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Malley to resign as Danvers hoop coach

Sport:   Posted: March 14th, 2008

Malley to resign as Danvers hoop coach
By Mike Grenier
Staff Writer

After eight seasons on the job, Mark Malley is expected to resign today as coach of the Danvers High boys basketball team.

Malley, 51, said last night that "I will forward my letter of resignation to the athletic department (today). I've been there for eight years and just feel it's time to move on."

The Falcons had their ups and downs during Malley's tenure. The high point occurred from 2003-2005, when Danvers qualified for the state tourney three straight seasons and hosted a home game in the postseason for the first time in three decades.

However, Danvers has gone through hard times over the last three seasons. The Falcons were 2-18 this season, 3-17 last year and 1-19 two years ago.

"This is a tough town for hoops," said Malley, who works in the insurance industry. "We lose a lot of kids to other schools. You go through a stretch like we have the last few years, and it's tough to motivate yourself and the kids. When that happens, it's time (to move on)."

Danvers High Athletic Director John Sullivan had not been formally notified of the resignation last night, but he commented on Malley's tenure with the Falcons.

"I think Mark felt it was time to give someone else a chance," said Sullivan. "He's worked really hard at everything he's done at Danvers, but I just think he felt (a change was needed). And I agree."

Sullivan praised Malley for the level of effort the players gave him on the court.

"His kids didn't quit," Sullivan said. "They played hard."

Malley said he appreciated the support he received at Danvers High.

"I got it from the parents, the athletic department and the administration," he said. "But after the last 3-4 seasons, I've expended all my energy. I'll always look back and appreciate the players I had. We went through a lot of tough games."

Malley did not rule out coaching in the future.

"I may get back in there at some point," he said. "If something comes along, I'll take a look at it."

Golden anniversary season Pioneer League thrives after half century of existence

Sport:   Posted: March 14th, 2008

Golden anniversary season Pioneer League thrives after half century of existence
By Dan Guttenplan
Sports editor

The train that is the Newburyport Pioneer League continues to chug along 50 years after its inception.

Passengers are at an all-time high. A complete renovation is on the way.

And the small pebble that fell onto the tracks last spring didn't cause the train any long-term damage.

The Pioneer League's 50th season will begin April 19 with a parade that stretches from Atkinson Common to Pioneer Park. More than 750 athletes between the ages of 6 and 15 are registered with at least 20 more expected to sign up between now and opening day.

The athlete pool is already up 40 from last year when the league had an all-time high of 710 athletes. Ten years ago, the league had 400 athletes.

More good news for the league: The home field — Pioneer Park — is set for a complete renovation following this season as long as the board of directors receives permission from the city's Planning Board and the proper funds are raised. The $650,000 project calls for new dugouts, electronic scoreboards, fencing, bleachers, batting cages and grass baseball fields.

The league received permission for the renovations from Pioneer Park neighbors last fall, putting the project in motion thanks to the outpouring of community support.

Life is good for a league that started a half century ago under the premise, "Let them play."

"I think the people that have run the league over the years have always kept that philosophy in mind," Pioneer League President Bob Horne said. "We want to have everybody of every skill level play. That works out well, and the community responds with a lot of support."

The Pioneer League's past presidents have taken great pains over the years to make sure the league is different from the national Little League. Where Little League Baseball has gone in the direction of increased competition, the Pioneer League's decision-makers have remained firm in their belief that youth baseball leagues should be designed for skill development and pure enjoyment.

Thus, the rules are different in Newburyport. Each athlete gets a turn to bat regardless of whether he/she played the field the previous inning. The batting order often goes 12 or 13 athletes deep with a continuous rotation. All Pioneer League players must play at least four innings as opposed to two in Little League.

"We try to do more for the kids every year," said Mike Barry, the Pioneer League scheduling and registration officer. "We make tweaks depending on what we feel is in the best health of Newburyport males and females. We want to upgrade learning experiences."

Last spring, a group of Pioneer League parents pitched an idea for the league to form a 12-year-old all-star team that would enter in the Williamsport Little League Tournament with the opportunity to play on ESPN if it reached the national championship round.

