Some sad news to report, as Capt. Kyle VanDeGiesen, a Marine helicoper pilot, was killed earlier this week in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan.
VanDeGiesen was an outstanding quarterback at North Attleboro High School. He was named a Boston Globe All-Scholastic in December of 1997 after leading the Red Rockets to the Super Bowl.
The Globe's Milton Valencia has the story on VanDeGiesen's untimely death.
The Massachusetts Girls’ Volleyball Coaches Association will induct 10 new members to its Hall of Fame in a ceremony Sunday in Boston. This year’s inductees are Jane Bergin, Lexington; Jean Fedak, Algonquin Regional; Judy Katalina, Lincoln-Sudbury; Peter Lepore, Marlboro; Neil Macedo, New Bedford; Robert Murray, St. Bernard’s; Gladys Perez Byrd, Madison Park; Joe Reardon, Bishop Feehan; and George Sullivan, Andover. The 10 honorees will join the previous 23 Hall of Fame members who are honored in Holyoke at the Volleyball Hall of Fame.
Some of the best high school volleyball teams in the Northeast will be in Holyoke this Columbus Day weekend for the playing of the Spalding Showcase of Champions Girls' Invitational. Games will be played at Holyoke Community College Saturday and Monday, starting at 9 a.m. Area teams participating include Bishop Feehan, Central Catholic, Millis, New Bedford, Newton South, Case, Medway, and Newton North. The tournament will collaborate with Dig Pink to raise awareness of breast cancer. Tickets are $4 for students, $6 for adults. The complete schedule is available at www.volleyhall.org.
Fall is dominated by football, often times unfairly. But this Saturday, soccer will be in the spotlight with the playing of the first Bay State/Catholic Conference Challenge. Four boys' soccer games will be held in Needham at Defazio Field. At 5 p.m., Braintree will play Catholic Memorial and Brookline will play BC High. At 7 p.m., play continues with host Needham facing Xaverian and Weymouth taking on St. John's Prep. And the best news of all is that unlike football, these games will be held rain or shine!
It was a strange week for the Martha's Vineyard football team. On Wednesday the school got word that it would play Providence Country Day on Nov. 21. That game replaces the annual Island Bowl against Nantucket. But the next day the news wasn't so good. Charlestown had to forfeit its game Friday against the Vineyard because the team had less than 10 healthy bodies. Officially, Martha's Vineyard is 1-1 and will have another week before playing its first-ever Eastern Athletic Conference game at home against Coyle & Cassidy.
Walpole's Ryan Izzo was given the go-ahead to play in tonight's game against Framingham, and it didn't take long for him to make his presence felt. Izzo ran for two touchdowns and 89 yards as Walpole took a 13-7 lead at the half. Izzo is not playing on defense in his normal safety spot. A shoulder injury put the start of his season in jeopardy but last night he looked healthy. Izzo is a two-time Globe Player of the Year and 177 points shy of breaking the all-time state scoring record.
For more than 50 years, Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket have met in the Island Bowl, a football game held the week before Thanksgiving matching two schools surrounded by water and with much more than an ocean in common. But not this year. And not ever again unless a new source of revenue is found. The game has been canceled apparently because neither school can afford to make the trip. With ferry service not an option in November, it costs approximmately $25,000 to fly a football team from Nantucket to the Vineyard. It's a cost the schools can't afford anymore.
But there's more than just money here. Both schools have mentioned a communications problem and neither is happy with the other. MV coach Don Herman said he found out about the cancelation via a third party on Aug. 8. Though the game was canceled long before that, Herman said no one bothered to tell him. Now he's desperately looking for another game. His last home game right now is Oct. 8 against Bishop Feehan. For the record, the series ends with Nantucket leading, 35-24-3.
The school baseball season may have come to end Saturday with the crowning of the state champions, but for the state’s best players, there’s more ahead.
The 32d annual Massachusetts High School All-Star games will be held Tuesday at Fraser Field in Lynn. At 3 p.m., the North Stars will play the Western Mass.All-Stars, followed at 6:30 with the South playing Central Mass. Eight EMass players will join eight from the West/Central stars to play the Connecticut high school all-stars on June 28 at Dodd Stadium in Norwich, Conn. Game time is 1 p.m.
The North will be coached by North Andover’s Todd Dulin and Lynn English’s Joe Caponigro. The team consists of Swampscott’s Hunter Gordon, Lawrence’s Mike Calzetta, North Shore’s Ryan Mahan, Reading’s Ben O’Shea, Weston’s Sahil Bloom, Beverly’s Peter Kalas, Central Catholic’s Tim Wheeler, Pentucket’s Jordan Silva, St. Mary’s Joe Kasabuski, Lincoln-Sudbury’s Justin Quinn, Cambridge’s Shayne McDonald, St. John’s Chas Carmain, Malden Catholic’s Dario Pizzano and Tony Serino, North Reading’s Darren Hartwell, Saugus’s Tyler Calla, and Masconomet’s Chris Splinter.
