In each of the past four years, no more than eight BPS teams have made the state basketball tournament. Four teams have qualified each of those years. Last year, the number of qualifying city teams decreased from eight to seven.
This year it all changed.
With 12 of the 15 city teams qualifying for the state tournament, coaches across the city are reflecting on the realignment of the league and the opportunities it’s given to various schools.
“In the past, so many of the lower divisions – Division 3, Division 2, Division 4 – had to go up against those power house teams, Division 1 teams,” said Burke assistant coach Megan Waterbury, referring to five teams in the North conference that have dominated the city league.
Waterbury was one of the main advocates for the realignment of the league.
“They got not very good records because of it, so you didn’t get to see how good they really are. So I think the realignment just allows so many teams to showcase how good teams in the city really are,” she said.
The teams in the Central and South conferences that qualified for states include Dorchester, Boston English, O’Bryant, West Roxbury, Latin Academy, Snowden, South Boston and Burke.
Waterbury described how Burke, her school, is benefiting from qualifying after being absent from the tournament for eight or nine years.
“We joke that some of our kids were in first or second grade the last time Burke was in the state tournament,” Waterbury said. “It’s literally like kids in a candy store running around the high school, excited about the state tournament. It just gives them a boost of confidence and this energy that they haven’t had before.”
New Mission coach Cory McCarthy also gave praise to the South conference schools.
"Southie is in, Burke is in, how great is that for the city," he said.
Athletic director Ken Still also shares the coaches’ feelings about the effects of the realignment.
“It’s a really good thing for us as a city, meaning wealth has been spread, meaning that if it was just the top teams as usual, you’d get the same bread going through,” he said.
But what about the North teams that have qualified for the state tournament?
Even though four teams in the top conference made the state tournament – New Mission, East Boston, Madison Park and the city champions Brighton – Charlestown couldn’t make the cut.
However, Charlestown coach Edson Cardoso still supports the realignment.
“I think it actually helped us compete every night [to] outplay good teams every night. So I thought it was [more] our inexperience and kids learning our new system,” Cardoso said.
The more competitive schedule for these teams is exactly what Waterbury wanted when she pushed for the realignment.
“They didn’t have as tough of a schedule in conference. Now a lot of teams are sneaking in [to the state tournament] with [a] .500 [record] or something like that, but they have had really battle-tested games all season long, so I think you're going to see them go even farther,” Waterbury said.
Whether the realignment has had a positive or negative effect on schools – even though most of them seem positive – the city league is definitely changing.
Still said that the fact that Madison Park, East Boston and Charlestown didn't make it to the city tournament might even create a shift in whom the top teams in the city league will be.
“The heavyweights are always on top because kids like to go there, to someone who is winning. That didn’t take place this year. We’ll see how that works itself out for next year,” Still said. “If East Boston is not there and Madison is not there, these kids make a decision of being with a winning team. They didn’t win so someone might say I’m going to go to Dorchester, I’m going to go to [another school]."
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- Justin A. Rice -- A metro Detroit native, Rice is a Michigan State University (Go Spartans!) and Northeastern University graduate. Rice lives in the South End with his dog and wife, who unfortunately attended the University of Michigan ... his wife, that is. He curates the BPS Sports Blog and is always looking to write about city athletes with great stories. Have an idea? He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeJustinRice or @BPSspts.
- Ryan Butler -- A Rhode Island native and avid Boston sports fan, Butler played basketball, baseball and football throughout his time in Barrington Public Schools. Now currently in his middler year at Northeastern University, he joins Boston.com as a correspondent for the site's BPS coverage. Have a story idea? Contact him at email@example.com. Follow him on his Twitter @butler_globe.