Eventually, league coaches and managers voted in favor of remaining exclusive of the Little League, choosing to avoid compromising the integrity of the "Let them play" philosophy.

"That won't be addressed this year," Horne said. "We'll leave that up to the next board if they choose to revisit it."

It's not that the league's managers and coaches are opposed to change. In addition to the new ballpark, there are major changes in store this season.

Two more senior teams will join the 13- to 15-year-old division, making it nine total. That's up from five teams from 2005 — the season before Richie Eaton's Kiwanis League merged with the Pioneer League.

In addition, 11- and 12-year-olds in Newburyport's A-League will play late-season games on a field with larger basepath dimensions than in previous seasons. In the past, all games were played on 60-foot basepaths. This year, the basepaths will stretch to 70-feet in an attempt to ease the transition to the senior league, which has 90-foot basepaths.

"We're always thinking about tomorrow, next month, the summer and potential upgrades for next year," Barry said. "We've done that for 50 years. We still have the same ideals that we remember and honor."

One positive that resulted from the Little League merger debate last spring, Horne said, was the outpouring of emotion from Pioneer League alumni. Several former players spoke out in protest of the merger. After learning of their continued enthusiasm, Horne has formed a Pioneer League Alumni Association (PLAA) that will meet for the first time May 10.

"That's one of the good things from last spring," Horne said. "There's still a lot of interest from people who played 10, 15, even 30 years ago. A lot of alumni have said, 'What can we do to help?'"

Help would appear to be on the way for the Pioneer League in the form of a complete renovation of its home field. Now 50-years-old, this train doesn't appear to be showing any signs of slowing down.

Remembering the hoops season on Cape Ann 10 lessons learned

Sport:   Posted: March 14th, 2008

Remembering the hoops season on Cape Ann 10 lessons learned
By Matt Langone
Sports editor

On Basketball

Matt Langone

Who would've ever guessed back in early December that the high school basketball season on Cape Ann would last until mid-March?

Not too many people. But thanks to the Manchester Essex girls basketball team's exciting run to the Division 4 state title at TD Banknorth Garden earlier this week, hoops fans on Cape Ann enjoyed a long season to satisfy their basketball craving.

Of course, all good things come to an end and with spring practices slated to begin on Monday, it's time to put the local basketball season in the rearview mirror.

Before we can do that, it would only be fair to take a look back at some lessons learned from the hardcourt happenings of the past four months. There certainly were plenty, and here are the 10 that stand out in no particular order:

10. Year of the Freshman

The future looks bright for Cape Ann high school basketball, thanks to three freshman players that have already made immediate impacts for their teams.

Gloucester point guard Hannah Cain led the Fishermen in scoring at 13.8 points per game and helped Gloucester to a Division 2 state tourney berth. Manchester Essex point guard Lizzy Ball averaged 10 ppg for the Hornets this year and helped lead them to the Division 4 state title game, and the Hornets boys received a spark from first-year forward Joe Mussachia, who was second on the team in scoring at 12.4 ppg.

It's a real possibility that we could be looking at three players with over 1,000 career points and tons of victories when their senior years wrap up in 2011.

9. One year away

The Gloucester girls look to be poised for a tourney run next winter.

After a 12-8 campaign, the Fishermen will only graduate the versatile and valuable Jill Lukegord (8.5 ppg), who certainly will be missed on both sides of the court. However, the rest of the team will return and Cain, sharpshooter Lindsey Rogers (9.5 ppg) and center Alicia Unis will provide a solid nucleus with tourney experience.

8. Best players you've never heard of

Because of Rockport's struggles in both boys and girls hoops, Mike Akers and Tia Nelson may not be household names around Cape Ann.

Both juniors were named Cape Ann League All-Stars, as Akers averaged 12.6 ppg for the 3-15 Vikings and Nelson scored 13.3 ppg for the 2-16 Vikings. Akers is a do-everything guard, who excels at slashing to the hoop, while Nelson is counted on to provide the bulk of the offensive and rebounding production for her team.

Keep an eye on both players next year.

7. A Hornet that can sting you

Manchester Essex senior guard Marty Nally can shoot, and shoot and shoot.