The South coaches are Westwood’s Brian Whelan and Bob Hoffer. The team consists of Plymouth North’s Joe Flynn and Tom McInnes, Bridgewater-Raynham’s Drew Larson and Eddie Campbell, Silver Lake’s Zach Smith, Dartmouth’s Dennis Medeiros and Frank Vilacha, Abinton’s Steve Perakslis, Duxbury’s Phil Sciretta, King Philip’s Alex Palioca, BC High’s Tyler Horan, Fairhaven’s Keane Costa, Coyle & Cassidy’s Andrew Lalli, Walpole’s Chris Ferro, Medfield’s Chris Warren, and Cohasset’s Brendan Doonan.
The Merrimack Valley Conference has established the Rebecca Solomon Memorial Sportsmanship Award to honor the memory of the Central Catholic senior softball player who was killed last week in an automobile accident. The award goes to the Merrimack Valley Conference senior softball player who best exemplifies the finest qualities of sportsmanship, spirit and character.
And it's appropriate that the first award goes to one of Solomon's teammates at Central Catholic, first baseman Kaleigh Kfoury. Kfoury and all the MVC All-Conference and All-Star players will receive certificates and plaques prior to Tuesday's all-star game at Martin Field in Lowell at 7 p.m.
With some of the biggest events of the spring season just hours away, Boston Latin athletes have to take a seat on the sidelines after news the school is closing for a week due to possible swine flu cases.
On the day the MIAA announced its volleyball pairings, athletic director John McDonough was hoping there is some way to keep his team in the tournament. Latin is scheduled to face Lawrence on Thursday in the first round of the North tournament. But Latin athletes aren't allowed to practice or play other teams and that news leaves McDonough fearing MIAA officials will be forced to go on without the Wolfpack. McDonough expects a decision about his volleyball team Wednesday.
In addition to volleyball, Latin runners were scheduled to compete in the Dual County League track championships Wednesday and the state rowing championships Sunday. Tennis, baseball, softball, and sailing were also put on hold.
From the Globe's High School Sports Editor Bob Holmes:
(Update - May 7, 2009 - The meeting has been postponed as the two sides have reached a preliminary agreement. Read more HERE.)
The long dispute between the MIAA and Mansfield High School should come to an end Thursday at 1:30 p.m. when football coach Mike Redding's appeal will be heard by the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Council (MIAC).
Mansfield is appealing the MIAA Board of Directors' January vote to suspend Redding for the first five games of the 2009 football season, as well as the MIAA ruling that Mansfield must reimburse the association for all legal expenses.
Mansfield admitted to using an ineligible player for two games last fall and forfeited those games, as well as the Hockomock League title. The MIAA Board of Directors ordered Mansfield to punish Redding because it took him five days to report the violation. But Mansfield has refused and the school will state its case Thursday.
The MIAC, which meets twice a year, is the final rule-making and appeals body of the MIAA. They are expected to issue a decision Thursday afternoon, although they could delay their decision.
Even though their boys' basketball teams had combined to go 39-1 in the regular season, Brockton coach Bob Boen and Abington coach Don Byron were a little nervous about their respective opening round opponents.FULL ENTRY
It's finally November, the last month of the regular season for high school football. By now we usually have a pretty good handle on who the major contenders are. That hasn't been quite the case this season, although this weekend certainly figures to play a huge role in determining who will still be playing after Thanksgiving.
Some fans are reluctant to acknowledge Dartmouth as the No. 1 team, questioning their schedule. I'm not a big fan of punishing a team for winning the games they're supposed to win. Also, I'm not all that convinced that the Indians have had such an easy schedule. Opening up on the road with a victory over Mansfield is no easy feat. But don't take my word for it, just ask Marshfield. The Rams were sky-high after a season-opening win at Beverly Hills before returning to the Bay State and getting drubbed, 22-0, at Mansfield.
Dartmouth has been able to prevail despite an injury to starting quarterback Sean Sylvia. The Indians have Sylvia back, and look poised to finish out the regular season on a strong note. They'll have an interesting matchup this weekend when they host Attleboro, which started out 7-0 before losing last week to Bishop Feehan. The winner has the inside track to the Old Colony League title.
The Hornets bounced back from their loss to Dartmouth to win seven in a row. They'll be playing for the Hockomock crown when they travel to North Attleboro tonight. The Red Rocketeers are 6-1, the lone setback from a nonleague clash against Feehan.
Another interesting battle looms in Weymouth, as the Wildcats will host Natick (8-0). Given their recent success, with a pair of playoff appearances the last two years, this has been a down year for Weymouth (4-4). However, they still have talented running back Royce Terrell, and played Natick tough in each of the last two seasons, losing at home 21-14 two years ago, and winning at Natick last year. With a showdown looming next week against 8-0 Walpole, Natick will try not to look past the Wildcats.
