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50-0? 50-0?

Sport:   Posted: March 15th, 2008 by Tom Nolette

50-0? 50-0?

Can the Tantasqua boys’ basketball team repeat as Div. 2 state champion and go...Can the Tantasqua boys’ basketball team repeat as Div. 2 state champions and go...

By Jim Wilson TELEGRAM & GAZETTE STAFF
jimwilson@telegram.com


ORCESTER— So far it’s been a familiar ride for the Tantasqua Regional High boys’ basketball team, and the Warriors are hoping the ending is just the same as the last time.

When Tantasqua was driving toward its Division 2 state title last winter, the Warriors upended St. Bernard’s in the Central Mass. final, then took down South Hadley in the state semifinal before toppling Catholic Memorial in the final.

So, it was a good omen for Tantasqua fans this year to watch the Warriors get past St. Bernard’s in the Central Mass. final and eliminate South Hadley in the state semifinal only to find a date with — whom else — Catholic Memorial in the Division 2 final at 4 p.m. today at the DCU Center.


With a win over the Knights — easier said than done — Tantasqua will cap a remarkable 50-0 run over the past two seasons.

“I don’t think about it that way, I really don’t,” Tantasqua coach Jeff Child said. “I think 10 years from now we can look back at it and say, ‘We did that.’ I just take it one day at a time, and these kids do as well.”

Despite losing Andrew Kazanovicz and Terry Peretti from last year’s team, expectations were still high for the Warriors. Tantasqua returned T&G Super Teamer Brian Vayda and Ryan White, and was expected to contend in the Division 2 tournament, but another undefeated season? Even the players are surprised.

“I thought we’d do well, like maybe a one- or two-loss season,” White said. “I really can’t believe we’ve had the same record and are in the state final.”

“It’s a great feeling to get back to where we are, especially coming off last year losing a lot of big seniors,” Vayda said. “A lot of people didn’t think we could come back this far. I’ve played with a lot of these kids for a long time, so we have some great chemistry. I think even against a team like St. Bernard’s we may have been out-talented in some cases, but I think we played as a team better than everybody.”

Some players are surprised the rest of Central Mass. hasn’t come around yet and jumped on the Tantasqua bandwagon. It’s a problem common with Division 2 teams, in that fans of Division 1 programs feel their schedule gives them an easier road to the DCU Center. It happens in all sports — just ask players on the Holy Name football team when the Naps were racking up Division 2 Super Bowl wins.

Despite which team is on the other bench, the Warriors just focus on doing what they do best — winning basketball games. Tantasqua had a big test in the regular season when it went into a raucous Doherty High gym — with fans taking up every open space in the small quarters — and upended the Highlanders, 67-66, after a 3-pointer by Ryan White with 24 seconds left.

“A lot of people say we don’t have that strong of a schedule, but when we play those big teams, we beat them,” Vayda said. “Those games build our confidence and give us that experience.”

For 49 consecutive games, the Warriors have not had to suffer from the normal things that plague a high school team, like a poor shooting night from a top scorer, a pesky opponent playing in-your-shirt defense, or go through a game where Child had to say “it just wasn’t our night.”

In fact, the celebration has been going on for so long in Sturbridge not too many people remember the last time the Warriors walked off the court losers. That was March 2, 2006, when Tantasqua was defeated in overtime by Northbridge in a Division 2 Central Mass. quarterfinal. The Rams eked out the 61-58 win after Brennan Bennett — now playing at Boston College — scored 10 of his 22 points in the extra frame. The Warriors finished 16-6 that year and saw a six-point lead evaporate with two minutes left in regulation.

“I don’t really remember it,” White said. “I think I played 10 seconds in that game. I really didn’t play that much.”

Child is the first to point out that winning 49 games doesn’t make getting No. 50 any easier. Especially with seniors Julian Colarusso and Brendan Monteiro leading CM.

“I always am telling the kids, ‘Don’t be afraid to lose. If you give it your best effort but you end up losing, then what are you going to do?’ ” Child said. “We’re undefeated, 49-0, we’re a small fish in a big pond. People can beat us. We can get beat anytime.”

Child may be telling his players that 49-1 isn’t a bad mark to end their high school careers with, but just ask the New England Patriots. That first loss in the biggest game of the season can certainly put a damper on things.

Meanwhile, the Warriors are just going to enjoy the ride and hope this year’s story has a happy ending, too.

“It feels great, 49-0 is just such an incredible accomplishment, and I still can’t believe it,” White said. “It’s what you dream about as a little kid.”

Williams back to defend

Sport:   Posted: March 15th, 2008 by Tom Nolette

Williams back to defend
Full slate of state title action at DCU Center today
Dan Ventura By Dan Ventura
Saturday, March 15, 2008  
 
Boston Herald Sports Reporter
Danny Ventura has been the Herald's authority on high school sports for 15 years. He also covers the Patriots, Red Sox, Celtics and college sports.
 

Archbishop Williams will be seeking to do what no Division 3 girls team has done since 2002: successfully defend its title.

The Bishops are hoping to join Westwood (2001-02) in that exclusive column this morning (10:45, DCU Center) when they meet Quaboag in the final. The task won’t be an easy one as Quaboag has won four state titles, including championships in 2004 and 2006.

Wellesley reached the Div. 2 girls final for the first time and will take on Millbury (2:15). The Woolies came close a year ago, losing to Hampshire in the state semifinals.

Andover seeks its first Div. 1 state crown since 2003 when it meets Northampton (5:45). The Golden Warriors have been superb on defense, allowing fewer than 40 points a game in the tournament.

In the Div. 1 boys final (7:30), Central Catholic looks to take home its first state title since 1999. Opposing Central Catholic is St. John’s (Shrewsbury), which is making its fourth trip to the final, having won the last time they got this far in 2000 over Boston English.

Revenge is on the mind of Catholic Memorial as it looks to avenge last year’s loss to Tantasqua in the Div. 2 final (4). The Warriors capped an undefeated season by beating the Knights, 64-58, in the championship game.

Scituate had never advanced beyond a state semifinal before taking down defending Div. 3 champion Watertown last Monday. Now the Sailors have an opportunity to sail off with the school’s first basketball title when they tangle with Frontier Regional at 12:30. The Red Hawks last appeared in the final in 2002, losing to a Lynn Tech team that featured current Memphis star Antonio Anderson.

Cardio Kids Andover's Hughes, Renfro and Thomann need no rest

Sport:   Posted: March 15th, 2008 by Tom Nolette

Cardio Kids Andover's Hughes, Renfro and Thomann need no rest
By David Willis
Staff writer

ANDOVER — Even though it was only two days before the Division 1 state championship, the Andover girls basketball team was still running yesterday.

"If we miss foul shots in practice we have to run a lot," said senior Laura Renfro. "Today, for example, we missed a lot of foul shots, so we had to run."

The Golden Warriors had to make 14 free throws for practice to end. That proved to be a challenging task, and with each miss — six by forward Kelly Driscoll's count — the group had to run. And this was no pregame jog. Each miss called for a "16," or 16 sprints across the court.

But after coach Jim Tildsley had blown the whistle to end practice, Meghan Thomann remained on the court firing up shot after shot for the next five minutes without stopping.

That Thomann did not want to leave the court was no surprise. She never does. Neither do Renfro and Lauren Hughes. The three seniors have gained the reputation for playing literally every minute of almost every game.