He missed three games for the Hornets this winter, but still knocked down 22 3-pointers and averaged 17.5 ppg — good for fifth in the Cape Ann League. Nally went out with a bang, scoring a career-high 41 points on Senior Night against rival Rockport to finish his career.

The 6-foot-1 guard will be looking to fill it up at Plymouth State University next winter.

6. Ciccone likes the spotlight

How else would you explain a ridiculous run of four straight double-doubles from Manchester Essex senior center Dani Ciccone in the state tournament? Averages of 17 points and 17 rebounds in the postseason was a major reason that the Hornets advanced all the way to the TD Banknorth Garden for the Division 4 state title.

Ciccone's 22-point, 19-rebound performance in the Division 4 North final against Mt. Alvernia was the best of the best. Her free throw with 6.4 seconds left sent the game to overtime, and she then took over in the extra frame.

5. The attack of the injury bug

Several premier players on Cape Ann missed multiple games due to injuries this winter.

To name a few: the Manchester Essex boys lost starting guard James Settipane for three games and backup junior guard Kyle Donovan for nine games. The Hornets girls lost starting point guard Lee Stroman for the final nine games of the season and the Gloucester girls lost Lukegord for five games.

4. Williamson is better than winning

Victories were few and far between this winter for the Gloucester boys, as evidenced by their 3-15 record.

However, when Gloucester crushed rival Danvers, 76-58, on Senior Night, the Fishermen and their fans looked as though the season was struggle-free. But what they were really excited about was seeing senior Danny Williamson, the team manager, suit up for the game and fulfill his dream of scoring a basket.

When Williamson converted a layup with 30 seconds left in the game, it sent the crowd into a frenzy. For the fans, watching that was more meaningful than a win.

3. Levie has endless range

With 36 3-pointers during the season, Gloucester senior guard Brian Levie proved that he is more than capable from behind the arch. Levie averaged 14.4 ppg for the Fishermen and capped off his career with seven trifectas in the Senior Night win over Danvers.

2. March Madness is the best

It's really that simple. The state basketball tournament is arguably the most exciting event in high school sports. I don't think any person who watched Manchester Essex's tourney run could argue against that.

1. I can't wait until next year

This one needs no explanation.

Matt Langone is the sports editor of The Gloucester Daily Times. E-mail him at mlangone@gloucestertimes.com.

Coach Sid's cleats will be hard to fill

Sport:   Posted: March 14th, 2008

Coach Sid's cleats will be hard to fill
By David Pevear and Rick Harrison, Sun Staff
Article Last Updated: 03/13/2008 12:09:12 PM EDT

LOWELL -- High school baseball teams begin practicing for the 2008 season on Monday. His biological calendar calls Jon Sidorovich back to the Billerica diamond.

"I can't imagine a spring without it," Sidorovich said last night over the phone from Florida.

Yet after 27 seasons as Billerica High's esteemed head coach, and 38 seasons serving with the program, Sidorovich this winter announced his retirement. He moved to West Yarmouth upon retiring from teaching and had commuted to Billerica during the past three baseball seasons, sometimes staying with his father in Dracut.

"It got to be a little hard," said Sidorovich, 61. "The commute was just too far. But this has been one of the hardest decisions of my life."

Sidorovich spends his winters in Naples, Fla., where he referees high school basketball games. He drives to Fort Myers to watch the Red Sox. Last night his heart was telling him it was time to head north to Billerica to coach his Indians.

"I used to leave about now," said Sidorovich. "Now I don't have a timetable."

The man who coached Tom Glavine and Gary DiSarcina and is known famously as Coach Sid may coach again closer to his current home. Jackie, his wife of 39 years, implored her husband to continue coaching, sensing his undiminished passion for the game.

"I'm going to step away and get off the school bus for a year," said Sidorovich. "I've been riding the school bus for a long time. The best thing is to step away for a year. I don't think the game has passed me by. I still have a lot of passion for the game."

Entrusted with the difficult task of filling Coach Sid's cleats will be lifelong Billerica resident Joe Higgins.

"We had one other applicant with head-coaching experience," said Billerica athletic director Mike Granfield, "but Joe's background and knowledge of our program were big plusses that placed him at the top of the list."

