WORCESTER — The players on the Maynard girls’ basketball team typically look to their classmates and family in the stands for a shot of adrenaline.
On Thursday night, the Tigers looked around a near-empty Worcester State University gym and quickly realized all they had was each other.
Just minutes before the Division 4 Central champions tipped off against West champion Monson in a state semifinal, they were told that Saturday’s championship game had been canceled due to coronavirus concerns.
So the Maynard/Monson matchup was for a share of the state title, with Cathedral, which defeated Matignon in the other semifinal Tuesday night at TD Garden.
Ninety minutes later, the cheers, along with a few tears, echoed in the mostly silent arena as the Tigers celebrated their title with a 57-41 victory in a game played with only players, coaches, media and essential personnel in the building. Later, the Sutton boys surged past Sabis Charter, 67-55, for a share of the Division 3 title.
“We know that we have a million people behind us," Maynard senior forward Jordan Tucker said. "It was definitely hard not being able to have them all here. It was definitely sad because it was our last game. But I think we persevered a lot and overcame every obstacle that was put on us.”
Sophomore Claire Candela netted 17 points, senior Ally Morgan scored 16, and sophomore Hayle Thompson had 13 points as the Tigers (20-4) won the program’s first state title.
“It was going to be my last game so I didn’t want to not play as hard as I could,” Morgan said. “I’m really happy. A state championship is still really cool to celebrate. I didn’t think we’d make it that far. It was really cool making it like this.”
While players did their best to generate energy, the game was played in relative quiet with each sneaker squeak, and thud of a body crashing to the floor for a loose ball, piercing through the barren bleachers.
“It was really cool to see that we could do this on our own,” Morgan said. “I feel that if we did not have that support for each other, it would not have been a win.”
Maynard coach Kristyn Howes said there were a lot of “ups and downs” this week as the game was moved to American International College in Springfield on Wednesday so fans could attend before it was moved back to Worcester State with the non-fan restriction.
“Emotionally, I think they kind of hung in there,” Howes said. “I told them that we can either lay down with the situation, or we can stand up and fight.”
Maynard marched to a 32-19 lead at the half and 49-26 lead after three quarters. Monson (21-3) was able to crawl within 54-38 with 4:18 to play when Candela’s fifth 3-pointer began a countdown to a title.
“When I start coaching I can’t even tell you who is in the stands,” Howes said. “Then when the game’s over you realize there’s no fans here. It’s kind of disappointing that their parents – especially for the seniors – aren’t here. But we told the girls that it’s all about learning to adapt. If the coronavirus is around, then you have to adapt.
“So let’s just do it,” she concluded. “That’s what we did.”
In the D3 boys’ semifinal at Worcester State, the Sutton boys overcame a rough start for the 67-55 victory in the final game of this year’s tournament.
Senior Trevian Green scored 33 points, with five 3-pointers, while senior Bryson Grenon and senior Brendan Faucher each scored 10 points for the program’s first state championship.
“We came in and instead of being negative about it — all the credit goes to the kids — they stayed positive through it all,” Sutton coach Andrew Niedzwiecki said. “This was as far as we could go and we were going to go get this one. They did. They kept working hard through a lot of adversity. They were really looking forward to this game. They were hoping to play one more. But I think they’ll take this and be happy with it.”
Sutton (22-2) was down 15-8 after one quarter, but used a 22-point second quarter for a two-point lead at break before going up as many as 16 in the second half.
On site as the association’s basketball liason, and acknowledging that the day was an unprecedented situation, MIAA associate director Peter Smith said “I think everybody was doing everything they could to provide that experience and schedule these games in some way,” he said.
"We’re just so happy to be here so these four teams could play.”