"In the big games, they play all 32 minutes," said Tildsley. "They never come out, and that is a tribute to the kind of shape they are in, the style of competitors that they are and that they never get into foul trouble."

Unless the game is well in hand in the final minutes, guards Thomann and Renfro and center Hughes do not touch the bench between tip-off and the final buzzer, save for timeouts.

"What they do every game is amazing," said Driscoll. "To go the whole game takes a lot out of you. They are in unbelievable shape. I can't say enough about what they do."

Any time those three are on the court is good news for Andover. Thomann leads the teams in scoring at 12.0 points per game, Renfro is a close second at 11.1 and Hughes is fourth with 9.1.

Conditioning has always been a top priority for the three. During the off-season, Thomann worked on basketball fundamentals and conditioning with Boston Celtics strength and conditioning coach Walter Norton, a friend of former Andover basketball great and local businessman Carmen Scarpa.

She also played AAU basketball with many of her teammates and is also a four-year varsity player on the Andover volleyball team. Hughes also played AAU basketball, and learned tricks to conditioning as a member of the Andover cross country team. But it is Renfro whose endurance draws the biggest wows.

"I look at Laura and I don't think she ever gets tired," said Hughes. "I don't know if I was very good at cross country, but Laura was very good. And she needs it for defense."

Aside from her work as a 3-point shooter, Renfro, who trains at 180 Sports and Fitness in Wilmington and ran cross country, has the job of guarding the opponent's best player.

As hard as they train in the offseason, all three players credited the Andover preseason with taking them to the next level.

"As good as all the kids are being in shape, after the first five or six days of practice they are very ... very sore," said Tildsley with a smile. "Then, after I give them a few days off after the end of the regular season, we bring them back and really run them the next few days."

But after a full season of playing 32 minutes, the locations of the last two games have brought about new challenges. Instead of the traditional high school basketball court (84 feet by 50 feet) the Tsongas Arena and the TD Banknorth Garden have each had NBA-sized courts (94 feet by 50 feet).

"The last couple games have been tough because of the size of the courts," said Tildsley. "You could see the girls getting a little tired. I had my assistants (Dick Muller and Leo Lafond) keeping track so we could take our timeouts to give them a rest. They know when they are tired they can look at me and I'll ask if I should call a timeout."

Tildsley also stressed that the ability to stay on the court goes beyond conditioning.

"You have to be mentally tough," he said. "You are playing different types of kids and different styles. That's why playing more than one sport is so helpful."

The three have managed to avoid foul trouble all season, an especially tough task for Hughes, who spends her entire game battling with big players under the basket.

"That is the most important thing," said Driscoll. "Laura and Meghan are such good shooters and Lauren is clutch. We have to have them on the court late in big games to hit the big shots."

For all three, the key to staying on the court is the same.

"I just try not to think about it," said Hughes. "I want to be in the game all the time and competing. I mean, now we are playing in the state finals."

No rest for ....

About Meghan Thomann: 5-8 senior guard leads team at 12.0 points-per game. Is headed to Bentley on a basketball scholarship next season.

Laura Renfro: 5-7 senior guard is second at 11.1 points a game and is the team's top defender. Is headed to Williams College.

Lauren Hughes: 5-9 center averages 9.1 points a game and is the team's top rebounder (15 against New Bedford). Is undecided on college, but has been accepted to Tennessee.

Faria All-Star Games return

Sport:   Posted: March 15th, 2008 by Tom Nolette

Faria All-Star Games return
 
By JOHN GARNER Jr.
Contributing Writer
March 15, 2008

EAST SANDWICH — Following a three-year hiatus, Al Faria and his Cape Cod and the Islands High School Basketball All-Star Games are back.

Sixty of the top local hoops players will tip off tomorrow at Sandwich High School, with the girls getting under way at 2 p.m., and the boys playing the nightcap at 5:30.

Leading the charge for the girls Upper Cape All-Stars is Ellery Gould, who led Sandwich to the Division 1 South Sectionals final and finished her career with a school-record 1,545 points. She is joined by backcourt mate Jessica Thomas, 1,000-point scorer Angela Paterson of Nantucket and the Falmouth inside duo of Ania Hammar and Kate Kotfila, who led the Clippers to a 15-3 record.

The Lower Cape All-Stars are paced by Old Colony League all-stars and 1,000-point scorers Morgan Kendrew and Jill Lyon of Barnstable. Other top performers include the talented Chatham tandem of Taryn Van Esselstyn and Taylor Masaschi and sharp-shooting Lauren Gonsalves of Harwich.

The boys Lower Cape All-Stars are led by the Nauset quartet of Mike Quill, Brett Conrad, Connor Seymour and Brendan Scalley. They are joined by C.J. Nicholas of Barnstable and Nicholas Clarke of Cape Cod Academy.

The Falmouth inside duo of Jamie Heide and Sean Fitzpatrick headline the Upper Cape All-Stars, whose roster also includes 1,000-point scorers Jordan Ferreira of Nantucket and Joey Lopes of Mashpee.

 

Cape and Islands All-Star rosters

GIRLS

UPPER CAPE TEAM

Ellery Gould, Sandwich

Melissa Morrissey, Sandwich

Erin Reardon, Sandwich

Julienne McCuish, Mashpee

Ania Hammar, Falmouth

Kate Kotfila, Falmouth

Julie Perry, Martha's Vineyard

Kia Minor, Martha's Vineyard

Angela Paterson, Nantucket

Shantel Haniford, Nantucket

Whitney Butler, Nantucket

Courtney Donovan, Bourne

Susie Parsons, Bourne

Molly Cosgrove, Upper Cape

Coach: Tom Morrissey

LOWER CAPE TEAM

Kate Covell, Nauset

Simone Rose, Provincetown

Ali Mcgraw, Cape Cod Academy

Lauren Gonsalves, Harwich

Rayven Tillman, Sturgis

Jill Lyon, Barnstable

Morgan Kendrew, Barnstable

Margaret Cobb, Barnstable

Taylor Masaschi, Chatham

Taryn Van Esselstyn, Chatham

Maggie Cole, Chatham

Courtney Pina, Dennis-Yarmouth

Sandy Fitzsimmons, Dennis-Yarmouth

Roni Lavelle, Cape Tech

Cassidy Cryer, Cape Tech

Coach: Cookie Chilaka

BOYS

UPPER CAPE TEAM

Ryan Colameco, Sandwich

Ben Gould, Sandwich

Mark Reppert, Martha's Vineyard

Eric Robbins, Bourne

Joey Lopes, Mashpee

Dan Bellone, Mashpee

Jamie Heide, Falmouth

Sean Fitzpatrick, Falmouth

Ryan Knox, Falmouth

Josh Soby, Falmouth Academy

Jordan Ferreira, Nantucket

Delroy Lawrence, Nantucket

Josh Butler, Nantucket

Ryan Delgado, Upper Cape

Coach: Mike Kennedy

LOWER CAPE TEAM

Zack Tobias, Provincetown

Dom Richmond, Cape Tech

Jake Roderick, Cape Tech

Billy Watts, Chatham

Mike Quill, Nauset

Brett Conrad, Nauset

Connor Seymour, Nauset

Brendan Scalley, Nauset

Jason Clark, Dennis-Yarmouth

Phil Ford, Dennis-Yarmouth

C.J. Nicholas, Barnstable

Donald Wardrick, Barnstable

Jon Thomson, Harwich

Christian Champney, Sturgis

Nicholas Clarke, Cape Cod Academy

Coach: Paul Smith

Faria All-Star Games return

Sport:   Posted: March 15th, 2008 by Tom Nolette

Faria All-Star Games return
 
By JOHN GARNER Jr.
Contributing Writer
March 15, 2008

EAST SANDWICH — Following a three-year hiatus, Al Faria and his Cape Cod and the Islands High School Basketball All-Star Games are back.