Higgins, 50, played at BMHS for then-coach John Amato in the 1970s and has coached junior-varsity ball under Sidorovich as well as a stint as a varsity assistant at Concord-Carlisle.

The former Billerica Recreation Department director now works as its assistant director.

Higgins has five sons, including Kyle Higgins, who is currently a standout senior athlete at Billerica High. His youngest son Casey is a Billerica High freshman.

Sidorovich coached numerous memorable Billerica teams, most notably the 1983 Eastern Mass. championship squad led by Glavine.

Seven of his Billerica High players were drafted by major league teams. Three of those players reached the majors. Glavine is a 300-game winner bound for Cooperstown.

"I was just as happy with all the kids who never played beyond the high school level, but who always played hard to the last out," said Sidorovich.

Sidorovich is a member of the Dracut High Hall of Fame as an athlete and will certainly go into the Billerica Hall of Fame as a coach.

"His was a program you never worried about, because you knew Jon was in charge," said Granfield. "Certainly he led by example as far as integrity and his love for the game. That got across to his kids."

Marblehead's season ends in Division 3 state semifinals

Sport:   Posted: March 14th, 2008

Marblehead's season ends in Division 3 state semifinals

By Matthew Roy / For The Item


Marblehead goaltender Aaron Reny sprawls as Scituate scores a goal against the Headers on Thursday at Worcester's DCU Center. (ITEM PHOTO / REBA M. SALDANHA

WORCESTER -- The Marblehead hockey team's storybook run through the state tournament came to a halt on Thursday at the DCU Center.

The Headers, surprising champs of Division 3 North, ran into a juggernaut in the defending Division 3 state champion, Scituate.

The Sailors jumped out to a 4-1 first-period lead and put it on cruise control en route to an 8-2 win, led by a Dan Galvin hat trick, that sends them back to the TD BankNorth Garden on Sunday.

It marks the fourth straight season that Scituate has played for the Division 3 title. And this one will have even more emotion, as the Sailors lost one of their own, Tim Mahoney, in a fatal car accident midway through the season.

"We knew that we couldn't underestimate Marblehead," Scituate coach Mike Breen said. "I told the guys that we had to come out and take it to them in the first period because we couldn't let them hang around with how good their goaltender (Aaron Reny) is."

Evidently, Breen's team heeded his advice.

Simply put, Scituate was just a bit too fast and talented for the Headers. The Sailors had plenty of quality scoring chances despite taking several ill-timed penalties in the game.

And it was that fact that Marblehead coach Bob Jackson looked back at afterwards.

"Scituate is a good team, a really good team," Jackson said. "We knew they were good and they played like that."

The Sailors certainly came out playing like they wanted a return trip to Boston as Scituate put immense pressure on Reny right from the outset as the Headers (14-11-0) suffered from a case of stage fright in the early going.

And it would take only 3:39 for that pressure to pay off as Brad Stenbeck crashed the net and slammed home a Kevin Lyons rebound for a 1-0 lead.

Just under two minutes later, the Sailors doubled their margin when defenseman Pat Mahoney hit Galvin with a home-run pass at the Marblehead line. Galvin rushed in and put a backhander on Reny that broke off his pads and trickled across the goal line for 2-0 lead.

"We were a little bit awestruck in the first 4:00," Jackson said. "And unfortunately the young guys were the culprits for a couple of goals."

The Headers, meanwhile, could get nothing started offensively against Scituate's Jamie Murray. Marblehead would go nearly half the period before getting its first shot on goal.

Just short of the 8:00 mark, Galvin was in the right place at the right time when the Headers turned the puck over in the defensive zone. Galvin scooped up the loose puck in the high slot and beat Reny clean on a backhander on a partial breakaway.

Just 23 seconds later, things got even worse for the Headers when Mac Luciani took the puck in the Scituate end and bolted nearly the length of the ice before unleashing a rocket from the top of the right circle that sailed over a frustrated Reny's shoulder for a 4-0 lead jut 8:17 in.

