Whenever the Flynn kids wanted to play 3-on-3 basketball in the backyard, they didn’t have to look far to find enough players.
Mary Kate, the youngest of six Hanover High hoopers, had to scrap like crazy to earn her siblings’ respect. She remembers doing everything in her power to defend her then 6-foot-1, 250-pound brother, Patrick – who went on to play football at the University of New Hampshire.
Naturally, it didn’t always go well. Her brothers and sisters showed no mercy, which was frustrating in the moment, yet ultimately molded her into the player she is today.
“It would get pretty intense,” said Flynn, an emerging star for the Hawks. “I can remember a few times it ended in tears.”
‘There are so many aspects of her game that teams have to plan for . . . It’s not just one thing.’
Hanover girls' basketball coach Brian Fisher, on junior captain Mary Kate Flynn
A junior captain, Flynn is averaging 11.3 points, 15.2 rebounds, 4.6 blocks, and 2.5 steals per game for the 8-2 Hawks, who have won seven straight and established themselves as contenders in both the Patriot League-Fisher Division and Division 2.
She had 31 rebounds in one game and 10 steals in another. As a 6-foot rim protector with long arms — who’s also capable of single-handedly weaving past defenders and breaking a press — she’s a nightmare matchup for opposing teams. Sometimes Hanover coach Brian Fisher employs her as a safety who lurks near the rim and oversees the action.
“There are so many aspects of her game that teams have to plan for,” Fisher said. “It’s not just one thing.”
Basketball has been a fixture throughout Flynn’s life. Her sister, Stephanie, was a 1,000-point scorer for Hanover who continued her playing career at Columbia. Patrick, a former Globe Athlete of the Year, helped lead Hanover to a Division 3 state championship. Liam was a three-sport athlete who continued playing football at Saint Anselm. Erin played basketball and ran cross-country and track. Emily is currently playing hoops at Babson.
Flynn’s teammate, Olivia Damon, said seeing the way her siblings competed during the season and kept working in the offseason was a constant source of motivation for Flynn.
While she proudly attended all their games, played on the court at halftime, and cheered like crazy, she also dreamed of one day carving out her own legacy.
“I think she saw what they did with their teams, took that, and said, ‘I want to do even better,’” Damon said.
Flynn still has some work to do in order to claim family bragging rights, but she’s already made a name on a grand stage and is steadily closing the gap.
Her siblings have been at many Hanover games in recent weeks to watch her play, just like she did for them over the years, and they all appreciate the full circle nature of the experience. Their father, David, is now the junior varsity girls’ coach, which adds another wrinkle.
As Flynn has grown into a standout player, she’s leaned on her family’s advice. They all offer constructive criticism, compare notes, and bounce ideas off one another.
“I try to stay in the paint,” Flynn said. “My siblings always tell me, ‘When you put your hands up in the paint, that must be so intimidating for the other team’ because of how long I am. So I try to disrupt the offense for the other team by doing that.”
Fisher also praised her for gracefully handling double- and triple teams and seamlessly involving her teammates. As the Hawks have excelled in tight games this season, Flynn’s poise has been a major reason why.
“She’s cool under pressure,” Fisher said. “She’s taken a big step up, and I think she knows that she’s going to take the best from the other team.”
Damon half-joked that she was scared of Flynn because of her overwhelming stature and skill when they first met in third grade. Since then, Damon has enjoyed watching Flynn blossom into one of the most dynamic players in the area.
Fisher said one benefit Flynn has is that Stephanie, Erin, and Emily all played for him, so Mary Kate was already familiar with the system coming in as a freshman.
Flynn, who overlapped with Emily two years ago, said they often play together at a court in Orleans during the summer.
“They’ve carried on their athletic ability to a further level,” Flynn said. “I want to do that and go in that direction.”
▪ When Kristen McDonnell switched from coaching boys at Norwood High to girls this season, she expected a challenge for a squad that graduated four starters from its 24-1 run to the Division 2 state final.
McDonnell hoped the Mustangs would find a groove by midseason. They appear to be on track. Norwood (6-4) has won three straight and took down a quality Dover-Sherborn team Tuesday. Tricia Wladkowski and Alexa Coras have emerged as go-to contributors.
“I’ve seen it throughout the year kind of progress [to] where we’re starting to get our bearings,” McDonnell said “There’s been a learning curve, but I really think we’re heading in the right direction.”
McDonnell’s resume is headlined by four Division 1 titles with the Braintree girls, plus a 2022 Division 2 state final appearance with the Norwood boys in her third season. She recalls scrapping most of her offense with the Mustang boys in her first half-season and says coaching continues to humble her.
“I have this rule that if two or more kids don’t understand what I’m trying to say, or a drill or anything, then it’s my fault,” she said. “And that happened a lot in the beginning of this year, so I was like, ‘The only one that’s really going to change anything is me.’ Hopefully I’m starting to do that.”
▪ The MIAA released updated power rankings for winter sports on Tuesday. Bishop Feehan, Andover, and Wachusett occupy the top three spots in Division 1, respectively, and are also separated by less than a point.
Medfield paces D2, St. Mary’s has a near 5-point edge in D3, Cathedral leads by 4 points in D4, and Millis sits atop D5.
Games to watch
Friday, Bishop Fenwick at No. 12 Cathedral, 6:30 p.m. — The Panthers (8-3) should receive a quality test with Cecilia Kay’s interior dominance for the Crusaders (7-4).
Friday, No. 14 Winchester at Lexington, 7 p.m. — Another big night in the Middlesex League sees the Red & Black (10-1) travel to the surging Minutemen (8-2).
Monday, No. 10 Dracut at No. 16 Bridgewater-Raynham, 7 p.m. — The Middies (6-2) and Trojans (8-2) have both won four straight ahead of this nonleague clash.
Tuesday, No. 18 Rockland at No. 13 Norwell, 6:30 p.m. — The top two squads in the South Shore League are due for a thriller.
Tuesday, No. 4 Walpole at Brookline, 4 p.m. — The Timberwolves (7-1) visit a high-octane Brookline team that will be returning from eight days off.
Correspondent Ethan Fuller contributed to this story.
Trevor Hass can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.