Cheney named to MAAC’s 40th anniversary team

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By Ken Morse, Citizen’s News

Former Naugatuck girls basketball coach Gail Cheney, pictured in January talking with players during a timeout in a game, was named to the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference’s 40th anniversary women’s basketball team. –REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN ARCHIVE

NAUGATUCK — The Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference’s 40th anniversary women’s basketball team has a familiar name on it — Gail Cheney.

Cheney, a borough resident who coached the Naugatuck High girls basketball team the last three years, was named to the anniversary team as the top player in Fairfield University history.

“It certainly was exciting news to be named to the 40th anniversary team,” Cheney said. “Someone had texted me a congratulations and it came as a surprise. But it definitely is an honor.”

Cheney started every game of her collegiate career at Fairfield. She was named MAAC Rookie of the Year as a freshman and MAAC Player of the Year as a senior in 2001. She is the university’s all-time leader in points (1,873) and is second in rebounds (1,106). She’s one of only four players that had over 1,000 points and rebounds in her career at Fairfield.

Cheney led the Stags to the MAAC title in 1998 and the program’s first at-large bid in history in 2001.

“I really enjoyed myself at Fairfield,” Cheney said. “I made a real good decision going there. My family has always been supportive of my basketball career. Now my husband and kids think this is so cool being recognized like this.”

Cheney is joined by her former college coach, Dianne Nolan, and four fellow Fairfield alumni on the team.

“My coach, Dianne Nolan, coached all the other four girls that made the team from Fairfield, so it was really an honor for the school basketball program,” Cheney said.

Cheney led Masuk High School to a 99-3 record in her four years with the Panthers, and finished as the school’s record holder in rebounds and blocks. Cheney helped lead the team to a state championship in 1995.

After graduating from Fairfield, Cheney played professionally in Germany and the Birmingham Power of the National Women’s Basketball League. When her playing career ended, Cheney coached at Woodland, Sacred Heart Academy, Oxford and as an assistant for her alma mater.

She stepped down in May as the Naugatuck girls basketball coach after three seasons, a 51-19 mark, and the program’s first appearance in the Naugatuck Valley League tournament championship game.

Cheney is a member of the Fairfield University Hall of Fame, the MAAC’s 25th anniversary team, and the Connecticut Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame.

“As you get older you look back and realize that wow, I guess I did leave my mark,” Cheney said. “That’s kind of nice to have those kind of memories.”