Jackson went to his bench, replacing Reny with backup goalie Tony Cuzner and the move seemed to work as the Sailors took back-to-back penalties 28 seconds apart to give the Headers a 1:02 5-on-3 advantage.

Marblehead made Scituate pay for the mistakes when sophomore Anders Gundersen picked up a loose puck at the side of the net and shoveled it into a wide-open net, assisted by Andrew Bates and Mike Cohn, at 9:51.

On the goal, Scituate's Mahoney was called for cross-checking, giving Marblehead even more 5-on-3 time. But in a sign of things to come, the Headers couldn't convert on their golden chance and the Sailors headed into the locker room with their 4-1 lead.

Despite his team playing a dominant first period, Breen knew that the lead probably wasn't big enough.

"I didn't feel comfortable at all with that margin," Breen said.

In the second, the Headers would be given a number of opportunities to make a game of this one as Breen's uneasiness proved to be right on the money.

For the third time in the contest, the Headers got a 5-on-3 power play when Mahoney and Galvin were sent to the box 34 seconds apart early in the second.

Unlike its previous 2-man chance, Marblehead struck gold.

Bates blasted up the right wing for a shot that was saved by Murray. Gundersen picked up the rebound in the left corner and fed Ben Koopman at the left point for a shot that sailed inside the right post to make it 4-2 at 4:53.

"We talked in the locker room about coming out and scoring the next goal," Jackson said. "Then we thought we'd have a chance."

The Headers then got a big save from Cuzner minutes later, stopping Mike Kouloupolus on a breakaway to keep the momentum.

But that precious momentum disappeared at 6:52 when Eric Fader, back after missing two games with an injured elbow, was tagged for cross-checking.

Less than a minute later, Luciani effectively ended any hopes of a Marblehead comeback when his wrist shot from the left point found its way through traffic and past Cuzner to make it 5-2 at 7:26.

"(Luciani) is the best player we've seen all season," Jackson said.

Pat Duggan closed the period in style for Scituate when he won a battle for a loose puck in the Marblehead zone and quickly beat Cuzner with a wrist shot at 13:06.

Reny returned to the net in the third and was rudely greeted by Duggan, who fired home his own rebound at 3:46 to make it 7-2, Scituate. Galvin completed his hat trick late in the third to send the Sailors off in style.

"(Scituate) is on a mission," Jackson said. "They had a teammate die halfway through the season, and they've been (in the state final) four times now."

Melanson appreciative of all the support he received following heart attack

Sport:   Posted: March 14th, 2008

Melanson appreciative of all the support he received following heart attack

By Joyce Erekson / The Daily Item


Al Melanson

LYNN -- The City of Lynn has its detractors, but Al Melanson isn't one of them.

"You can say anything you want about this city, but the reality is it's the people in the city who make it the great city it is," Melanson said. "When something happens, there are no boundaries. There's no East Lynn. No West Lynn. Just people who care."

It was nearly five weeks ago that the Lynn Jets hockey coach suffered a near-fatal heart attack while snowmobiling on Lake Sokokis in Limerick, Maine. Although he still has a few mountains to climb in terms of his recovery, the biggest being the need for a heart transplant, he's making progress thanks to a heart pump that circulates blood to the left side of his heart.

"I have three pounds of titanium in my chest," Melanson said. "From what I understand, there are only 4,000 of these in the world. I was fortunate to be able to receive one and to have the people who had the expertise to put it in and get it to work."

Melanson is still at Maine Medical Center in Portland, the hospital he was taken to following the heart attack, but in a telephone interview he said he's hoping to return to Massachusetts to continue his rehabilitation at Youville Hospital and Rehabilitation Center in Cambridge, possibly in a week or so if all goes well.

"I can't move from here until the doctors are almost guaranteed there's no infection," Melanson said. "I also need to build more strength up."

It's tough to feel lucky when something like this happens, but Melanson knows just how close he came.

"They told Nancy (his wife) on a couple of different occasion that I had no right to be here. They didn't think I would pull through," Melanson said.

Nancy Melanson, a teacher at Lynn Woods School, was snowmobiling with her husband and 12-year-old granddaughter, Ashley, when he was stricken. She was having trouble with her snowmobile when it started.

