THE WINTER SEASON KICKED INTO GEAR a few short hours after the lights were turned out at Gillette Stadium following the King Philip/Reading Division 1A Super Bowl — with 60 boys’ and girls’ hockey teams hitting the ice in Marlborough for the ninth Garrett Reagan Summit. One hundred and four days later, the Arlington High boys sailed off the TD Garden ice hoisting the Super 8 trophy after senior Mic Curran’s winner 15 seconds into overtime. Three-plus months of nonstop action, gone in a flash. There was tragedy and triumph in Falmouth. And encores for the Cambridge R&L boys’ and Cathedral girls’ basketball teams, along with Notre Dame-Hingham in girls’ hockey. There was celebration in Hanover for a first-time basketball champion, as well as for the St. Mary’s and Lowell Catholic hockey programs. Smith Charles (Milton) and Brooke-Lynn Williams (Norton) blazed new trails. Marblehead swept the slopes. And Corben Miles put his brilliance on display one final time before swimming off to Georgia Tech. There were countless stirring story lines that played out on courts, at rinks, on mats, at tracks, down the slopes, and on the beam this winter. Here are 10 that caught our attention.
1. Falmouth hockey mourns, finds a way to persevere
One moment, they were skating with their teammates at practice, trying to bounce back after a 1-3 start on the ice in late December. But in an instant, Falmouth High 17-year-old seniors Owen Higgins and James Lavin were gone, killed in a car accident a short distance from the Falmouth Ice Arena. The community, and the hockey world, shed tears. No. 10 (Lavin) and No. 19 (Higgins) jerseys were hung behind the benches of nearly 200 boys’ and girls’ high school programs across the state. Thirteen days after the tragedy, the Clippers returned to the ice, and a full house on Jan. 4. Falmouth responded with an emotionally-charged 5-0 victory. Over the next eight weeks, the Clippers found a way, bonding as brothers, rallying for a 14-9-1 finish, advancing to the Division 1 South quarterfinals.
Banners hang above the glistening court at the War Memorial Recreation Center in Cambridge, honoring Rindge & Latin legends Patrick Ewing, Rumeal Robinson, Karl Hobbs, and Louis Ford Jr. Two more names will undoubtedly be added to the list down the road: Jakigh Dottin and Dimon Carrigan. The senior leaders were the focal point to the Falcons’ dominant run the past three seasons, netting a trio of Division 1 North titles, 45 straight wins and two state titles — the capper a 70-43 conquest of Franklin in Springfield — the program’s first back-to-back titles since Ewing powered a three-peat in 1979-81. “That name alone tells you history is in the making,” said Carrigan, a 6-foot-9, shot-blocking demon, who, like Ewing, ruled the paint.
3. Unflappable Milton stays on track for state title
The Milton girls were in the running for their first All-State indoor title on the last Sunday in February. Trailing Natick by 2 points entering the final two events at the Reggie Lewis Center, the Wildcats needed a top five finish in the 4x800 relay. No problem, it’s one of the squad’s best events. But . . . Milton was DQ’d on the third lap after a bump. With the 4x800 still in progress, quick-thinking coach Tom Shaw sprinted over to his anchor, senior Colette O’Leary, and told her to focus on the finale, the 4x400, instead. Then Shaw calmed the frayed nerves of his runners. His Wildcats delivered a finish to remember. With Josie Cousineau leading off, Bridget Mitchell going second, O’Leary running the third leg before handing the baton to her younger sister, Elise, Milton legged out a fourth-place finish (4:01.50), securing the necessary 5 points to edge Natick, 38-35.
4. Arlington goes overtime for a Super 8 finale
The road to the Super 8 title for coach John Messuri and his Arlington High boys’ hockey team? A collective effort from start to finish. Messuri, a Spy Ponder to the core who skated for legendary Eddie Burns, lauded a “great group of assistants coaches” and a “strong nucleus of seniors.” Junior goalie Jack Pinard stole Game 1 of the Super 8. Senior Peter Scheschareg dominated the second game with a hat trick. Classmate Kevin Ouellette potted a double-overtime winner against defending champion Malden Catholic in the semis. And then 15 seconds into overtime of the final, a tick past 10:30 p.m. at TD Garden, senior Mic Curran converted a wraparound, lifting Arlington (22-2-2) to a thrilling 2-1 win over Central Catholic. The Ponders are just the third public program to raise the 1A trophy to the roof.