If anyone has a handle on the Catolic Conference, clue me in. St. John's Prep dominated Everett to hand the Crimson Tide their only loss, but has looked shaky since, losing four in a row. Everett bounced back by smoking previously undefeated BC High, 26-0, then went on the road again to Xaverian and escaped with a 13-10 win. Xaverian lost at St. John's Shrewsbury last week to drop to 5-3.
The Hawks are very much alive for the league title though, and will host BC High tomorrow. That will set up a frantic final twoo weeks of the season, in which Xaverian is at undefeated Catholic Memorial, and BC High hosts St. John's Prep next week. All four teams are back in league action on Thanksgiving, with CM and BC High squaring off, and St. John's prep travelling to Xaverian, in what is shaping up as a November to remember.
Another week, and another great nonleague battle is scheduled for Friday night, as No. 3 BC High travels to No. 7 Acton-Boxboro. Both teams are 2-0 after they each won a pair of games on the road.
"It's going to be a big challenge for us," said Acton-Boxboro coach Bill Maver. "We've scrimmaged them the last few years, so we know they have good size, but we've played teams that were bigger than us before."
The Colonials are coming off a thrilling 26-20 win at Chelmsford, and feature a deep rushing attack. Akeem Mercury and Trevor Jeanson are a talented duo in the backfield, while Jack Souza has also been able to grind out some yardage to set up Jeanson and Mercury. Linemen Ben Fitzer and Robby Ruggiero have been solid on both sides of the ball.
While Maver looks forward to the challenge, he knows there can be cons to loading up the schedule before play begins in the Dual County League.
"I think it really helps your program to have these games early on," said Maver. "It gives the kids perspective on what's going on outside of the league. You just don't want to get beat up, but we tell our kids if you play hard, you won't get hurt."
BC High also opened up with a pair of impressive wins. In Week 1, they trudged through the rain for a 28-7 win at Brockton. The Eagles dominated the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, anchored by Nnamdi Obukwelu. The offensive line is almost entirely new, save for Obukwelu and guard Pat Moynahan.
"We all worked together in the offseason, lifting weights," said Obukwelu. "We have confidence in each other and trust each other."
It was a sweet win for Obukwelu, a talented senior from Brockton who will most likely be playing in the Ivy League next fall.
"I played against a lot of my friends," said Obukwelu. "It was nice to get the win back home."
BC High also has a potent rushing attack, with Tyler Horan and Kyle Ewanouski leading the way, while quarterback Bill Kiley won't be afraid to air it out if the situation calls for it. In last week's 38-14 win over Andover, Kiley connected with Conor Flaherty for a 14-yard touchdown pass.
"I'm fine with handing the ball off to these guys (Horan and Ewanouski) if that's what it takes for us to win," said Kiley.
The Eagles went 11-1 last season under coach Ron St. George, but in the offseason St. George decided to move on to Cardinal Spellman. The players have had to adjust to a new coaching staff and system, as St. George ran the Wing-T on offense, but the players seem to be handling it well. Making the transition easier was the fact that AD Jon Bartlett took over the coaching reigns. Bartlett served as the freshman coach in the fall of 2005 and coached many of this year's seniors.
"The kids have really handled the adjustment," said Bartlett, who runs a Multiple I formation. "Sometimes we have two backs, other times we'll have three backs, and if we go to the spread, we just have one back out there."
When the coaching job opened up, Bartlett was interested right away. He knew this might be his only shot as there was the possibility that if a young coach was hired, the job might not available for decades.
"That was one of the things I considered," said Bartlett. "Really, what it took was sitting down with my family. I didn't want to feel guilty about the time commitment to the job, but my family was more than 100 percent supportive, so we decided to try it now."
After the win over Brockton, the coaching staff gave Bartlett the game ball for his first varsity win. While appreciative, Bartlett almost seem embarrassed by the gesture, and later that weekend, presented a game ball to former coach Jim Cotter, who was on campus to watch his son play for the freshmen team.
"He's been around so long," said Horan of Cotter. "He's so dedicated to the school, and he always tries to come to our games."
The sight of Cotter around campus has always been a welcome one. Less than two years after he retired, Cotter was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's diseas, or ALS [Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis], in 2006.
Cotter and his family have established a website to keep his friends, former players, and coaches in touch with him and with each other. Click HERE to check it out.
Any high school football fans who think they've seen it all might want to head to Mansfield Friday night, as the Hornets will host Marshfield in a showdown of two Top 20 teams.
There are great matchups every week, so what makes this game so special? Just ask the coaches.
"We've never played Mansfield before," said Marshfield coach Lou Silva, who almost can't believe it himself.
Hard to believe as it may be, it's true. Despite the fact that the two programs routinely qualify for the playoffs, Friday night's game will be the first meeting between the two.
"We've never been in the same division," said Mansfield coach Mike Redding. "They've been in Division 1 or 1A. We've been in Division 2."
