In just the first season in their new gymnasium, the Mystic Valley boys’ basketball team is already well on its way to making the place both look and feel like home.
The Eagles (15-3) are set to hang at least two banners in their still-yet-to-be-named athletic facility on Eastern Avenue in Malden - one for the team’s first Commonwealth Athletic Conference (Small) title, and another to honor senior Greg Statho, who became the program’s first member of the 1,000 point club.
“It’s wonderful and we are very excited to have it,’’ said Mystic Valley coach Tony Ferullo of the complex that also features a pool, weight room, and modern locker rooms. “It’s our program’s first official home and it’s fitting because we are going to get to hang up our first two banners at the end of this season.’’
Statho’s 1,000th point came on Super Bowl Sunday, as the Eagles cruised past Notre Dame (Lawrence), 64-40. The Melrose native has averaged 13.2 points a game this season.
Statho’s teammate, Ben Bottrell, has actually led the Eagles in scoring this season, averaging 17 points a game. Together the two have made for a powerful one-two scoring punch.
“Last season Bottrell was a good player for us,’’ said Ferullo. “But he worked really hard in the off-season and now he’s become one of the best players in the league. He’s the first player at Mystic to be able to dunk so he’s become kind of a rock star to the younger guys in the program.
“We just build off that combo of Ben and Greg,’’ added Ferullo. “We’re a very versatile team with players that can play multiple possessions and have good size.’’
With two games still remaining, the Eagles, who have seven seniors on the roster, already have as many wins as they did all of last season.
“It’s been one of those seasons where things have just worked out,’’ said Ferullo, whose team is hoping to win its first ever game in the state tournament in the coming weeks. “We’ve known since this group was in the fifth and sixth grades that if they stayed together they could be one of the best this school’s ever had.’’
Since entering the CAC as a small charter school almost seven years ago, the Mystic Valley program has grown stronger each season under Ferullo’s direction.
The Eagles, who will be making their fifth consecutive appearance in the state tournament this season, have gone from a five win team their first year in the conference to a consistent contender.
“We’ve developed a family-like atmosphere here,’’ said Ferullo. “Because we don’t take transfer students and all the kids in the high school came to Mystic Valley in the fifth grade, I’m able to oversee the entire program and talk with many of the younger kids as they’re coming up.
“We’ve had to build our program from within,’’ continued Ferullo. “To see these kids get better every year has been great, this season is just the culmination of all that work.’’
Just how close this team has become over the years was never clearer than after the passing of Ferullo’s mother Jan. 28, the day after the team clinched the conference title.
All 30 members came to the wake to visit Ferullo and pay their respects, one by one shaking their coach’s hand and letting him know they cared.
“That’s what this is all about,’’ said Ferullo. “When all 30 of those kids walked in, that was my proudest moment.’’
The Eagles, who are 7-0 in the CAC (Small), will celebrate senior night Thursday when they host North Shore Tech in their new gym in final conference game of the season.
In just one season in their new facility, there’s no denying this group has left its mark.
Games of the Week
No. 16 Franklin at No. 14 Mansfield, Tuesday, 6:30 - This game will decide the Kelley-Rex Division of the Hockomock League. Both teams are 10-2 in the league. Franklin got the best of Mansfield, 54-49, Jan. 20 in their first meeting this season.
No. 12 Madison Park at No. 13 Charlestown, Tuesday, 6 - The Cardinals got the best of Charlestown on Jan. 19, but the Townies have been on a roll as of late (eight straight wins), and look like they may be rounding into the team that was ranked No. 1 at the start of the season. The Hockomock Crossover Game, Friday, TBA - The winner of the Franklin/Mansfield game will take on No. 5 Stoughton, which ran away with the Davenport Division of the Hockomock. The Black Knights went 2-0 versus Franklin this season, but lost their only meeting with Mansfield, 73-66, Jan. 10.
The Comcast Tournament Day 1 at Reading HS, Saturday, 5 & 6:30 - The tournament will feature four of the top teams in all of Division 1, with No. 3 Central Catholic taking on Madison Park and No. 8 BC High battling with No. 6 Newton North.
The Comcast Tournament finals at Reading HS, Sunday, 6:30 - The winners on day one will battle for the Comcast Tournament title and a ton of momentum entering the state tournament.