Is it over yet? Is it done snowing?
With record snow totals, the winter was filled with more than a few challenges. Athletic directors postponed games, postponed them again, then one more time.
We all would like to forget the winter of 2015 ... unless of course you’re a high school sports fan. Yes, our backs are still sore from shoveling, but in places such as Reading, Duxbury, Millis, and Westford, they enjoyed every minute.
That’s because those communities celebrated state championships, and there’s nothing like a trophy to make staying indoors worthwhile. Whether it was a senior capping off a great year (St. John’s Ian Butterbrodt) or a freshman winning his first state title (Old Rochester’s Noah Fernandes), success found many homes. From Barnstable to North Andover, it was a season of great accomplishments.
The following, in no particular order, are 10 moments that stood out.
1. Freshman earns coveted dangle dragon
Wait a minute. A dangle what? Yes, that was Falmouth freshman McKenzie Haberl clutching a strange looking stuffed animal at the TD Garden after scoring the winning overtime goal in the Division 2 state title game. The dragon made its debut in February and coach Erin Hunt calls it, “A little extra incentive for the girls.” The player who scores the winning goal gets to keep the dragon, named for a hockey deke or fake, until the next game. After the season Mackenzie had, you might think the dragon belongs to her. She finished as the Clippers leading scorer and her goal in the final meant she gets to keep it until next season.
2. Braintree girls’ basketball repeats
We can debate whether the Braintree girls’ basketball team is the best in state history. But one thing’s for sure. For the first time ever, four players from one basketball team earned Globe All-Scholastic honors. How does that happen? Start with three of the four (Ashley Russell, Bridget Herlihy, and Molly Reagan) being 1,000-point career scorers along with Division 1 college commits. The fourth, Bridget’s sister Brianna, still has a year to go. The group, along with sophomore starter Keelah Dixon, went 25-0 to earn their second straight Division 1 championship. The best ever? Hard to argue with.
3. St. John’s Prep ends Malden Catholic’s run
Seeded fifth in the Super 8 field, St. John’s Prep wasn’t supposed to be on the Garden ice March 15. Four-time champion Malden Catholic, yes, and probably Springfield Cathedral as well. But Prep? A 6-4 start to the season hid the fact that the Eagles entered the tournament with a six-game win streak during which they allowed just six goals. Led by the goaltending of Kyle Martin, Prep knocked off BC High first, then Springfield Cathedral in overtime. At the Garden, Martin was immense again, making 35 saves in a 2-1 win that clinched Prep’s first state hockey title since 1985. “Our main goal from Day 1 was to win the Super 8,” said junior Brian Groom.
4. Westford ends St. John’s Prep’s run
After winning nine straight state swimming titles, some might have assumed No. 10 was a few hours away when the state’s best gathered Feb. 22 at MIT. But Westford had other ideas. “We were gunning for them this year,” said Westford coach Harrriet Kinnett. “St. John’s Prep has some great swimmers. But we were confident that the back half of our meet was strong.” Kinnett had reason to be concerned though. Prep came back from a deficit at the North Sectional to overtake Westford for the title. But after winning two of the three relays, and led by senior Brian Poon, the Grey Ghosts were Division 1 state champions.
5. Ian Butterbrodt continues his streak
The St. John’s Prep theme continues, and how can you blame us? Prep senior Ian Butterbrodt became the winningest wrestler in state history, finishing at 223 wins after taking his second New England title. This winter he went 59-0 wrestling at 220 pounds, winning the Division 1 and All-State titles before claiming the New England crown. At the All-State meet, Butterbrodt was down 4-1, a rare occurance for the Brown University-bound wrestler. “Ian stayed composed the whole time,” said Prep coach Manny Costa. “You figure he’s never in those positions, but he stayed composed.” And won, 6-4.
6. For one coach, it was a great winter
There wasn’t an ice dam within 100 miles that could have ruined the winter of Weston swim coach Claude Valle. He started in January with news that he was named the 2014 National Coach of the Year for boys’ swimming by the National Federation of State High School Asoociations. And in February his boys and girls’ swim teams each won MIAA state championships. The girls dodged a snow storm to win their first title, the boys were delayed a week but then won their fourth straight. The titles earned Valle two jumps into the warm waters of the MIT pool. No ice dams there.
7. Mission accomplished, Holliston honors Timmy
There wasn’t much football being played in March but there was still a memorable event that played out in Foxboro. When Holliston won the Division 4 Super title in December it meant the Panthers could complete a six-year goal of honoring Timmy O’Connell, a fourth grade student who was an honorary team captain. O’Connell, who wore No. 7, lost his battle with leukemia in 2008 and with a win over Wahconah the Panthers would be able to hang his jersey at the Hall at Patriot Place along with jerseys from the other Super Bowl winners. On March 14 with his mom, Joanne, and dad, Kevin, watching, No. 7 took its place among the champions.
8. Weston finds inspiration in a teammate
Weston’s first girls’ state swimming title was the result of hard work, long practices, and yes, a whole lot of inspiration. The Weston girls had the letters NJ written on their wrists and shoulders in honor of Natasha Joglekar, a teammate who was sidelined while undergoing chemotherapy for leukemia. “I think it gave us a new perspective on things,” said fellow senior Mikaela Thompson. “Yes, swimming is amazing and we’re all so close as a team, but this is life and you never really know what can happen.” In this case the news is great. The leukemia is in remission and Natasha continues to inspire all around her.
9. Perfection on the North Shore
For the Hamilton-Wenham and Danvers boys’ basketball teams, it was a perfect winter. The two schools, located just a few miles apart, combined to go 52-0, records that included state championships. For H-W coach Doug Hoak, the Division 4 crown was especially satisfying since he played for the Generals in the early ‘70s. “Right now I’m just humbled by the whole thing,” said Hoak, whose team was carried by sophomore brothers Max and Marcus Zegarowski. Danvers was led by seniors Peter Merry and Devan Harris in winning their third title in four years, the first in Division 2.
10. Historic year for Concord-Carlisle fencers
It seemed like a good idea at the time. We’ve never covered fencing before but the 50th anniversary of the fencing program at Concord-Carlisle combined with the state championship led us to Concord on a snowy Feb. 8. When the event ran long and snow ran even longer, we missed first edition as our intrepid reporter drove (slowly) back to home base. Her story said the hosts won the six-weapon team state title, even though we confess we’re still not sure what that is. There were sabers, foils and epee, and plenty of stories to tell. Not all events we cover are MIAA sports. Will we cover it next year? Maybe. I guess we’re still on the fence.