Sixty of the top local hoops players will tip off tomorrow at Sandwich High School, with the girls getting under way at 2 p.m., and the boys playing the nightcap at 5:30.

Leading the charge for the girls Upper Cape All-Stars is Ellery Gould, who led Sandwich to the Division 1 South Sectionals final and finished her career with a school-record 1,545 points. She is joined by backcourt mate Jessica Thomas, 1,000-point scorer Angela Paterson of Nantucket and the Falmouth inside duo of Ania Hammar and Kate Kotfila, who led the Clippers to a 15-3 record.

The Lower Cape All-Stars are paced by Old Colony League all-stars and 1,000-point scorers Morgan Kendrew and Jill Lyon of Barnstable. Other top performers include the talented Chatham tandem of Taryn Van Esselstyn and Taylor Masaschi and sharp-shooting Lauren Gonsalves of Harwich.

The boys Lower Cape All-Stars are led by the Nauset quartet of Mike Quill, Brett Conrad, Connor Seymour and Brendan Scalley. They are joined by C.J. Nicholas of Barnstable and Nicholas Clarke of Cape Cod Academy.

The Falmouth inside duo of Jamie Heide and Sean Fitzpatrick headline the Upper Cape All-Stars, whose roster also includes 1,000-point scorers Jordan Ferreira of Nantucket and Joey Lopes of Mashpee.

 

Cape and Islands All-Star rosters

GIRLS

UPPER CAPE TEAM

Ellery Gould, Sandwich

Melissa Morrissey, Sandwich

Erin Reardon, Sandwich

Julienne McCuish, Mashpee

Ania Hammar, Falmouth

Kate Kotfila, Falmouth

Julie Perry, Martha's Vineyard

Kia Minor, Martha's Vineyard

Angela Paterson, Nantucket

Shantel Haniford, Nantucket

Whitney Butler, Nantucket

Courtney Donovan, Bourne

Susie Parsons, Bourne

Molly Cosgrove, Upper Cape

Coach: Tom Morrissey

LOWER CAPE TEAM

Kate Covell, Nauset

Simone Rose, Provincetown

Ali Mcgraw, Cape Cod Academy

Lauren Gonsalves, Harwich

Rayven Tillman, Sturgis

Jill Lyon, Barnstable

Morgan Kendrew, Barnstable

Margaret Cobb, Barnstable

Taylor Masaschi, Chatham

Taryn Van Esselstyn, Chatham

Maggie Cole, Chatham

Courtney Pina, Dennis-Yarmouth

Sandy Fitzsimmons, Dennis-Yarmouth

Roni Lavelle, Cape Tech

Cassidy Cryer, Cape Tech

Coach: Cookie Chilaka

BOYS

UPPER CAPE TEAM

Ryan Colameco, Sandwich

Ben Gould, Sandwich

Mark Reppert, Martha's Vineyard

Eric Robbins, Bourne

Joey Lopes, Mashpee

Dan Bellone, Mashpee

Jamie Heide, Falmouth

Sean Fitzpatrick, Falmouth

Ryan Knox, Falmouth

Josh Soby, Falmouth Academy

Jordan Ferreira, Nantucket

Delroy Lawrence, Nantucket

Josh Butler, Nantucket

Ryan Delgado, Upper Cape

Coach: Mike Kennedy

LOWER CAPE TEAM

Zack Tobias, Provincetown

Dom Richmond, Cape Tech

Jake Roderick, Cape Tech

Billy Watts, Chatham

Mike Quill, Nauset

Brett Conrad, Nauset

Connor Seymour, Nauset

Brendan Scalley, Nauset

Jason Clark, Dennis-Yarmouth

Phil Ford, Dennis-Yarmouth

C.J. Nicholas, Barnstable

Donald Wardrick, Barnstable

Jon Thomson, Harwich

Christian Champney, Sturgis

Nicholas Clarke, Cape Cod Academy

Coach: Paul Smith

 

Undefeated season on the line

Sport:   Posted: March 15th, 2008 by Tom Nolette

Undefeated season on the line
Saturday, March 15, 2008
By JEFF THOMAS
jthomas@repub.com

This high school basketball season is turning into a carbon copy of last year's season for the Tantasqua Warriors of Fiskdale.

"I hope it is deja vu," Tantasqua coach Jeff Child said, and who could blame him.

The Warriors are a win away from posting their second straight undefeated Division II state championship season.

Catholic Memorial of West Roxbury is hoping to spoil the Warriors' perfect season when the two meet today at 4 p.m. at the DCU Center in Worcester.

Tantasqua was 25-0 last year, beat St. Bernard's of Fitchburg to win the Central Massachusetts championship, then defeated South Hadley in the state semifinals.

In the finals the Warriors met, you guessed it, Catholic Memorial and won 64-58.

This year the Warriors are 24-0, beat St. Bernard's and South Hadley to reach today's game with the Knights (21-4).

"I've seen them play this year and I watched them on tape," Child said of Catholic Memorial. "I watched the tape of last year's game and four of the five guys they had on the floor in crunch time are back."

The Knights won't overpower the Warriors with their size, but their speed could give them fits.

Guards Brandon Monteiro and Jeff Tagger are back from last year's squad, as are Julian Colarusso and Lincoln Wright.

"They certainly have speed going for them," Child said. "They'll press a lot I'm sure. The tempo of the game is very important. They want to play in the 70s and 80s and we'll want it in the 60s."

Tantasqua's impressive front line of Brian Vayda (6-foot-5), Ryan White (6-5) and Dan Kemp (6-3), along with Jon Kazanovicz (6-1) is enough to want any opposing coach to want to get out and run instead of getting into a halfcourt game.

Guards Marcus Gaudet and Brandon Forcier do a good job of getting the Warriors into their offense and are a threat from the perimeter to open the court up for the big men.

On top of that, the Warriors know how to keep their poise and how to play in the big games.

"Nothing really rattles them," Child said of his team. "I'm not saying that to be cocky or arrogant, they just play hard and keep their eyes off the scoreboard.

"Basketball is not just a skill," he added. "There's a mental aspect to the game and our guys have it."

Of course, the Warriors' accomplishments over the last two season aren't going to intimidate the Knights. They've been here before and have just as much experience in big games.

Basketball is going to decide this contest, and the Warriors are hoping to live the past all over again.

Snow's time for showtime

Sport:   Posted: March 15th, 2008 by Tom Nolette

Snow's time for showtime
Saturday, March 15, 2008
By CHRIS KENNEDY
ckennedy@repub.com

SOUTH DEERFIELD - There is nothing like timely support from a teammate.

Cody Snow of Pioneer Valley Regional was thinking about trying a little something during the second half of last night's all-star game featuring high school seniors from Franklin County and Hampshire County. He ran his idea past fellow Panther Alex Klepadlo, who was also playing in the game.

"I was thinking about it on the bench," Snow said. "It wasn't sure I wanted to do it because it was a close game. I still wanted to win the game."