It soon became clear that the only way the two teams would meet would be in the regular season. That would not be a problem though. It's fair to say that neither program has shied away from tough competition over the years, and this nonleague battle should only help both squads down the road.
"We try to play the best possible teams that we can," said Silva. "Mansfield is such a great program. They are always in the Top 10 for the Boston Globe. It's going to be an interesting game, win, lose or draw."
The Rams are already off to a 2-0 start, including a season-opening 23-20 win at Beverly Hills. It was sweet revenge for Marshfield, which hosted Beverly Hills two years ago, but lost. Silva said shortly after the game that he would like the opportunity to take his team out to the West Coast. That goal became a reality two weeks ago.
"It was just an awesome trip for us," said Silva. "We really wanted the kids to have a positive experience.
No strangers to the beach themselves, the Marshfield contingent of players, cheerleaders, and parents got to experience the Pacific Ocean, heading right to Santa Monica upon arrival on Friday.
"We spent a few hours there," said Silva. "The kids checked out some of the rides along the beach."
From there, the group toured the University of Southern California, then it was back to Beverly Hills for a practice. After the workout, there was a cookout sponsored by the Beverly Hills parents and the city.
Saturday was game day. When the clubs met two years ago, the Rams were overwhelmed by Beverly Hills' speed. The Marshfield coaching staff knew it would have to find a way to neutralize that if they were to have a chance to win.
"We decided we were going to hold onto the ball," said Silva. "We were going to keep their offense off the field for as long as possible."
To that end, the Rams only passed the ball twice all game, preferring instead to keep the ball on the ground and pound the Beverly Hills defense. Marshfield controlled the clock, rushing for over 300 yards en route to the 23-20 win.
"We returned the favor," Silva said with a laugh.
Mansfield enters the game at 0-1, dropping a heartbreaker to No. 2 Dartmouth, 9-7, last week.
"That was a tough loss, but ever since the format changed in 1992, where we can't get hurt with a tough nonleague schedule, we've always tried to get the best teams on our schedule," said Redding. "We have confidence in our kids that they'll compete with teams in the Top 10."
The Hornets also scrimmaged No. 3 BC High in the preseason, so they figure to be more than ready once play begins in the Hockomock League.
"Both teams like to hit," said Redding. "It should be a good, old-fashioned battle. We're really excited to coach against someone like Lou. It should be a great experience."
Coach Ron St. George departed BC High for Cardinal Spellman this fall. (Globe File Photo)
After spending the last three years coaching at BC High, Ron St. George decided it was time to make another change. This fall, the legendary coach will be pacing the sidelines at Cardinal Spellman. After posting a record of 27-7 in three years with the Eagles, it was not a move he made easily.
“I really enjoyed my brief tenure at BC High,” said St. George. “I left with mixed emotions. The kids that are seniors this year were freshmen my first year there. It was a real difficult thing to leave. The quality of the kids there was tremendous.”
That’s not to say that St. George has any regrets. Early on, he already likes what he has seen in his new surroundings in Brockton.
“We’ve got good kids here,” said St. George. “They have been very receptive to what we’re trying to do. It’s tough, because they’re learning an entirely new system. They have to learn the terminology. They’re accustomed to doing things a certain way. The change has been radical for them.”
Making the transition easier is the fact that St. George has most of his staff from his time at both East Bridgewater and BC High making the move with him. In addition, the administration at Spellman has made St. George feel right at home.
“We’ve been received with open arms,” said St. George. “From the president, to some of the teachers I’ve gotten to know. It’s been a huge commitment for them. I’ve known (athletic director) Mike Gerrish for years. I couldn’t be working for a better guy.”
Still, with a young, inexperienced squad, St. George may have some tough times ahead. The Cardinals went just 1-9 last season, and have faced lean times in recent years.
“We’ve got a lot of young people,” said St. George. “We’re pretty green, but they’re working hard. It’s all going to pay off.”
So why leave BC High and take on a rebuilding project at Spellman?
“When Spellman opened up, I thought about it,” said St. George. “It just made economic sense, and it made common sense.”
Indeed, the biggest adjustment St. George had to made when he went to BC High three years ago was the commute from the South Shore. Traveling to Brockton has meant less time on the road, and has been easier on his wallet.
“I think the price of gas doubled while I was there,” joked St. George.
The Cardinals will open the 2008 season Friday night at Medway. The extra week gave Spellman some more time to prepare for what looks to be a challenging schedule. The Cardinals will be playing some of the top teams from the South Shore, programs St. George is more than a little familiar with after coaching in East Bridgewater for 22 years. In particular, there's a home game against the Vikings on Oct. 17th.
“That’s going to be tough,” admits George. “I’m not sure how I’ll be. The choice was either play East Bridgewater, or not have a game, so we’re playing. We’ll be playing against of a lot of good coaches.
