dad at the same time.
“He always sends me these big texts before the games and says, Good luck,’ in one text, and then sends me another text and says, ‘Don’t forget to follow through, don’t hit the rim on your free throws,’” she said with a laugh.
Galassi’s star began to shine her junior year when she doubled her scoring average from 8.2 ppg as a sophomore to 16.9 ppg. She continued that excellence this season, leading the Lady Devils in scoring once again at 15.9 ppg. That number would have been higher, but it includes games in the Dixon Christmas Tournament she played only briefly because of an injury.
The 5-7 senior guard-forward also led the Lady Devils in rebounding (6.5), steals (3.0), field goal percentage (.465) and free throw percentage (.737).
“She’s one of the best this school has had in the history of girls basketball. I will never be able to thank her enough for the hard work she put in from my first year at Hall until now,” third-year Hall coach Brian Holman said. “Being able to coach her through her last three years has been a tremendous privilege. Hunter did an outstanding job of transforming her game from her junior to senior season. She was still the focal point of what we wanted to do, but she made so many others better and that in turn made us a better team.”
Holman said he’s going to miss the competitive nature Galassi brought to games and practices.
It was certainly a senior season to remember, one that saw the Lady Devils play the eventual state champion, Byron, to a seven-point (38-31) defeat in the sectional finals. No other team played Byron as close as 26 points in four other postseason games.
“It’s too bad we had to meet up with Byron in the sectionals. Wish we could have seen them a little later, maybe we could have got farther,” Galassi said. “Knowing we were that close to a team that won state, that’s crazy. I had a hard time watching (Byron at state), but also something to be proud of. We had a group text going and everybody kept saying that (played Byron so close).
“It’s such a weird feeling being done. Happy with season we had. We’ve improved every year from freshman year up. The team’s got better. Definitely four years to be proud of. The school and community have really reached out to us and supported us and it’s been pretty cool.”
Galassi just had knee surgery last week for an injury she played with the past two months. She’ll return to play softball for the Lady Devils in a month, then turn her attention back to basketball.
While she’s unsure where her future game lies, there’s a good chance now she will follow her footsteps to the Hilltop and play for IVCC.
Wherever she winds up, no doubt there will be a game or two with her dad. And they will play for keeps.
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The Hunter Galassi File
• Two-time BCR Player of the Year.
• Unanimous TRAC East All-Conference
• AP Second Team 2A All-State
• Second leading scorer Hall history (1,300)