Snow felt encouraged enough by Klepadlo to roll out his trick shot, throwing a free throw underhanded off the backboard and dunking the rebound after it hit the front of the rim and popped up perfectly for him. The hoop was waved off because of a lane violation - Snow left too early, but the moment was pretty much what all-star games are all about.

Snow helped win the game, too, scoring a team-high 17 points as Franklin County posted 108-106 overtime win at Frontier Regional.

"I had practiced it a few times off the backboard, but never on the foul line," said Snow, who will play at Keene (N.H.) State.

Ed Carter of Mohawk Trail, who finished with 14 points, hit four 3-pointers in the opening half as Franklin County opened a 36-13 lead. Tom Marsh of Belchertown had 22 and Brennan Cooper of Northampton 15 for Hampshire County, which rallied to tie the game at 75-75 before forcing overtime when Cooper's putback as regulation expired tied the game at 103-103.

Hampshire County then missed a couple of chances as the two minute overtime expired. Evan Jobst of Turners had 16 for the winners.

In the girls game, Genn Roy scored 14 points, and Granby teammate Lauren Livingstone added eight as Hampshire County pulled away late to earn a 54-46 win. Kaleigh Larocco of Easthampton also had eight points and Abby Belden of Smith Academy six.

Franklin County used a 16-3 run in the opening half to transform a 12-5 deficit into a 21-15 lead. A basket by Nicole Tourigny of Athol capped that run, but otherwise the teams went back and forth most of the night until the final four minutes.

Ashley O'Brien of Mohawk led Franklin County with nine points. Morgan Murphy of Mahar and Shelby Wheelock of Pioneer added eight apiece, and Mary Sabilia of Franklin Tech finished with seven.

NOTES: The Hampshire-Franklin IAABO Board 28 of officials, which sponsors the games, honored Bob Pelis of Smith Academy and Ron Bullough of South Hadley for contributions to the sport with Tom Cove awards. ... The game benefits the Casey Scholarship Fund, which helps deserving seniors from the two counties ... Granby High School earned the Jack Leaman Sportsmanship honor ... Brian and Dan Clark as well as Jamie Bell of Frontier did not play in the boys game because the Red Hawks will play for the Division III state title today. Brighid Courtney, Jamie Messer and Iris Santoni of Northampton did not play in the girls game because the Blue Devils will play for a Division I title today. The players were saluted during their respective games ... Roy, who played in a state title game with Granby last season, said she told her friends on the Blue Devils that losing last year's game was not an enjoyable experience. "I don't know if it was motivational or I made them nervous," she said.

Quaboag girls just keep winning

Sport:   Posted: March 15th, 2008 by Tom Nolette

Quaboag girls just keep winning
Saturday, March 15, 2008
By RUSS HELD
rheld@repub.com

For years, it was all about family. And now, it just feels that way for the Quaboag Regional High School girls basketball team. The Warren regional has been a dominant force across the state during the last six seasons, compiling a combined record of 143-8.

The run - which has included six straight central Massachusetts Division III titles and two state championships - was led for four years by the O'Keefe family. Twins Kelsey and Reilly O'Keefe starred on teams that won 97 of 101 games through the end of the 2006 season.

But they graduated, longtime coach Dick Gowen retired two years ago and guess what? Quaboag has kept winning.

"Last year, we exceeded expectations," Quaboag coach John Vayda said of a trip to the state semifinals in 2007. "I don't think anyone expected that from us. But when I look at this team, which doesn't have the great players like Kelsey and Reilly, it really has felt like a family with these girls. It has always seemed to pull us through

"As much as those two did for us, the girls were challenged and happy to create their own identity."

Senior captain Macey Gaumond said the team's success has boiled down to chemistry.

"We're a family, we do so much together and we all get along so well," Gaumond said.

The Cougars of Warren have one challenge left this season, a state championship game matchup against Archbishop Williams of Braintree. The teams play today at DCU Center in Worcester at 10:45 a.m.

Quaboag (24-1) is coming off a dominating effort against Lee on Wednesday. The Cougars opened the state semifinal game with a 30-3, holding Lee without a field goal for the first 12 minutes.

"It was one of the best games we've played," Quaboag sophomore guard Meghan Burns said. "We came out strong and set the tempo."

The Cougars have started fast in all five postseason games, and only one game (semifinal comeback against Hopedale) has been decided by less that 19 points.

"I think (the success) this year means more to the girls, and we have some young kids playing," Vayda said. "So our future still looks good."

Quaboag starts freshman Sam McCann, sophomores Olivia Jankins and Burns, junior Meghan O'Keefe (younger sister of Kelsey and Reilly) and Gaumond. Gaumond is headed on a field hockey scholarship to Division I Boston University this fall.

"Playing in the state final is going to be great," Gaumond said. "If you had asked me at the beginning of the year ... if we'd make it to two state championship games? I love that we're here again."

The task will be huge, though.

Archbishop Williams (21-2) enters as the defending champion, thanks to a fourth-quarter rally last year that spoiled Granby's title hopes. The Bishops were taken out of their transition game in the Eastern Mass. final, but still topped Pentucket 59-53 Tuesday night.

"Archbishop Williams is big, 6-feet-3, 6-4 ... and they have a super point guard," Vayda said. "They are going to be trouble."

Quaboag has lost only to Shepherd Hill of Dudley, which reached its Division I sectional final.

The Cougars won state titles in 2004 and 2006, the last sparked by an overtime 3-pointer by Macey Gaumond.

D1 - Northampton plays for title today

Sport:   Posted: March 15th, 2008 by Tom Nolette

Northampton plays for title today
Saturday, March 15, 2008
By RUSS HELD
rheld@repub.com

If the Northampton High School girls basketball team knows its own Achilles' Heel, it may have the inside track on winning a state championship.

The Blue Devils are preparing for a Division I title game today, facing a challenge in an Andover team that rides the same strengths. Tip-off is set for 5:45 p.m. at DCU Center in Worcester.

"Andover is a lot like us," Northampton coach Tom Parent said. "They play great defense, they can shoot the 3-pointer and they run the floor. It's what we like to do."

Northampton (22-2) has done all three well this winter, using that ability to reach its first state final and first Western Mass. championship since 1992.

Defensively, the Blue Devils held Westborough to nine field goals during a 56-38 win in state semifinal action Wednesday at the Mullins Center in Amherst.

Even still, Parent admitted that Northampton did not play its best game.

"We didn't play defense like we really wanted to, not for the whole game," Parent said of the Westborough game. "But it was enough to win a state semifinal game by 18 points, so that says good things about what we can do."

Northampton limited Westborough to three field goals during the first half and three of the nine came during the final 2:28 of the game, when Northampton was up 20.

"Defense has gotten us here," Northampton junior Cassy Sicard said. "When we have lulls on defense, it also pushes our offense down because we get so much of our offense from what we do on defense."

Northampton is coming off a Western Mass. title at the expense of defending state champion Central. The Blue Devils held Gatorade Massachusetts Player of the Year Felicia Barron to four field goals and inside force Esther Wallace scoreless in the sectional final.

"Winning Western Mass. and beating Central was a very big goal for us," Northampton junior forward Alannah Driscoll-Sbar said. "But now, nothing is bigger than this, now - playing for the state championship."

Northampton has allowed an average of 38.8 points this season, holding three of its four postseason foes under 40.

"We're not (just happy to be here), we want to win and it's definitely a bonus because we have not been here in a really long time," Northampton junior Jenny Bell said. "We have one more game to play, it's going to be so exciting."

