FOXBOROUGH — There’s no need to fret over Paul Connolly’s job status, no matter how well Newton North played without him during the 11th annual Wally Seaver High School Invitational on Sunday.
In the championship game of the elite Blue Division, a coachless Newton North team faced defending champion La Salle (R.I.), which was helmed by Mike McParlin, its varsity coach. A difference in rules between the MIAA, which does not allow out-of-season coaching, and the Rhode Island Interscholastic League led to the strange dichotomy.
“You don’t see that too often,” noted McParlin after Newton North’s 69-51 victory. “There were times I was telling my guys: ‘You have to get together and figure it out.’ They’re looking at me for the answers and coach isn’t always going to have the answers.”
Connolly, who watched helplessly from his perch in the bleachers, has had a lot of answers over the years, leading the Tigers to two state championships and a trip to the Division 1 championship game in March, where they fell, 71-59, to BC High.
Eight of the Tigers’ rising seniors applied those lessons in his absence, making substitutions, calling out defensive adjustments, and tracking fouls, all while going the entire game without calling a timeout.
“To be honest, I look over here and all these kids have played with each other for six, seven years,” said Newton North big man Will Davis, a rising senior who scored 13 points, controlled the glass, and passed well out of the post. “We’ve been together for a long time. We know each other’s playing styles. We know how we react.”
With no head coach on the bench, rising senior Jose Padilla served as Newton North’s floor general, scoring a game-high 21 points with a relentless, driving style as the Tigers pulled away in the second half, extending a 2-point lead with eight minutes remaining into an 18-point victory.
“We trust each other,” Padilla said. “We know who deserves to be playing, who is doing a good job, and we go from there. It’s kind of crazy we’re playing against teams with their whole [coaching] staff.”
Newton North was competing in the Wally Seaver Invitational for the first time, joining 111 teams schools — no AAU teams allowed — from six states in the second-largest field in the tournament’s 11-year history. Paul Seaver, Milford’s boys’ basketball coach, started the tournament in 2012 as a fundraiser to help offset expenses as his father, Paul “Wally” Seaver, battled ALS. Wally Seaver died in 2013, but the tournament has continued to grow, peaking at more than 150 teams in 2021 and raising $8,000-$10,000 annually for ALS awareness and research.
“It’s growth over the past decade-plus is tremendous,” said Seaver. “It’s thanks to our staff and volunteers and, of course, all the players, families, and coaches who sign up. None of this is possible without the kids and coaches who make it the way it is.”
The Seaver Invitational — the largest summer high school basketball tournament in the Northeast — usually takes place in late July, but with Seaver slated to marry Whitney Howe on Aug. 6 in Providence, it was moved up this year.
“Coach Seaver does a great job putting this together and it’s a great cause to be able to give back and do something for other people,” said McParlin, who has brought his La Salle team since 2019. “Teams are so fundamentally sound in Massachusetts and they play so hard. It’s a great tournament to come in and find out a lot about us.”
That high-level competition was evident in the girls’ tournament as well. The top Purple Division championship game featured a Granite State matchup of Bishop Guertin and Bedford, a rematch of the 2021 and 2022 NHIAA Division 1 state championship games. Bishop Guertin, which won this year’s New Hampshire crown, prevailed thanks to the play of star guards Brooke Paquette and Olivia Murray, a pair of rising seniors who started both state title games.
“They’re our go-to kids from the backcourt, our dynamic duo,” said coach Brad Kreick, who also highlighted the play of rising senior Molly Smith. “They complement each other so well. It’s a guard’s game and we’re very fortunate to have both.”
It was the Cardinals’ first appearance in the Seaver Invitational, but likely not their last.
“What a great tournament,” Kreick said. “Obviously, a great cause. It was really well run. We thoroughly enjoyed it. We look forward to coming back next year.”
Pentucket won the other girls’ division (Gray) over Norton. Winners of the boys’ divisions were Walpole (Red), Bishop Feehan (Orange), Springfield International (Green), Chariho (R.I.) (Black), Blue Hills (Gold), Franklin-White (Pink), Milford-Black (Navy).
Brendan Kurie can be reached at email@example.com.