KevinMoran donned a basketball jersey at St. Mary’s of Lynn 30 years ago.
On Monday night, he guided his alma mater to the Division 4 state title at TD Garden, his first since he took over as head coach in December 2002. He had been an assistant on the Spartans’ championship teams the previous two seasons.
And this winter, he was able to share the championship run with his son, Brendan, a senior center at St. Mary’s.
“It’s bittersweet, but I’m so proud of all of them,’’ said Moran. “The father-son relationship gets taxed during the season, but it’s extremely special to experience it with him because it’s so unusual for a father and son to get to this level.’’
Brendan Moran, a self-described role player who will play at Rivier College, said his relationship with his father is far different on the court than at home. “Me and my dad have a great relationship even though we butt heads a lot on the court,’’ said Moran. “Knowing that it was his first state title win as a head coach and for the high school he graduated from, it was even more special to help him get over the hump and finally get it done.’’
The Spartans capped a 20-4 season with a 71-64 win over Cathedral behind 18 points from senior captain NickGagliolo.
“I wouldn’t have wanted to win it with any other group of guys,’’ said Gagliolo, who will continue his basketball career at Keene State. “Being a senior captain puts a lot on your shoulders, and the season we had, with the guys on our team, was incredible.’’
The 6-foot-1 Gagliolo netted his 1,000th career point on Jan. 30, when St. Mary’s charged back from a 17-point halftime deficit for a pulsating 78-61 win over host Arlington Catholic. Their 60-point outburst in the second half was a program record.
“They pummeled us in the first half, and the fact that we scored 60 points in one half and I got my 1,000th point is a comeback that I’m sure I’ll never see again,’’ said Gagliolo.
Sharp-shooting teammate Devin Thompson, who drained 25 points in the state title victory, averaged close to 20 points a game as a senior. “I’ve been around the game for quite some time with my gray hair, and Devin can shoot the ball better than anyone,’’ said Moran. “His ability to understand that he was a marked target, and still be able to produce as much as he did, is just a testament of how hard he worked.’’
Thompson is receiving interest from a number of programs, including the University of New England, University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, and Western Connecticut.
“The fan base we had was incredible and the fact that we had over 100 people waiting for us at the school [after the state title win] was amazing,’’ said Moran. “I don’t think the school has ever gotten the college recruiting attention it’s getting now, and from a father who has two kids at the school, we believe in St. Mary’s.’’
The Spartans’ core group grew up together in Peabody, and the experience is one that they’ll never forget.
“The best thing was obviously that we won because that was special in itself,’’ said Gagliolo. “But it was so much cooler because we were the first team to play [at the Garden Monday afternoon], so we got to mess around, shoot NBA 3’s, and take pictures. Especially with the guys I grew up with, it’s something I’ll never forget.’’
Masco’s Stewart comes into her own
As a freshman at Masconomet Regional, Brooke Stewart walked the halls in the shadow of her older sister, Caroline, who had graduated the previous June as the only player in program history to net 1,000 points and collect 1,000 rebounds.
As a senior, the younger Stewart emerged as one of the best players in the state, averaging 21.5 points per game while hauling in nine rebounds per game. She departs as the program’s third all-time leading scorer (1,397 points).
The 6-foot guard closed out her career with 18 points against Andover in the Division 1 North championship game.
Brooke “played significant minutes as a freshman, but was more of a raw talent,” said Masco coach Bob Romeo. “As a freshman her ball-handling and shooting skills were marginal so we used her more of a defensive specialist.’’
The summer between her freshman and sophomore years, Stewart improved dramatically, according to Romeo.
“Brooke worked hard that summer, did some strength and conditioning, and really came back at a new level,’’ said Romeo. “She came out of the gate with two or three 20-point games and had to deal with the fact that she was the kid other teams wanted to shut down. But still, at the end of the day, she wanted the ball in her hands, and not many sophomores wanted that challenge.’’
After scoring almost 1,300 points the last three seasons, Stewart leaves a legacy that Romeo hopes will only encourage the development of the program.
“We’ve done youth clinics and have had Brooke go through her ball-handling regimen, and we told the kids that she couldn’t do any of that as a freshman,’’ said Romeo. “So hopefully, that’s where her legacy will hold. Those little girls in the stands rooting her on will want to be the next Brooke Stewart, and the program will surely benefit from that.’’
Stewart is headed to William & Mary, where she will continue her playing career this fall. Her sister is closing out her collegiate career as a senior captain at Boston University this season.