Bell is Northampton's defensive stopper on the perimeter, and Northampton will need it Saturday night.

Andover (23-2) had four players combine to make nine 3-pointers in a 61-34 state semifinal win over New Bedford in the Eastern Mass. final Tuesday night. It allows an average of 45 points per game.

Driscoll-Sbar leads the team in scoring with 14-point average, Bell follows at 12, and seniors Brighid Courtney and Jamie Messer add 11 and nine, respectively.

Northampton will makes its third bid for the state crown. The Blue Devils lost in 1992 to Haverhill and in 1976 to Brockton.

Andover rolls in for its third state final appearance in six years. The Golden Warriors defeated Minnechaug on a layup and foul shot with .9 seconds left in 2003, then dropped a one-point decision in a rematch at year later.

Libby had a plan to succeed

Sport: Hockey (Boys)  Posted: March 15th, 2008 by Tom Nolette

Libby had a plan to succeed

BY RACHEL LENZI

Blethen Maine Newspapers

Only a few days after Jeff Libby suffered an injury that ended his professional hockey career, his father gave him some invaluable advice about the situation he found himself in.

"You learn there's a lot more to life than just playing hockey," said Libby, who lost his right eye in 1998 after an on-ice accident during a minor-league hockey game. "Two days after the accident, the first words out of my dad's mouth were, 'Before you feel sorry for yourself, think about Travis.' "

Major General William Libby, now head of the Maine Army National Guard, reminded his son of Travis Roy, the former North Yarmouth Academy and Boston University hockey standout who was paralyzed from injuries sustained 11 seconds into his first collegiate shift.

"It was hard to feel bad for me when I could still drive and play golf and play hockey," recalled Jeff Libby, a former Waterville Senior High School and University of Maine defenseman. "But you learn there's a lot more to life than just playing hockey. There's the importance of education, the importance of family, the importance of being healthy."

More than nine years later, Libby is married with two children, holds a degree in finance and is the co-owner of Rivalries Sports Pub and Grill in Portland's Old Port. He will be the keynote speaker at Sunday's Class A Hockey State Banquet, which begins at noon at the Ramada Inn and Conference Center in Lewiston.

Libby will precede the four finalists for the Travis Roy Award -- Biddeford's Tony Dube, Falmouth's Derek Kump, Messalonskee's Matt DelGiudice and Lewiston's Jon Roy -- given annually to the state's top Class A senior hockey player. Each finalist traditionally delivers a speech about the importance of overcoming adversity, and Libby will share his story of overcoming adversity and of the place that the game of hockey has in his life.

Scott Rousseau, the Falmouth coach and the president of the Maine Class A Coaches Association, approached Libby to deliver the keynote address and believes that it will resound with high school hockey players.

"His experience has a lot to offer, and it's something to be shared with high school kids," Rousseau said. "He was a late-bloomer as a player but as he progressed, it was a cautious progression. If Maine didn't work out, he had a plan.

"Jeff did it right. He had a plan that if hockey didn't work out, there was something else in place. Life after hockey is far more important than hockey. Jeff would be playing in the NHL had he not been injured, but he had the rest of his life in order."

After he graduated from Waterville in 1992, Libby spent a year at New Hampton (N.H.) School before walking onto the Maine hockey team. He played for three years for the Black Bears before he turned pro after the 1996-97 season, joining the New York Islanders organization. But his professional career ended in November 1998 after Libby, a defenseman with the Lowell Lock Monsters of the American Hockey League, lost his right eye in a freak on-ice accident in Newfoundland. The heel of an opposing player's skate struck Libby just below the eye and less than a week later, his eye was surgically removed.

He eventually returned to Maine, where he was an assistant coach at Falmouth High and at the University of Southern Maine, and continues to play in local adult hockey leagues. Libby, however, understood where hockey stood in the grand scheme of his life.

"To me, hockey was my life but I always had a backup plan," Libby said. "I knew it wasn't the only thing in my life. I wanted to play Division I but I knew I had a plan if that didn't happen. Even after I got hurt, one month after the injury, I finished my degree at UMass-Lowell.

"It's great to love hockey and to enjoy it. I'd love to be back at 18, playing hockey, but enjoy it. Don't make it your life. Take something from the sport and apply that to your life."

Drolet out at Noble: Hockey coach feels his firing was unjustified

Sport: Hockey (Boys)  Posted: March 14th, 2008 by Tom Nolette

Drolet out at Noble: Hockey coach feels his firing was unjustified

By MIKE WHALEY
sports@fosters.com
Article Date: Friday, March 14, 2008

NORTH BERWICK, Maine — With one practice and one game to go in the 2007-08 Maine high school boys ice hockey season, Mike "Howie" Drolet was fired as head coach of the Noble High School team.

Drolet, who had coached the team for seven of its eight years of existence, said his firing was unjustified and suggested that the administration may have bent to parental pressure. This was Noble's fourth year as a recognized varsity program.

For the administration's part, Noble principal Joe Findlay said he could not comment and deferred to athletic director Eric Wirsing. Wirsing said last week, "It was a personnel matter; something we had to deal with."

Wirsing coached the team for the final practice and game and said the position will be posted in the near future.

"All year long I felt an undercurrent of negativity," said Drolet, 36, a resident of Rochester, N.H., and a 1989 graduate of Spaulding High School. "There were people politicking behind the scenes to get me removed."

Drolet said a spokesman for the parents had questioned him via e-mail during the season and he claimed he answered that e-mail. But the latest complaints against him by parents went directly to Findlay, said Drolet, bypassing himself and Wirsing. On Feb. 11, the last week of the regular season, he said he was e-mailed by Wirsing that he needed to meet with Wirsing and Findlay to go over a list of complaints by parents. He was also told he was not to have contact with his team until the matter was resolved.

"It was a small group during the season, maybe two or three," said Drolet. "All year they beat the bushes, enough to get more support."

Drolet said he went to the principal's office on Feb. 11 to meet with both Findlay and Wirsing. He said it was the first time he had met Findlay, who was new to the district having been hired over the summer of 2007. Wirsing is in his first year as athletic director.

"They read off the complaints and let me answer them," said Drolet. "But it was pretty clear they had made up their minds. They were bound and determined that I was to go — so it didn't matter what I said."

Drolet said he was told it was a group of 12 parents who filed the complaints, but he was not given a breakdown. He was basically told by Findlay that parents had made the comment that they were not going to let their kids skate for Drolet anymore.

Drolet said that all but two players had showed up for morning practice that day, so he questioned that particular comment.

He said he was then told by Findlay that the best thing to do would be to have Wirsing finish up the year as coach before it goes any further.

Drolet said the list of complaints were as follows: Coach doesn't teach during games. Coach is always negative. Coach leaves practice early. Coach doesn't follow team rules. Coach uses inappropriate language.

Drolet said coaches manage during a game and do not teach, using practices and time between periods to teach.

"That complaint is coming from people who don't coach and are not in education," Drolet said. "Game time is not the best time to teach."

As to being negative, Drolet said, "It's false. If they play well I tell them they played well. If they played poorly I tell them they played poorly."

Drolet teaches at Nute Middle School in Milton, N.H., where he is in his eighth year as a seventh-grade social studies teacher. He has coached varsity baseball at Nute High School since 1994 and has been the head coach since 2003. Drolet has coached high school sports in some capacity since 1992. He said he has been named coach of the positive behavior management program at Nute, which is being implemented this year.

