Wellesley girls' squad came of age in a hurry
Grit, patience paid off for Div. 2 champions
By instinct, the immediate reaction was ecstasy. But minutes after stepping off the floor of Worcester's DCU Center, members of the Wellesley High girls' basketball team and coaching staff looked at each other around the locker room in almost bewilderment - Did that just happen?
The Raiders, on the heels of last year's 12-9 record and first-round exit from the postseason tourney, hardly registered as a team to beat heading into this season, let alone a contender for the state title. Sporting a cast with no stars and a slew of youngsters, Wellesley only had one player average double figures in scoring.
Yet on Thursday morning, the Raiders were honored on the steps of the State House, their championship medallions hanging around their necks. Coach Kristin Cieri said it took awhile for the realization to sink in.
"I don't know that anyone expected" a state title, Cieri said. "We kind of plugged away at it. It was a dream, it was a hope, but certainly not an expectation."
To reach the summit, the Raiders played with grit from start to finish every game, slowing teams down with full-court man-to-man defense and utilizing the entire shot clock on the offensive end. The effort culminated with last Saturday's 65-44 conquest of Central Mass. champion Millbury for the Division 2 title.
The Raiders rattled off 18 straight wins to finish the season, dating to their loss to Bay State Conference rival Walpole on Jan. 18. But until their double-figure upset of previously unbeaten Bishop Feehan in the South sectional semifinals, Wellesley was flying under the radar.
The Raiders then avenged their loss to Walpole, beating the Rebels to advance to the state semifinals for the first time since 1989. There, Wellesley shut down defending state champ Lincoln-Sudbury Regional, limiting the Warriors to just 32 points. During the postseason, Wellesley's foes averaged just 39 points per game.
Wellesley will graduate five seniors, including lockdown defender Chelsea Sanders and 6-foot-1 forward Lyndsey Sydness, but most of its core will be returning next winter. The backcourt of freshman Blake Dietrick and sophomore Mary Louise Dixon showed exceptional promise, while Jesse Miller (team-high 11 points per game) controlled the boards alongside Sydness.
Ahead of schedule? The talent Wellesley had on the floor exceeded expectations. Roles will need to be filled, but the anyone-can-go-off philosophy is still intact. On Wellesley's horizon, there are no stars, just depth and balance.
Brendan Hall can be reached at email@example.com.
Coach of the Year: Chris Foy, Algonquin Regional - The former Boston College player and Westborough assistant learned fundamentals from one of the best (his coach at BC, Tom Davis) and it shows. The Tomahawks were just 3-17 a year ago, but they improved to 10-11 in his first season on the bench.
Player of the Year: George Jordan, senior, Marlborough - The four-year varsity starter notched a double-double in every game this season, averaging 22.1 points and 14 rebounds, earning a
Newcomer of the Year: Richard Rodgers, freshman, St. John's - Much like another freshman, point guard David White, at the Shrewsbury school a year ago, this forward saved his best stuff for the postseason in his inaugural varsity campaign. He led all St. John's scorers with 14 points off the bench in the Central final win over Marlborough.
G - Joey Richman, senior, Medfield
G - Dan Guadagnoli, junior, Framingham
F - George Jordan, senior, Marlborough
C - Greg Kelley, sophomore, Newton North
C - Matt Labove, junior, St. John's
G - Kyle Stockmal, junior, Watertown
G - Keith Brown, junior, Marlborough
G - Benyam Kerman, junior, Watertown
F - Matt Palazini, junior, Franklin
F - Uche Egesionu, senior, Trinity Catholic
Coach of the Year: Kristin Cieri, Wellesley - Guided the unheralded Raiders to a 23-3 mark and the Division 2 state title.
Player of the Year: Kelly Meredith, senior, Franklin - The Assumption-bound, two-time Hockomock League MVP led the Panthers in scoring since her freshman year, and leaves Franklin as the school's all-time leading scorer.
Newcomer of the Year: Blake Dietrick, freshman, Wellesley - The 5-8 guard provided instant spark for the Raiders, whether it was off the bench or in the starting lineup. She averaged four assists as part of perhaps the area's most promising backcourt.
G - Annette Kristiansen, senior, Westborough
G - Sarah Wetmore, senior, Lincoln-Sudbury Regional
F - Kathleen King, senior, Framingham
F - Kelly Meredith, senior, Franklin
C - Lindsay Shorey, senior, Ashland
G - Chelsea Sanders, senior, Wellesley
G/F - Michelle DeRoma, senior, Mount Alvernia
F - Jesse Miller, sunior, Wellesley
F - Becca Kimball, senior, Weston
C - Danielle Coffey, senior, Westborough
Top 10 Boys' Teams
1. St. John's (21-7)
2. Watertown (22-3)
3. Marlborough (19-4)
4. Medfield (22-1)
5. Newton North (17-6)
6. Framingham (16-7)
7. Franklin (15-8)
8. Maynard (18-6)
9. Nipmuc Regional (15-6)
10. Hopkinton (14-8)
Top 10 Girls' Teams
1. Wellesley (23-3)
2. Westborough (23-2)
3. Lincoln-Sudbury (21-4)
4. Algonquin (17-5)
5. Franklin (18-4)
6. Shrewsbury (16-6)
7. Medfield (15-7)
8. Weston (14-9)
9. Medway (16-5)
10. Millis (13-12)
Compiled by Brendan Hall