Wave of emotion
One team St. George is definitely not looking forward to facing is Abington. The Green Wave rolled to a 29-14 win over Rockland in Week 1, and it wasn’t even that close, as Abington led 29-0 at the half. Defensive end Kalonji Kabongo wreaked havoc on the pass rush and anchored a defense that allowed just one first down in the first half, while running backs Kristian LaPointe, Pat Iacobucci, Keith Faxon and Pat Gabrielle led a relentless ground game.
Abington was effective through the air as well as quarterback Steve Perakslis connected with receiver Chris Dion several times, including a 39-yard bomb at the end of the half. The Green Wave still looks to be the class of the South Shore, and appears poised for a return trip to the postseason.
At first glance, it seemed to be stunning news: Reading High captured the Super 8 title. In so doing, the Rockets became the first public school to finish first in the 18-year history of the tournament, and, the first public school to grab the top prize in the state in 30 years. In retrospect, maybe we all should have seen this coming. The Rockets had only lost one game all season, and that was a loss to defending Super 8 champion BC High early on in the year.
Still, there were other public schools through the years that produced impressive regular-season records, but crumbled in the Super 8. It was clear though, that the gap between the public schools and the Catholic schools had narrowed, as Weymouth’s magical run to the finals proved just last year. The Wildcats were stopped short of a title by BC High, but their trip to the championship electrified high school hockey fans across the state.
So the stage seemed to be set for a public school to break through. It was fitting that the Rockets would be the program to do so. Reading has always been a traditionally strong team under coach Peter Doherty, and had qualified for the Super 8 several times. This year’s edition was particularly strong, and opened the tournament by avenging its only loss in the regular season by beating BC High, 2-1.
The fact that Reading continued to roll was not surprising, but the ease with which they did certainly was. The Rockets pounded No. 1 seed CM, 5-2 in the next game, then wrapped up round-robin play with a 4-1 win over Waltham.
In the semifinals, the Rockets won again by a score of 5-2, this time over Xaverian, to set up the state final against Malden Catholic. The Lancers would serve as the fourth Catholic Conference opponent that Reading would face in the Super 8. The result would be the same as the previous three, with the Rockets coasting to a 3-0 win.
When it was over, Doherty did his best to sum up becoming the first public school to win in 18 years.
“It’s amazing it’s been that long,” said Doherty. “Eighteen years? That’s unbelievable. I mean, the private schools are good, but still…”
His voice trailed off, almost shaking his head in disbelief that another public school did not win in any of the previous years. But Doherty had learned something that perhaps the other public programs are just now beginning to understand.
“You have to play the Catholic schools in the regular season,” said Doherty. “It’s great to go 20-0 or 19-1, but what good does it do if you’re not playing the top teams.”
Senior Rob Toczylowski agreed.
“It’s huge for us,” said Toczylowski. “We came into the tournament knowing we’ve had success against these teams. We had to take on every Catholic Conference team. When you do that, you know what you’re seeing in the tournament.”
Toczylowski and fellow seniors Pat Kiley and Mike Lozzi were a formidable first line for the last three years, but saved their best for last.
“It was like second nature playing with them,” Toczylowski said of his linemates. “We all knew where we were going to be on the ice… Going 5-0 in this tournament, and 25-1 overall, it’s just amazing. It’s huge. It means everything to this program.”
Raiders under the radar
Despite losing just three games all season, not many people were talking about the Wellesley girls' basketball team when the Division 2 tournament started up. Sure they qualified for the tournament the year before, and they expected to build on that experience, but rolling all the way to the state championship? That was precisely what happened to the Raiders.
“It was very intense from Game 1,” said Wellesley coach Kristin Cieri. “When the pairings came out, we felt like it was anyone’s bracket to win, but we knew it was going to be a dogfight.”
The Raiders knocked off previously unbeaten Bishop Feehan in the South sectional semifinals, then won a defensive battle over Bay State Conference foe Walpole, 48-44, in the sectional title game. Wellesley kept up the defensive pressure in the EMass finals against defending state champion Lincoln-Sudbury, jumping out to a 10-2 lead after the first quarter, and leading 15-9 at the half. The Raiders advanced to the state finals by holding on for a 38-32 win.
“It’s the old saying, ‘Defense wins championships,’” said Cieri. “I think those last few games subtracted a year from my life.”
Cieri would not have those concerns in the state finals against Millbury. The Raiders were in control from the very beginning and rolled to a 65-44 win. The game was close for the first half as the Raiders led, 31-26 at the break. They would pull away in the third quarter though, as the offense came alive.
Led by sophomore guard Mary Louise Dixon, Wellesley’s offense put on a passing clinic, rotating the ball until they found the open teammate, who would then calmly drain a jumper. The barrage culminated in Blake Dietrick’s three-pointer at the buzzer of the third quarter, putting the Raiders up, 48-32.
“It’s just an amazing feeling,” said Dixon. “We knew it was going to be a really tough road, but we stayed focused.”