"I find it hard to believe Nute would put someone in charge of a positive behavior management program who is always negative," he said.

Drolet said of the charge of leaving practice early that he does have to leave five minutes early to get to his job in Milton. The practices are from 6 to 6:45 a.m. at the Rochester (N.H.) Ice Arena and he leaves at 6:40 to make it to school by 7. He leaves the team in the hands of his assistant coach, his brother, Glen Drolet, a lieutenant in the Northwood (N.H.) Police Department.

"My assistant stays until all guys have left the arena," Drolet said. "They are never left unsupervised. It's not even a valid argument."

Drolet disagreed with that complaint that the coach doesn't follow team rules. He said parents wanted a team captain removed as a captain after an altercation with another player at school. Drolet felt the school handled the matter poorly and that the four-day suspensions handed out to both players were enough in his mind. He said each player missed one game and two practices and he felt it unnecessary to take any further action.

Drolet was also accused of using inappropriate language. He said he has used "ass" and "hell," but that he doesn't use them very often. "I use hell mostly positive and not very often," he said.

He said there was an incident at Westbrook where after the game he asked his brother to read the team the riot act after not playing well. "He gave it to them. It was nothing derogatory, but he told them if they didn't want to be here and didn't want to give the effort, then stop showing up. It was loud, but not demeaning or derogatory."

Drolet said it got back to parents and then to the AD. Drolet said Wirsing called the Westbrook AD who was outside the locker room and, according to Drolet, the AD told Wirsing it was loud, but he did not hear any profane language.

Drolet felt some of the complaints were "out and out fabrications" and some "were twisted to suit their arguments." And he felt the timing of the whole removal was terrible.

"I guess the thing that bothers me the most is that to remove somebody with a practice and a game remaining just sends a really bad message," said Drolet. "and it looks like something really bad happened to act immediately. I don't think any of these things were serious where they couldn't have talked about it at the end of the season. These things just don't seem like they're that serious."

Drolet surmised that a lot of this could have been avoided had he hired a parent or two to help out with the team. He didn't want to do that, but he feels that, too, was one of the (parents) major bones of contention.

"I don't feel I did anything wrong, not at all," he added. "And if you don't want to take my word for it, OK — but investigate it a little bit. Talk to every player. Talk to my assistant, who was in the locker room at the time. Talk to the trainer. Talk to the people who were around all the time to see if this is what you are hearing.

"That's what I would have expected," Drolet said. "These things are so minor. I don't see why they couldn't have been addressed at the end of the year. These are the concerns. It was a question of keeping the program going, we don't want these people to leave. They boxed (administration) into a corner. Instead of standing behind your employee, they did the easy thing, which was to get rid of me and pacify this group of people and move on."

St. Johnís gets wish / Basketball Preview

Sport:   Posted: March 14th, 2008 by Tom Nolette

St. John’s gets wish / Basketball Preview   
By Dan Ventura  
Friday, March 14, 2008  
http://www.bostonherald.com  
 

Shortly after his team scrimmaged Central Catholic in December, St. John’s (Shrewsbury) coach Bob Foley remembers the last thing he said before leaving.

“I told (Central Catholic coach) Rick Nault that we’d love to see you again, even though I know the chances are small,” Foley said. “But I did see him before his game with BC High in the Garden and reminded him of that.”

Central rallied to dethrone BC High, while St. John’s defeated Longmeadow to earn the right to compete for the Division 1 state title tomorrow night (7:30) at the DCU Center in Worcester.

The Pioneers (21-6) boast a balanced scoring attack, led by 6-foot-9 junior center Matt LaBove at 15 points a game. Freshman forward Richard Rodgers has been the high man in two tournament games, while junior Anthony Trapasso and sophomores David White and Chad LaBove are solid.

The glue to the team is senior John Perron. Whatever St. John’s has needed during the season, Perron has provided.

LaBove is generally the tallest man on the floor, though he will have company tomorrow as Central Catholic (24-2) features 6-9 Carson Desrosiers and 6-6 Adrian Gonzalez. Billy Marsden is the key offensive weapon in the backcourt, while Wilfredo Pagan runs the show.

The Div. 2 final (4 p.m.) is a rematch from last year as Tantasqua seeks its second straight undefeated season (49 consecutive wins) at the hands of Catholic Memorial. The Warriors upset the Knights, 64-58, a year ago, though coach Jeff Child isn’t expecting an easy go of it.

“They didn’t get any slower this year,” Child said. “They are an all-around great team. The strength is in the backcourt with (Brendan) Monteiro and (Jeff) Tagger. Even the big guys can run the floor.”

Tantasqua is led by 6-6 senior center Brian Vayda (23 ppg). The other starters, guards Marcus Gaudet and Brandon Fourcier and forwards Ryan White and Dan Kemp, average around nine points a game.

In the Div. 3 final (12:30 p.m.), Scituate takes on Frontier Regional. The Red Hawks (23-1) rallied from a 17-point deficit to defeat Bromfield in the semifinals. Forward Brian Clark leads the team in scoring at 22.6, while guard Jamie Bell and forward Dan Clark have been solid in the tournament.

Scituate also fought off a double-digit deficit to take down Watertown in the other semifinal. The Sailors have plenty of size with 6-9 Sean McCarthy and 6-6 Blaine O’Brien as well as 6-10 Andrew McCarthy off the bench. Rodney Beldo and Sam Malone form a top-notch backcourt, and Keith Fleury is solid.

In the opening game (10:45 a.m.), Archbishop Williams (21-2) looks to defend its Div. 3 girls title against perennial power Quaboag. The Bishops have an all-senior backcourt in Christine Duffy and Casey Capello, and sophomore center Valerie Driscoll is a force in the paint.

Quaboag is seeking its third state championship in five years. A youthful team, the players to watch for the Cougars (24-1) are junior center Meaghan O’Keefe (the younger sister of former Quaboag stars Reilly and Kelsey O’Keefe) and sophomore guards Meghan Burns and Olivia Jankins.

Wellesley (22-3) will seek its first girls hoop title when it takes on Millbury in the Div. 2 final (2:15). The Raiders ousted defending champion Lincoln-Sudbury in the semifinals behind guards Mary Louise Dixon and Blake Dietrick and forwards Jesse Miller and Lindsay Sydness.

Millbury (20-3) is keyed by a trio of underclassmen in freshman swingman Julie Frankian, sophomore forward Chelsea Perkins and junior guard Cailin Burnett.

In the Div. 1 title game (5:45), Andover (23-3) faces Northampton. Unlike the other two games, there is plenty of experience on both sides as the Golden Warriors look to the trio of Meghan Thomann, Laura Renfro and Lauren Hughes.

Northampton (22-2) is led by senior guards Jamie Messer and Iris Santoni and junior forwards Alannah Driscoll-Sbar and Casey Sicard.

BOUNCE PASSES: Trio of teams suffer wild, season-ending losses

Sport:   Posted: March 14th, 2008 by Tom Nolette

BOUNCE PASSES: Trio of teams suffer wild, season-ending losses
By Matt Jenkins
Staff Writer

Five girls basketball teams on the North Shore entered the postseason with visions of North sectional titles, dribbling balls on the parquet of the TD Banknorth Garden, and hoisting a state championship trophy. Three of those three teams went home early, exiting in unusual fashion.

