By Dave Ricci
The Tonawanda News
Tonawanda News — There's just something about Sarah McCarthy.
In year two of her varsity basketball career with the Kenmore East Lady Bulldogs, McCarthy has been tabbed as one of the jewels of the program.
McCarthy's biggest inspiration is her mom, Michelle (McGuire) McCarthy.
"I do look up to her as a player because I've obviously heard and I've seen all the pictures," McCarthy said. "I look up to her a lot from watching her play and seeing the films and things like that."
A member of the Kenmore West varsity team for three seasons (1988-91), Michelle McCarthy ranks 16th on the Lady Blue Devils' all-time scoring list, and her jersey has a place of honor on the Lady Blue Devils Wall of Fame in the team's locker room.
By her mom's side the day her number was unveiled, Sarah McCarthy said that watching her mom receive such a high honor had a profound impact on her.
"It boosted my confidence more," Sarah said, "Seeing now that she did that, I could do it too."
But at the heart of it all Sarah McCarthy is just a sweet kid. The kind of person that has a unique way of touching other people and brightening their day.
"When you say Sarah — I (think) Sarah McCarthy and it just makes me smile because she's a great kid," said Bulldogs coach Kristy Bondgren. "But I'm not the only one who feels that way, her teammates feel that way. When you're the kind of player who can be a key player and your teammates look at you in that light-the possibilities are endless."
Bulldogs senior captain Ashley Kirbis agreed, saying that McCarthy one of the most respectful players she's ever played with.
"We're always saying that," Kirbis said with a smile. "We'll just start laughing and Sarah will be like, 'why are you laughing?' You just have that urge just to smile and be happy when you're around her. She has a good vibe."
Knowing that life at the varsity level is a daily learning experience, McCarthy tries hard to take away something new and improve every time she steps on the floor. She
knows her battles with some of the best forwards and centers in Western New York, like Lockport's 6-foot-2 Sarah Franco and Grand Island's 6-foot-4 Cassie Oursler, can make for long nights.
But McCarthy, who stands at 6-feet, said those encounters are making her better.
"Yes it is nerve-wracking going up against people that you know are so good," McCarthy said with a grin. "But I also look at it like I'm seeing what she's doing, so I can see how she's playing and hopefully I can learn from what they do."
While McCarthy certainly has the size and natural gift for basketball, she also sees the importance of adding some grit to her game so she can use her size to her advantage.
McCarthy also knows that her desire to do everything to perfection sometimes leads to her overthinking her actions on the court.
"I do still have small hesitations that I need to work on," McCarthy admitted. "And that's what I'm hoping to do the rest of the year and the next two years."
Knowing that each game is a step in the direction of becoming the best player she can possibly be, McCarthy never stops giving her all. And she never fails to make those around her smile.
"When you've got a kid whose head is in the right place and her heart is in the right place that's a kid you want (to see) succeed," Bondgren said. "You want to see it. I love her. She's a great kid."