The Crying Game
It started off as a joke, but then reality struck for the Archbishop Williams girls' basketball team shortly after winning a second straight state title. As the girls celebrated in the locker room, one of the players jokingly asked coach Jim Bancroft what time he wanted them for practice the next day.
“I think I’ll give you the day off,” said Bancroft, playing along. But the players soon realized that there would be no more games, no more practices. Their time together as a group was essentially over, and so it was that they filed into the media room teary eyed, despite having won the title.
“These kids liked spending time together,” said Bancroft. “Both on the court and off the court. Away from school, they would go out together, have sleepovers or pasta parties. They became close and really respected each other."
The Bishops will lose senior forwards Meghan Black and Casey Capello, point guard Christine Duffy, and guards Jill LaFond, Sarah McDonough, and Courtney McNamara. Duffy and Capello each reached 1,000 points this season and have played together in high school and on various AAU teams.
"Nobody realized that we were never going to be playing together again until that moment," said Capello. "The games are so intense and go by so fast, you almost don't enjoy playing at the (TD Banknorth) Garden or in the (DCU Center) until it's over."
It was hard to come up with an analogy for what was happening on the floor of the TD Banknorth Garden when the Division 4 girls title was decided. As far as sports go, maybe you could compare it to John Elway winning his first Super Bowl trophy in his 15th season in the NFL.
Still, that didn’t seem nearly as dramatic. Maybe you had to leave the sports scene altogether. Perhaps to Hollywood. That’s probably the best way to describe it. It was like Sean Connery winning the Academy Award for "The Untouchables", or Martin Scorscese finally winning Best Director for "The Departed". In both cases, it was a long time coming.
So it was that Cohasset girls' basketball coach John LeVangie won his first state title in his 42nd year of coaching. The television cameras flocked to him at center court as he held the trophy.
Not that there needed to be any more drama. Cohasset and Manchester-Essex provided more than enough through 32 minutes of basketball, which ended with both squads knotted at 33. The Skippers would take over in overtime though, to come away with a 44-36 win.
It was a back-and-forth game the whole way. Coming down the stretch, Meredith Kelly (12 points) went 4 for 4 from the foul line in the fourth quarter, and almost won it at the buzzer with a drive to the hoop that fell just short. Sammi Lehr led the Skippers with 13 points, while Lizzy Ball had 15 for Manchester Essex.
For LeVangie, it was sweet redemption. Before taking the Cohasset job, he had only coached boys' ball, and he was very successful. Starting off at Hull and Cohasset, LeVangie spent all of the 1980s at BC High. It was while coaching the Eagles that he came closest to winning the title.
“This is my first time grabbing a state championship,” said LeVangie. “We went to the finals twice in the old Boston Garden. We lost to Patrick Ewing in 1981, and we lost again in 1983.”
By the time the decade was over, he had been named the Boston Globe Coach of the Year. He would spend the '90s at Westwood High.
“He was like a mentor to me,” said Cohasset athletic director Ron Ford, who coached the Skippers’ boys basketball team in the 90s. “Back when I was coaching, I lost my first tournament game to him when he was at Westwood.”
Ford would be promoted to AD, and when it came time to start a family, he left coaching behind. One of his first challenges would be to figure out a way to revive the girls’ basketball program. When LeVangie’s name came up, he could not act fast enough.
“Are you kidding me?” said Ford. “The guy’s a Hall of Fame coach.”
LeVangie admits now that he was a little unsure.
“I coached softball for 20 years,” said LeVangie. “So it wasn’t like I had never coached girls. Still, I wasn’t sure how it would be for basketball.”
It didn’t take long before LeVangie knew he was on the right track.
“I had coached some of their fathers, so that helped,” said LeVangie. “You have to sell it, you have to have good people in the youth program, and you have to have kids who want to play. The community really played a big role and supported us, especially during this run. The whole town came out for us. Would’ve been a good time to stay back and rob a bank, I guess.” LeVangie added with a laugh.”
It was interesting to see the reaction of long-time high school hoops observers when they saw the Cohasset bench. LeVangie assembled, shall we say, a veteran coaching staff, bringing Dick Milner and Basil Cronin onboard. Milner has followed LeVangie every step of the way for over 30 years, while Cronin also had over 30-years experience, having served as the head coach at Sharon High. Matt Lewis brings youth and rounds out the assistant coaching staff, all of whom LeVangie considers instrumental.
Still reflecting on what had just taken place, LeVangie continued to let his guard down.
“I thought maybe the time for me to win a state championship had gone by,” said LeVangie. “I guess something rubbed off on these kids after 40 years of coaching.”
The Skippers return a strong team next year as well, as there are no seniors on the roster. Could it be two in a row for Cohassest?
“Oh jeez, I hadn’t thought of that,” said LeVangie, who broke right back into coachspeak. “I’m just going to go home and worry about our opponent for the first game next year.”
Been there, done that
Archbishop Williams was a little more subdued than the other victorious teams after defeating Pentucket in the Division 3 state semifinal Tuesday. There was Christine Duffy’s postgame leap into Valerie Driscoll’s arms, then the Bishops just walked off the court and headed to the locker room.