How often do you see a rain delay in a tournament basketball game? Well, Masconomet suffered through three of them in its 43-38 loss to Lincoln Sudbury in a Division 2 North semifinal game.

What about timeouts that wipe out game-winning 3-pointers? Ipswich coach Mandy Zegarowski would love to have that call back, but she'd much rather have the 3-plus seconds that inexplicably disappeared from the clock when play resumed in her team's 52-51 Division 3 North first round loss to Watertown.

And how do you think Swampscott, a team that has won 60 games over the last three years, feels about not being able to beat Pentucket? For the second straight year it was the Sachems who bounced the Big Blue from the Division 3 dance, this time a 60-53 decision in the semis.

Masconomet coach Bob Romeo had already watched the tape of the final seconds of Ipswich's tournament loss on YouTube, and he had to be thinking he entered the Twilight Zone when the tipoff for his game with Lincoln-Sudbury was delayed 30 minutes while towels were duct-taped to the ceiling to remedy a leaky roof at Lowell High School.

"I felt bad for the seniors on both teams," Romeo said. "As the game's going on, they're sitting in a rain delay thinking that it could be their last game."

Although it wasn't raining in the Ipswich High School gym when Watertown came to visit, the Tigers had to feel like the roof had caved in on them.

Lyndsay French hit a three just as Zegarowski was calling a timeout. By all accounts the clock should have been stopped with more than three seconds left. Instead, the Tigers were left with 0.3 seconds showing. Amber Smith hit a jumper on the ensuing inbounds play, but it's impossible to catch-and-shoot with that little time remaining.

As a result, Ipswich didn't get the chance to play in the second round against Winthrop, a team that beat Ipswich on a long buzzer-beater in the tournament two years ago.

Swampscott, meanwhile, didn't suffer a heart-breaking loss in the tournament, and the pain doesn't necessarily rest in the loss to Pentucket, but the fact that the Sachems aren't going anywhere. The Big Blue have their top three scorers returning in Tara Nimkar, Allie Beaulieu, and Kara Gilberg.

Pentucket, which just lost to Archbishop Williams in the Eastern Mass. final, has everyone returning.

"I don't think I'm mistaken when I say that we've lost six games in the last two years and three of them have been to Pentucket," Swampscott coach Jack Hughes said.

Clearly the Big Blue have to find a way to overcome Pentucket if they are going to win a North championship in the near future.

nnn

You could make a legitimate case for any of those three games to fill the "Worst Game of the Year" category, especially the Masco and Ipswich losses, but before we neatly pack basketball away for the next eight months, it's time to hand out some positive awards.

Whatever you can do, I can do better ... or, at least as well Award — Ipswich's Lyndsay French, who moved into a 10th-place tie on Ipswich's all-time wins list with 58 total victories. She joins her mother, Nancy (Campus) French, who played for Kiki Papagiotis.

Let's skip the offseason and get back at it Award — Beverly coach Matt Smith. The Panthers struggled through the first half of the season, but got smoking hot down the stretch. The truly great part for Smith is that Beverly is returning seven key players from this winter's team.

The stats don't tell the story Award — Masconomet's Annie Burns. If you never saw Burns play, you missed the chance to watch an athlete play the game the right way. Burns barely hit double figures for a scoring average as a senior, but she could quietly dominate a game with her ability to handle the ball, distribute to her teammates, and dig in on the defensive end.

If wins were given for positive energy, we'd be undefeated Award — Maureen Robinson and North Shore Tech. The Bulldogs struggled through a winless season, but no matter how many points her team lost by, Robinson always managed to put a positive spin on things. North Shore also raised enough money to buy soccer uniforms for a school team in Tela, Honduras.

The sharp-dressed coaches Award — The Peabody coaching staff. The Tanners coaches wear matching navy and university blue rugby shirts, a welcomed change from the typical shirt-and-tie or golf shirt look.

I can't wait for next year Award — Amber Smith, Ipswich. Smith easily eclipsed 1,000 points early in her junior year. She currently stands at 1,337 points after averaging 22.2 this season to go with 11.8 rebounds and 3.2 assists. She accumulated 19 double-doubles in 21 games this season. With increased production in each of her first three seasons, it's scary to think how good she'll be next year.

Bounce Passes, a column on North Shore girls' basketball, runs every Friday during the winter sports season in The Salem News. Contact staff writer Matt Jenkins at 978-338-2648 or by e-mail at mjenkins@ecnnews.com

Scituate faces a tall order in Frontier at Div. 3 State Championship Game.

Sport:   Posted: March 14th, 2008 by Tom Nolette

Scituate faces a tall order in Frontier at Div. 3 State Championship Game.
By Jason Dachman
The Patriot Ledger
Posted Mar 14, 2008 @ 03:15 AM
SCITUATE —

If the Scituate boys basketball team is going to bring home the first Div. 3 state championship in school history, they will have get through the Big Three from Frontier.

On Saturday, the Sailors (23-2) will face their greatest challenge yet when Frontier Regional (23-1) trots out the lethal trio of Brian Clark, Dan Clark and Jamie Bell for the Div. 3 sate championship game at the DCU center in Worcester.

In the Clarks, Frontier boasts identical twin 6-4 senior forwards who could not be told apart if it wasn’t for their differing styles of play. Brian is a solid low-post force who primarily mans the paint, averaging a team-high 22.3 points and 10 rebounds per game. Dan Clark (14.6 ppg, six rpg.) is the team’s chief three-point threat and spends most of his time on the wing.

“Obviously we know (Scituate) has great size, but we like the our big guys’ athleticism,” Red Hawks coach Marty Sanderson. “They are not just back-to-the-basket players, they’re complete players.”

The Clark brothers will be strapped with the task of containing the Sailors’ towering front line of center Sean McCarthy (6-9), power forward Blain O’Brien (6-6) and top reserve Andrew McCarthy (6-10).

“(Ryan Clark) is nice long player with a lot of heart,” Scituate coach Matt Poirier said. “I get the sense that the big guys bring a lot of experience, and we know that we have to contest everything right from the tip-off.”

Bell completes the triumvirate and is a lock for 18 points per game as a top-notch slasher into the paint and reliable outside shooter. His striking speed and 6-1 build also can also create serious match-up problems on the perimeter for opposing teams.

“He just knows how to score,” Sanderson said of his senior guard. “Jamie Bell has been very consistent for us for a long time.”

In the second to last game of the regular season against Hampshire, Bell and Ryan Clark surpassed the 1,000 career point mark on the same evening. Bell currently sits at 1183 career points and Clark has 1151 total.

Even with two 1000-point scorers, Frontier is remains one of the top defensive squads in Western Mass., allowing only 47.9 points per game during the regular season, third best in the Western Mass.

The key for Frontier may be the return of junior point guard Gary Grandonico, who sprained his ankle for the second time in the final game of the regular season. He has returned over the last three tournament games and steadily improved. Along with Bell and reserve guard Brennan McKenna, Grandonico will be asked to contain the trio of Rodney Beldo, Sam Malone and Keith Fluery. The three have excelled in the postseason and are poised to continue their hot play on Saturday.

“There are two things we’re going to have to do,” Sanderson said. “First is take their guards driving lines away. Their tremendous in the lanes and we have to limit their ability to get to the rim. Second thing is to keep their big guys away from the basket on rebounds.”

After a five-day layoff, both squads are chomping at the bit to hit the floor on Saturday. Said Poirier, “They’ve never been more ready to get out there. I wish they could play today. We’ve studied (Frontier) as much as you possibly could in the time we’ve had, maybe even too much. I know both teams just want to get on the floor.”

