The spirited group, all freshmen and sophomores, take immense pride in being a part of the first varsity girls’ basketball team at Malden Catholic. This is, in fact, the first year for all varsity sports for females at MC after teams debuted at the sub-varsity level in 2018-19.
A year ago, the school added Malden Catholic School for Girls to keep their “codivisional” model with separate-gender divisions.
“It’s one of the reasons we came,” said MC sophomore Kylie Bragg. “We knew there were going to be obstacles. At the end of the day, it’s really cool to be the first varsity program.”
Added classmate Andrea Turner, “it’s the first program, so there’ll be eyes on us, attention and visitors to our games.”
At the helm is Jay Keane, who previously coached at Wilmington High for eight seasons before stepping down in 2013 because of his increased role as a captain with the Somerville Fire Department. He also wanted to take a break from coaching to watch his own children play but stayed involved with the game as an official.
However, just before Malden Catholic announced it would change to the codivisional model, Keane signed on as the program’s first coach.
“They hired me the summer before the school even opened up,” said Keane, who has directed the Lancers to a 6-4 start. “They asked the [girls] their interests, and basketball was the leading sport for girls.”
Of the 75 girls who enrolled in the first female class at MC, 35 tried out for basketball, and 15 made the inaugural sub-varsity squad that went 15-3. The program is ahead of schedule — Keane didn’t anticipate making the jump to varsity until the third year. There is also a junior varsity program this year and a freshman team will added next winter.
Keane credits the players for “their willingness to accept their roles that I give them.
“It’s the whole team concept in varsity,” he said. “It’s so important to have five girls with one goal.”
The players have achieved a level of comfort with each other that spreads far beyond the hardwood.
“It’s like a family,” Bragg said. “It doesn’t feel like a basketball team. No matter the differences we have, we just all come together on the court.”
Girls at Malden Catholic are required to play at least two sports instead of having a traditional physical education course. Bragg, who also plays softball, enrolled with her twin sister, Kelis. Their older brother, Isaiah, plays football, basketball and baseball at MC. Turner is a member the soccer and lacrosse teams. Bragg and Turner, both Malden residents, will be part of the first graduating class of females in 2022.
“They’re the pioneers,” Keane said. “They brought in 75 girls last year and they’re setting the course. Ultimately, the girls are taking the chance and building the school from the ground up.”
Turner’s older sisters, Siobhan and Raniece, played for Keane during his tenure at Wilmington. The family now lives in Malden, and Turner has emerged as a promising point guard for the Lancers.
“I thought we were going to be good,” said Turner, who averages a team-high 14 points, 6 assists and 4 steals per game.
“All around, we have different sizes, positions and skills.”
But there were reservations, because of the unknown. Ups and downs were expected by all, and they have happened.
“At the same time, it was a little nerve-wracking because we hadn’t played together,” Turner said.
But the transition has been relatively smooth, and chemistry is emerging.
Malden Catholic is playing an independent schedule this season. But the Lancers are just four wins shy of qualifying for the Division 4 North tournament, with 11 games remaining on the schedule.
And what would a postseason appearance mean?
“I think that would bring a lot of amazement in people’s eyes,” Turner said.
■ Katie Galligan netted 17 points in Friday’s 50-38 win over Scituate to become Pembroke’s career scoring leader, for boys and girls, with 1,092 points.
“She’s an incredibly special person,” said head coach Tim Lopes . “She was a three-sport captain [last year] as a junior, that doesn’t happen very often.”
Galligan, a Roger Williams University commit, entered the night with 1,075 career points — 8 points shy of the mark (1,083) set by Tyler Spencer during the 2017-18 season.
“For Katie, it’s all about winning,” said Lopes. “The points come along the way, but it’s all about winning for her, that’s what drives her. If you’re going to have an elite player on your team, having a player with Katie’s mentality makes the coach’s job so much easier.”
Galligan increased her career point total to 1,102 with 10 points in a 51-37 win over Quincy on Tuesday that improved Pembroke to 8-2 overall and 6-1 in the Patriot League Fisher Division.
■ Five players from the Bay State on Tuesday were nominated to the McDonald’s All-America Game: Mackenzie Daleba and Ariana Vanderhoop (Cathedral); Alecia Maxwell (Springfield Central); Gabriel Plath (Bradford Christian); and Michaela Stanfield (Winsor).
■ The 2020 Spalding Hoophall Classic will feature four matchups of Massachusetts teams on Friday, including fourth-ranked Central Catholic against Springfield Central at 9 p.m.
Games to watch
Friday, Needham at Newton North, 6:30 p.m. — Caroline Alexander, Taylor Bailey and the seventh-ranked Tigers host Kiara McIntyre, Caroline Klemm and the sixth-ranked Rockets in an intriguing Top 10 showdown between Bay State Conference rivals.
Friday, Franklin at Oliver Ames, 6:30 p.m. — The top-ranked Panthers hit the road to take on the No. 13 Tigers in a crucial Hockomock League matchup.
Friday, Newton South at Cambridge, 7 p.m. — The 15th-ranked Falcons (8-2) host the Lions (8-2) in a battle for Dual County League supremacy.
Saturday, Portland (Maine) at Cathedral, 5:30 p.m. — Mackenzie Daleba and Ariana Vanderhoop lead the fifth-ranked Panthers (7-3) against one of the top teams in Maine.
Sunday, Bishop Feehan at Foxborough, 2 p.m. — The 14th-ranked Warriors (7-1) host the 20th-ranked Shamrocks (8-1) in a non-league matchup.
Greg Levinsky can be reached at email@example.com. Seamus McAvoy also contributed.