“That was nerve-wracking,” said star guard Casey Capello. “We didn’t play our best game, and it went by so fast. We could’ve lost that game.”
Coach Jim Bancroft thought perhaps his team was being a little too hard on itself.
“I think they expect that they’re going to blow out every team,” said Bancroft. “Pentucket’s a good team. That was a hard-earned win we got tonight.”
The Bishops weren’t the only team punching a return ticket to the state finals. Catholic Memorial will be going back to the Division 2 boys championship, looking to avenge last year's title loss to Tantasqua (which is likewise back this year).
Brendan Monteiro, who hit a buzzer-beater at the Garden last year as the Knights downed Belmont, worked his magic in the South finals, burying a 15-footer with 1.1 seconds left to propel CM to a thrilling 81-79 win over Dartmouth last Saturday. The Knights followed that up with a win over Reading Monday.
Two other defending champs managed to make it back to the Garden before seeing their seasons end. The Lincoln-Sudbury girls defeated a tough Masconomet squad in the Division 2 North semifinals, then defeated Reading in the final, before losing to Wellesley Tuesday night. It was an impressive run considering the Warriors lost three starters from last year’s squad.
“It’s tough to top what we did last season,” said head coach Liza Feldman. “We cruised through the last part of the season into the tournament last year. We had a bull’s eye on our back this year. We had to figure things out, but I think in the end we managed to reach expectations.”
The same could be said for BC High. After a pair of hard-fought wins over Newton North and Brockton, the Eagles came up short against Central Catholic Monday night. The Eagles trailed Brockton by 14 in the first half before rallying for a dramatic win. Monday night, it was BC High with the double-digit lead, before the Raiders got hot and dominated the fourth quarter for the win.
It appears a tough league schedule, as well as being tested by its nonleague foes, has the Raiders ready for a shot at the state title this Saturday.
After a week of postseason basketball, here’s what we know, what we think we know, and what we still have to find out as we try to see who will go on to the DCU Center in Worcester:
Ladies firstThe Archbishop Williams girls' basketball team entered the Division 3 tournament as the defending champs and the fifth seed, and the Bishops came out of the gates flying. Having lost to Central Catholic in the finals of the Comcast Tournament, the Bishops had to wait 10 days before they could play another game.
Enter Old Rochester. The Bulldogs had another solid season but were overwhelmed early and often as Archbishop Williams held them scoreless through the first quarter and led, 17-0. Old Rochester would get on the board, but it did not get much better in the second quarter as the Bishops led 44-6 at the break.
I’m guessing the Bulldogs are petitioning to ban the Catholic Conference from the tournament. Last year, Old Rochester went to the quarterfinals before losing to Cardinal Spellman. This season, it was a lopsided 64-26 loss to the Bishops.
Things would be different in the quarterfinals for the Bishops, however, as they traveled to fourth-seeded Rockland. This Bulldogs squad went 17-2 en route to capturing the Patriot League title.
The game was close from the very beginning as Rockland came out playing a triangle and two, matching up man-to-man on the Bishops’ outstanding duo of Casey Capello and Christine Duffy. It would be a physical first half, culminating in a head-on-head collision between Rockland’s Stephanie Crawford and Capello as they both went for a loose ball with just over a minute remaining. Capello managed to stay in the game, while Crawford left briefly with a bloody nose and was back for the start of the second half.
Williams led, 30-26 at the break, and opened the second half with a 7-0 run for a 37-26 lead and never looked back, going on for a 65-48 win. Duffy, saddled with three fouls in the first half, buried a pair of 3-pointers as she scored eight points in the third quarter. The senior point guard finished with 12 points and 12 assists, while Capello led the way with 17 points. Sophomore center Valerie Driscoll added 10 points and 15 rebounds, and was a force in the middle all game.
“That’s what the defense was giving us,” said Duffy of her third-quarter offense. “The play was so aggressive. We wanted to get out and run more in the second half and keep them off-balance.”
Next up is top-seeded Westwood, which is coming off an impressive win of its own over Dedham, 58-45. Having played in the Bay State Conference, Dedham felt good about its chances heading into the tournament, and rolled to a 61-33 win at Abington in the first round to set up the showdown with the Wolverines. But Bill Riley’s Westwood squad was ready for the Marauders. The long-time Westwood coach will be stepping down after this season. Is there a more well-liked coach than Riley? His athletes have always loved playing for him, and they would love to send him out a winner.
The other semifinal is just as intriguing as Cardinal Spellman and Fairhaven are set to meet. Both squads had their seasons end at the hands of Williams in 2007, with the Cardinals losing in the semifinals, and Fairhaven in the sectional finals. Both are itching for a shot at potential revenge.