5. A senior salute for a trio that hit 2,000 points
In the span of of 14 days in early February, Emmanuel Bangandozou (Bancroft), Luke Dagley (South Shore Christian), and Azar Swain (Rivers) shot their way into the 2K-point club, becoming the 66th, 67th, and 68th players in state history to hit 2,000 points. Bangandozou (2,236 points),who arrived in Worcester from his native Cameroon at age 7, was the first, pouring in 41 points against Landmark. Dagley (2,195), a 6-footer from Weymouth with a sweet stroke (he scored 1,004 points on threes alone), tossed in 24 just 10 days later vs. Calvary Chapel Academy. The Yale-bound Swain (2,185), the state’s Boys’ Basketball Player of the Year from Brockton floated in a first-half jumper in a 69-59 comeback win over Roxbury Latin on Feb. 16.
6. A little magic for Marblehead on the slopes
Marblehead High, ski power. Sure, strap on a pair of O’Brien water skis and hit the harbor ... Not quite. On an otherwise dreary day in early March, the Marblehead boys’ and girls’ squads swept the MIAA Alpine championships at Mount Wachusett. Led by Will Thompson in the slalom and Tucker Braun in the GS, the Magicians slipped past St. John’s Prep (4:57.52 to 4:58.12) in the rain drops to capture the program’s first state title. The girls, meanwhile, won their first championship in a decade, narrowly defeating North Andover, 5:02.87 to 5:03.76. Freshman phenom Courtney Pingree helped lead the way with a 40.41 slalom (seventh place) and 59.28 giant slalom (13th). It was quite a magical day for coach John Thompson and his crew.
7. Skating 11, Needham girls rocketed to state final
You do the math. Three lines and two defensive pairings equals 13. And that’s the number of skaters the Needham girls’ hockey team opened the season with on Dec. 14. Early on, however, two players went down with season-ending injuries. But fueled by Bay State Carey MVP Elizabeth Hernberg and sophomore sniper Gracie Bruno, Needham carried a near-perfect 20-0-2 record into TD Garden for the Division 1 state final against Woburn, quite a feat. The Rockets were denied, 3-1, but not for lack of effort. “A short bench lends itself to really focusing solely on the challenges the next game brings,” said coach Allisyn Furano-Foster. “By necessity, we had to take one game at a time. Although we may have been limited to 11 skaters, it was clear, at the conclusion of the season, that we had the right 11.” Those 11, plus goalies Sarah McLaughlin and Melissa Strauss, certainly had the right stuff.
8. Cruise control: Cathedral runs to a repeat in Division 4
The Cathedral girls’ basketball team did lose six games during the regular season. Yet, once the Division 4 tourney started, the Panthers pounced. Masseny Kaba, a 6-foot-3-inch senior, pounded the paint. Freshman Mackenzie Daleba continued to deliver double-doubles. Amani Boston and Dejah Jenkins worked their magic in the backcourt. In its six-game sweep to a repeat, Cathedral crushed foes by 30 points (69-39), culminating with a 61-32 conquest of Quaboag. “Just from Day 1, they all worked their butts off,” said coach Clinton Lassiter. “They never complained, and they all made sacrifices, whether it was minutes or it was sprints for their other teammates at practice. The level of selflessness this team had all season, that’s what helped carry us to the top.”
9. B-R gymnasts stuck their routine to capture crown
We’re talking 0.175 points. That was the difference between the champion Bridgewater-Raynham/West Bridgewater girls’ gymnastics team and runner-up Mansfield at the state meet at Algonquin Regional on March 5. With freshman Olivia Keyes stepping up with a second (37.425) in the all-around, 10-year coach Steve Cudworth and BR/WB prevailed, 144.750-144.575. When Keyes stuck her landing on the uneven bars, Cudworth cast a smile. His combined squad was 10-0 in the regular season, then placed third behind Mansfield and Medfield/Ashland/Dover-Sherborn in the South meet. In the final, “we knew that we had to stick every routine to have a chance of beating Mansfield,” said Cudworth. His young squad made it stick, and won their first state championship.
10. Shawsheen, Prep wrestlers left it all on the mat
Shawsheen Tech senior Jake Ferri is no lightweight. Neither is St. John’s Prep sophomore Ryan Garlitz. But their 113-pound matches on the mat this winter were epic. A two-time New England champ, Ferri was seemingly unstoppable entering the Division 1 tourney. He had not lost since his sophomore year. And Ferri had pulled out a 9-8 decision over Garlitz the week prior at the North sectional. The state final, however, was different. Garlitz hung in, forcing overtime, at 2-2. With seconds left in the extra session, he made his move, turning Ferri on his back for the last-second pin. The two would clash twice more, in the All-State meet, as well as New England’s, with the Kent State-bound Ferri prevailing both times, capping a fierce month-long battle between the pair. He finished 59-1. Garlitz went 55-3. Those four combined losses came against each other.