Jason Dachman may be reached at jdachman@ledger.com.

Coaching through the pain Central's Nault whirlwind schedule includes teaching, coaching and helping his sons get well

Sport:   Posted: March 14th, 2008 by Tom Nolette

Coaching through the pain Central's Nault whirlwind schedule includes teaching, coaching and helping his sons get well
By Bill Burt
Staff Writer

LAWRENCE — If not for the large crucifix hanging high above the basketball court and the occasional clergyman who strolls by to check out the commotion, you might confuse what was happening at Central Catholic's famed gymnasium from 3:30 to 5 p.m. with "90 minutes of hell."

Boot camp might be a better description as coaches, sounding more like drill instructors, all yelling at once, oftentimes for different reasons.

Bodies are not only flying, but they're colliding. One player, junior Rory Blinn, was rubbing his neck after taking an elbow on one end. Two minutes later he was lying on the floor, head down, following a collision near the basket, moaning.

Sympathy was nowhere to be found.

"Get up!" shouted Central Catholic boys basketball coach Ricky Nault, guessing correctly that there were no broken bones.

Fouls? In almost any other gym in America, absolutely.

But not here. Not with Coach Nault around.

Nault never played football, but Central football coach Chuck Adamopoulos, standing on the sidelines of Central's Wednesday practice in preparation of their Division 1 state championship game against St. John's of Shrewsbury tomorrow night at the DCU Center in Worcester, admits he has nothing over his basketball peer.

"I've never seen anything like this," said Adamopoulos, whose son Zak is a junior forward for the Raiders. "Everybody's banging into everybody. And nobody is complaining or whining. I love this. Ricky's been here only two years, but you would think he's been here 20 years. He's the best."

Nault, 36, has only kept his promise, which wasn't too descriptive when he took the job in June 2006.

"I'm not an offensive guy or a defensive guy. I'm an effort guy," he said the day he was hired. "When someone walks in the gym and sees us play, I want them to say, Wow! I want them to see that our guys work their tails off."

The last three Central wins — Charlestown, Lowell and B.C. High — have something in common. Central appeared, at least on the scoreboard, to be in trouble.

The team and coaches knew otherwise.

"We know that the fourth quarter is our quarter," said senior Adrian Gonzalez, who will be playing for Division 2 power Bentley next year. "Nobody practices like we do. Nobody. The games are easy compared to practices. The games are fun."

...

Monday night was special for Nault.

His wife, Nichole, got to see first-hand, what everyone in the Merrimack Valley has been talking about when the Central defeated B.C. High, 54-44, at the TD Banknorth Garden.

She has been busy most of the other big games. She has been basically living the in intensive care unit at Children's Hospital in Boston, caring for their son, Avery, who turns 2 in May.

Avery has mitochondrial disease, the same disease his 5-year-old brother, Isaiah, has.

In a nutshell, this disease is both debilitating and devastating. Isaiah can't walk, talk or get up on his own. Avery's motor skills are a little better, but he's been in the hospital for nearly half of the last six months battling respiratory problems, particularly pneumonia.

"I can't tell you what it meant to have Nicky at the game," said Nault, referring to his wife. "Here I am going through one of the greatest thrills in life and she's in the hospital every night taking the burden off me. The funny thing is she is more nervous than I am for these games."

He doesn't go out of his way to talk about his boys' illness.

"It's not something we put out there," said Nault, whose oldest daughter Janessa is 7. "We hate the idea of people feeling sorry or pitying us. To be very honest, my wife and I are grateful for what we have. We believe we've been put in this situation for a reason.

"Do we wish our boys were healthy?" he said. "Of course. But I've never looked at it that way. We are grateful for the time we have with them."

...

Even those who hold Central in disdain, and there are many in the Merrimack Valley, find it tough to root against Nault.

A French Canadian, Nault grew up on the Tower Hill side of Haverhill Street, the only white kid among hundreds of Hispanics.

Apparently, hockey was never an option.

"My family was never really into sports," said Nault. "It wasn't until I was in fourth grade and joined the Lawrence Boys Club, that I even shot my first basketball. (Boys Club coordinator) Steve Kelley was the fourth grade coach and I thought he was crazy. But I remember liking basketball from the first moment. I was hooked."

The club became his home away from home and basketball became his ticket out of any potential trouble.

"I loved the game too much to mess around," said Nault. "And the guys at the club, particularly Steve Kelley, were important role models for me."

Nault's decision to attend Central, he feels, was the most important of his life.

"It's an incredible place because, like the club, it feels like home," said Nault. "It was a great school, but more importantly, it was great to be around so many talented people. It's like we're all a family."

...

Dick Licare certainly left his imprint on Central.

"He helped put the school on the map as a power in this state," said Nault, who later played at Worcester State, where he was a captain his senior season. "I loved playing for him. He knew the game as well as any coach I know. And he got us to play defense."

When Licare announced his resignation, the names, some of them big, were astounding.

Central grads Dave Fazio (Andover High) and the great Leo Parent (Pentucket Regional), who were both successful local coaches, and famed Salem (Mass.) High and Charlestown High coach Jack O'Brien were some of the names bandied about. Nault was a longshot.

While he had no head coaching experience, he was a junior varsity coach and assistant under Licare for six years. Better yet, he was a Central alum.

"I told them at the interview that this was the only job I wanted," he recalled. "If Dickie had stayed for 20 more years, I could have stayed with him. That's how much I love this place."

While it appeared to be a gamble going with the inexperienced Nault over some behemoths in the Massachusetts high school basketball landscape, those who knew Nault best figured it wasn't such a gamble.

"I loved him when I was a freshman and he was coaching the JVs," said junior Billy Marsden. "He was just like he is now. He was all over us about the little things. He was very demanding, but he was fair. I never played as hard as I did my freshman year."

Nault's talent, as he has oft-noted, was not X's and O's, it was his ability to deal with kids.

"Ricky went to Central. He grew up in Lawrence. He went to the Boys Club," said Central assistant coach Tom Sipsey, one of three assistants who are also alums. "He can talk to these kids like nobody else can. He relates to them unlike any coach I've ever seen. It really is special."

...

Nault says nothing has changed since when he took over one of the highest profile coaching positions in the state.

He wants to stay here until he is old.

"A friend of mine from the western part of the state said, 'Ricky, are you going to coach some college after the state championship?' " said Nault. "I told him, 'No chance.' This is where I want to be.

"We have a great family. We have a great house in Methuen. We have so many people that care about us around here. But you know what? I owe a lot of it to Central Catholic. They gave me the opportunity. I don't want to be anywhere else. I am happy with my life. I love this team. I really do."

Tomorrow night, Nault's life, will get a lot more exciting and a lot more hectic.

In fact, it is a lot like his practices, fury and stability, all rolled into one.

"Our personality is a lot like Ricky's," said assistant John Sexton. "We are all over the place. We play with a lot of emotion. We play in-your-face all game long. But you know what? There is no panic, just like Ricky. He never panics.

"So when we're down in the first half or even the third quarter, there is no shouting or yelling," said Sexton. "Ricky asks for our advice and we give it. Then he makes his decision and the guys believe in him. He's an incredible coach. He's an incredible person."

Bill Burt is a sports writer at The Eagle-Tribune. E-mail him at bburt@eagletribune.com
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