Lincoln-Sudbury is the defending Division 2 state champ, and thus far L-S is showing they were much more than just Carolyn Swords, who was a two-time member of the Boston Globe Super Team before taking her considerable talents to Boston College this season. (By the way, has anyone made a smoother transition to college than Swords?)
Sarah Wetmore and Shatasia Kearse have led the way for the Warriors, who also lost Brittany Phillips and Elana Carson from last year’s squad. This year, L-S finished in a three-way tie for first in the Dual County League, and managed to win its first two games of the tourney. Next up for the Warriors is a semifinal match against Masconomet. (Is there some unwritten rule that states Masco and L-S have to meet in the late rounds? Should we just pencil this in for future years? Ok, no more questions, I promise)
In the other semifinal, 10th-seeded Arlington Catholic will face Reading. It’s tempting to call AC a Cinderella squad, but considering four of its losses came to Spellman and Williams, you quickly realize that AC is an even better team than its 15-7 record indicates. A true Cinderella might be Medfield, which entered the South bracket as the 11th seed and is in the semifinals, but the clock may strike midnight when they face the 20-2 Walpole Rebels.
Central Catholic coach Susan Downer liked the way her defending Division 1 EMass champs finished up the season. With the Raiders posting a 13-7 record and finishing third in the Merrimack Valley Conference during the regular season, she knew her team would be a low seed when the pairings were announced
“I think the higher seeds are going to be watching out for who draws us,” said Downer.
Central Catholic was seeded eighth in the North, and defeated Lynn English in the first round. That set up a quarterfinal match with No. 1 seed Acton-Boxboro, which had gone 18-2 and captured a share of the Dual County League title. It was the Raiders who would move on though, as sophomore center Katie Zenevitch poured in 25 points and collected 15 rebounds to lead Central Catholic to a 70-65 win and a trip to the sectional semifinals. It won’t get any easier as the Raiders will face Wilmington, while MVC co-champs Andover and Lowell will battle in the other semifinal.
Boys on the sideThe Watertown boys took the Division 3 title last season, and followed that with an 18-2 record and the No. 2 seed in the North this winter. They will face the third-seeded Bedford. The other half has Bishop Fenwick, which entered as the 13th seed but has managed to win its first two games. For the run to continue, it will have to figure out a way to get past 19-2 Wilmington, the top seed.
Over in the South, the top four seeds advanced, although second-seeded Norwell survived a scare against South Shore League foe Abington in the sectional quarterfinals. The Clippers entered the game 20-1 and swept the regular season series against Abington, but coach John Willis knew his team was in for a battle.
“It’s not hard beating a bad team three times in a season. That’s easy. It’s beating a good team three times that’s difficult, a team that can play, and that is well-coached. Those kids can play, and they have a great coach,” Willis said of Don Byron’s Green Wave squad.
The game was close throughout, with Abington maintaining a small lead in the first half and leading at the break, 21-19. Norwell would take the lead in the second half, but the Green Wave always managed to keep it a one-possession game. Down the stretch, Abington’s Brian Kurowski buried a three-pointer for a 40-39 lead with 1:09 remaining, but Clippers center James Long put back a missed shot with 39 seconds left to show why he was the SSL Player of the Year and give his team a 41-40 lead. Neither team was able to score in what was a frantic 39 seconds, and Norwell held on.
“We survived,” said Willis. “We didn’t play our best, but Abington had a lot to do with it. We’re moving on.”
Next up is Wareham, the third seed, while the other semifinal is a rematch of last year’s championship, as Medfield and Scituate renew acquaintances. Many thought the Sailors were the best team in Division 3 last season, but Herb Grace’s Medfield squad was the one heading to the TD BankNorth Garden after pulling off the upset. This year, the Warriors are 22-0 and the No.1 seed, but fourth-seeded Scituate is not about to forget last year.
Catholic Memorial returns as the Division 2 EMass champs, and is through to the South semifinals. The Knights entered the tournament seeded sixth, but played a tough Catholic Conference schedule, splitting a pair of games with BC High. Falmouth is up next, while No.1 seed Stoughton and No. 4 Dartmouth are in the other bracket.
BC High is looking to defend its Division 1 crown, and as the No. 2 seed, has advanced to the semifinals in the South. So far, form has held as the top four seeds have survived. While upsets are certainly what makes March special, it will be interesting to see if BC High and Brockton face off yet again on Saturday for the right to go the Garden. They’ve already played each other twice, with the home team winning both times.
A pair of Bay State teams stand in the way, however, as Framingham will take on Brockton, while Newton North will face the Eagles. BC High handled the Tigers in the Comcast Tournament, but Newton North coach Paul Connolly will have 6-foot, 6-inch center Greg Kelley back to contend with the Eagles’ Jake O’Brien and Ryan Sharry.
The top four seeds survived in the North as well. Central Catholic had a strong showing in the Comcast Tournament, reaching the finals before losing to BC High. The Raiders will face Charlestown, which finished the regular season atop the Globe Top 20. Lowell and Everett will play in the other semifinal.