10 moments to remember from this winter sports season
A snow storm signaled the start to the spring season, or was that the end of the winter season? Regardless, snow was not the story this year. Less shoveling meant more time to focus on the incredible run of Malden Catholic’s hockey team, a record-breaking year for Barnstable gymnastics, and the end of two of swimming’s greatest records. And how about basketball returning to its birthplace, Springfield, to hold its eight state championship games. In places like Cambridge, Franklin, Hanover, and Chelmsford, it was the best winter ever, because those communities celebrated state titles and there’s nothing like a trophy to make staying indoors worthwhile. From Cape Cod to Cape Ann it was a season of great accomplishments. The following, in no particular order, are 10 moments that stood out.
1. Bishop Feehan ends Braintree’s run
Let’s be honest, the Shamrocks’ season got off to a strange start. First was a 63-51 loss to Braintree in their second game, one that seemed to suggest the two-time defending state champion Wamps would leave Feehan second best once again. Following that loss, Bishop Feehan scored 103 points in a win over Durfee, the highest point total for any girls’ basketball team in the state this winter. Now fast forward to the tournament. A win over Braintree in the Division 1 South final broke the Wamps’ 63-game win streak. A win over Natick in the Division 1 state final made it official. Bishop Feehan was the best team in the state. “It’s just really awesome,” said senior Lauren Manis. Hard to argue with her.
2. Cambridge wins title for fallen teammate
The McDonald’s at the Ludlow Service Plaza had some hungry, happy, guests on Saturday, March 19. A Big Mac and fries is hardly athlete-friendly grub, but after beating St. John’s (S) to win the Division 1 basketball title, the Cambridge boys deserved it. The Falcons were playing all season for teammate Davonte Neal, who lost his battle with cancer in 2014. Emotion, plus some traditonal Cambridge defense, gave the Falcons their first state title since 2001. “This is amazing,” said Jakigh Dottin, who joins his coach and uncle Lance in earning All-Scholastic honors. “This whole season we have gone by the saying, ‘Davonte Strong and everything we do is for Sweets.’ ”
3. Birthplace of basketball new home for finals?
Did we mention those games were in Springfield? For the first time ever, the MIAA put together a Final Four weekend, starting with practice Friday afternoon at the finals sites, the MassMutual Center and Springfield College. That night there was a Hall of Fame banquet with 2015 Hall inductee Dick Bavetta as the keynote speaker. While some in EMass may have grumbled about the ride, it was worth it and the MIAA is to be commended for trying something new. There’s no commitment to return to Springfield but the discussion starts when the Basketball Committee meets April 7.
4. Norton’s home to state’s fastest teens
I don’t know about you, but my two kids always complained about the lack of time their high school allowed to get from one class to the next. Here’s a guess — that’s not a problem for Brooke-Lynn Williams and Abu Ceesay. Norton High School allows three minutes between classes but the two fastest teenagers in the state probably don’t need that long. Ceesay won the All-State dash title in 6.40, Williams in 6.91. While Ceesay missed the New Englands and Nationals because of an injury, nothing slowed Williams. She won the New England title and then earned All-American honors by finishing fifth in the dash at the New Balance Nationals.
5. Time to vote . . .
Football has a way of becoming a year-round topic, especially in this state. At the January 13 MIAA Board of Directors meeting, a 15-1 vote sent the current football playoff format back to the state’s 378 member schools for a vote. On April 8, schools will gather in Milford to decide whether to continue with the current format or dump it for . . . well, who knows what. There were appeals in January, appeals of those appeals in February, an appearance by Bay State Conference administrators before the board, and a mysterious and poorly-worded ballot that left some wondering just what a “no” vote actually means. While many of the state’s roughly 20,000 football playing students occupied themselves with basketball, wrestling, etc., the great gridiron debate rolled on.
6. 50 reasons to watch A-B’s Corben Miles
St. John’s Prep and Weston won state swim titles but this isn’t a tribute to a team. No, this is a tribute to speed. Acton-Boxboro junior Corben Miles shattered the state record in the 50 free, finishing in 20.3 seconds at the Division 1 state championship. Think about that for a second; down and back in 20.3 seconds. The national record is 19.43 seconds. While that may be a reach, Miles’s pursuit of a sub-20 time next year will make every Acton-Boxboro meet a must-see event. And while on the subject of speed, Northampton’s Johnny Williams broke a state record in the 100 butterfly that had stood since 1976.
7. Music and dance, welcome to nordic skiing
If it weren’t for the winter coats, the post-race scene at the Nordic ski championships in Weston looked more like a beach party. There was loud music, dancing teenagers, and nothing to suggest the lung-searing hard work that had taken place moments before. Newton South’s Will Rhatigan won the boys title, Mt. Greylock’s Grace Smith the girls. But everyone was having too much fun to worry about who won. Although cold, it only seemed to bother one observer. Newton South coach Jeff Riklin looked at the one person dumb enough to wear a baseball hat to an outdoor event in February and said to the reporter, “You look cold. You should go inside. Now.” Thanks coach.
8. Garden party ends winter season
From beginning (Division 1 girls) to end (Super 8 final), there’s no better way to put an exclamation point on the winter season than with a full day of hockey at TD Garden. It started with Austin Prep finally breaking through against rival Arlington Catholic to win the Division 1 girls’ title. Senior goalie Caty Flagg was the hero, stopping 25 shots in a 1-0 shutout. “I couldn’t be happier for the girls and the team and more proud of how they played today,” said Austin Prep coach Stephanie Wood. About nine hours later, Malden Catholic coach John McLean felt the same way after an overtime win over St. John’s Prep, the Lancers fifth Super 8 title in six years. “It means a lot for the kids in the room, for the coaching staff and the school.”
9. Numbers don’t lie, Barnstable gymnasts rule
Barnstable won its fourth straight state title in February, its 12th in program history. But while that’s impressive, let’s consider something you may not know. On January 12 in a meet against Falmouth, Barnstable became the first gymnastics team in state history to score better than 150.00, beating the Clippers 150.5 to 143.8. At the time, they thought 151 was the state record so there was no celebration. Led by All-Scholastics Leksana Andrews, Tali Twomey, and Lauren Hansen, Barnstable went on to make it a season sweep, winning the South sectional (147.45), the state championship (147.125), and the New England title (149.0). Hardly surprising after that performance in January.
10. 2,000 reasons to celebrate their careers
With 65 members, the 2,000-point club isn’t as exclusive as it used to be. But that doesn’t mean we can’t still be impressed by Nobles’ Katie Benzan and Lexington’s Anna Kelly. Benzan was first up, and on Feb. 10 the Harvard-bound senior scored 18 points in a win over Groton to cross the 2,000-point mark. “Honestly it means a lot, ever since I’ve grown up this has been one of my goals,” said Benzan, who finished with 2,153 points in a season that ended with Nobles claiming the NEPSAC Class A title. The Fordham-bound Kelly didn’t get to celebrate a win with her milestone, scoring 32 points in a tournament loss to Revere that left her career total at 2,015. The 2,000-point club is growing, but its members will always be impressive.