Nicole Boudreau leapt into the arms of fellow senior captain Ally Fazio the night of March 17 at the DCU Center in Worcester.
The culmination of all the players’ hard work, and determination not to be beaten, was on full display as the Andover High girls’ basketball team capped its perfect 27-0 season with a 61-45 over Holyoke for the Division 1 state title, its third consecutive championship.
Only six other basketball programs in the state, boys or girls, have three-peated as champs. The most recent was the Charlestown boys, with four straight in Division 2 from 2000-03.
Twenty years ago, Keri Ryan (then Keri Guertin) won a pair of state championships (1989, 1992) at Haverhill High School before playing at Merrimack College. The Hillies went on to capture three straight from 1994-96 under Kevin Woelfel.
Now an assistant coach for Sue Downer at rival Central Catholic, Ryan sees one striking similarity between those Haverhill squads and the current Andover team.
“They have a lot of girls who have played together for most of their lives and they all have one common goal, and that’s to not lose,’’ she said.
In 1989 and 1992, the Hillies were a combined 50-1. The last three years, led by the Boston College-bound Boudreau and a talented core, Andover is 79-4. And from Day 1, Jim Tildsley was confident that his girls would win again.
“I told the girls that it was up to them when they wanted the last practice of the year to be, but what made this team so unique from all the others I’ve had is the fact that I never had to handle any internal problems within the team, because the girls were all on the same page,’’ said Tildsley.
“And any time they weren’t, our senior captains made sure to straighten it out. But to win three in a row is just a testament of how hard these girls worked and the fact that they wanted it more than anything.’’
In games against Andover and Central Catholic this season, Ryan got a first-hand look at how Boudreau and the Golden Warriors attack a challenge.
“It’s funny, because Nicole is the type of player who will find a way to score at all costs and it kind of goes hand-in-hand with the mentality of the team,’’ said Ryan, “in a sense that they refuse to lose and be stopped.’’
“Winning one state championship is difficult in itself, because it’s like a perfect storm where you need to have those kids who want to win at all costs and the coaching factor that allows them to do so. And Andover had both.’’
Boudreau acknowledges that striving for perfection has been mentally exhausting.
“In order to succeed, being mentally tough is huge. Luckily we had a bunch of girls on the team who had the ability to stay tough throughout the season and the big games,’’ she said.
“We had targets on our backs all season, and whenever anyone would play us, it was their biggest game on the schedule. So we made sure we came to play every single game.’’
A 2,200-point career scorer and the state’s two-time Player of the Year, the 5-foot-9 Boudreau is most proud of the legacy that she and her teammates are leaving behind.
And it’s more about bonding as teammates, with one common goal, than any dazzling statistics.
“I want people to be able to look at our team and see how close we are and see we play so well together and trust each other,’’ said Boudreau. “I think that’s a huge reason we were so successful.’’
“Yes, we had talent but we were like a family and a very close team, so hopefully people saw that when they watched us play together.’’