Melanson said he was walking back toward his wife's snowmobile when he started having problems.

"I knew something was not right and it wasn't with the snowmobile," he said.

Two snowmobilers came along and one had a two-seater. Melanson, who was still able to talk at the time, got on, and they headed toward the closest house. Mrs. Melanson stayed behind with her granddaughter and her snowmobile, which was on fire by this point.

Mrs. Melanson said one of the men who came to her husband's aid turned out to be a firefighter who was able to summon emergency help even though most people weren't able to get a cell phone signal.

Melanson said the ambulance picked up an emergency medical technician in Waterboro, which turned out to be a good move. Melanson said he "flat-lined" on the 40-minute ride to Maine Medical Center. A team of surgeons was waiting for him when he got there. They immediately put in a stent and a heart pump.

Melanson said the support he and his family (he also has three adult children, Paul, A.J., and Lauren) have received has been unbelievable, and he wanted to thank everyone.

"I've had such an outpouring of well wishes from everybody. I've received hundreds of cards and hundreds of emails from all over the city. It's really been very touching," he said.

Mrs. Melanson said she's been living in a hotel near the hospital since this happened, but she does come back to Lynn on Fridays to take care of some things. On one of those return trips, she stopped by Lynn Woods School and was greeted by a sea of hugs from her fourth-grade class and the fifth-graders, who have her for math.

Mrs. Melanson said the Lynn Jets hockey team also blew up a team picture, which had been taken by the Melansons' daughter, Lauren, earlier in the season. It was poster-size, and in addition to being signed by all the players, it read, "We're the Lynn Jets, no one could be prouder and if you can't hear us, coach, we'll yell a little louder."

Melanson had a message for his hockey players.

"Tell them to keep the faith and tell them I still need their support. Together we'll get out of it," he said.

Westfield edges Gardner

Sport:   Posted: March 14th, 2008

Westfield edges Gardner
Friday, March 14, 2008

WORCESTER - Another tournament game, another unsung hero stepping up to the forefront for Westfield High School's hockey team.

This time it was Dan Ross, who scored two goals and set up the game-winner by Sean Frere, as Westfield edged Gardner, 3-2 last night in the state Division III semifinals at the DCU Center.

Westfield (15-5-2) advances to Sunday's championship game at the TD BankNorth Garden at 12:30 p.m. against Scituate. In the other semifinal, Scituate beat Marblehead, 8-2.

This was the second straight season Westfield spoiled Gardner's Garden party. The Bombers also eliminated the Wildcats (18-2-4) last season and now the Bombers have a chance to claim state supremacy.

Just like the Western Massachusetts final when Ryan Leonard responded with the biggest game of his career by scoring two goals, Ross came up big for the Bombers, who rallied from a 2-0 deficit. Ross had five goals and three assists during the regular season.

Another factor was penalty killing. Corey Bellamy may not have produced a point in the game, but he came up huge during the third period when the Bombers foiled four Wildcat power plays.

Junior goalie Alex Wiggs shook over two early goals by Gardner and blanked the Wildcats over the final 35 minutes, 48 seconds.

Frere, who had 13 goals and 14 assists during the regular season, scored the lone goal of the second period to provide Westfield with a 3-2 lead at 7:52. Ross delivered a lead pass to Frere, who undressed a Gardner defender with a slick move and beat Mike Colcord on a breakaway.

Westfield had to play catch-up after it fell behind, 2-0 in the first period. Westfield was guilty of rushing its shots and placing many of them wide of the net.

Gardner was able to take advantage by going into its transition game after gaining control of the puck. The Wildcats used their speed to create scoring bids and cashed in on goals by O'Reilly and Johnson to move to a two-goal advantage.

But the Bombers bounced back. Ross scored twice in a span of 3:36 to create a 2-2 tie.

Ross evened the score at two apiece with 1:51 remaining in the first period. After Colcord stopped the initial bid by Drew Massai, Ross collected the rebound and scored.

Ross got Westfield on the board at 10:53 with an assist from Massai. He used a Gardner defender as a screen and drove a 15-foot slapper from a sharp angle past Colcord to cut the Wildcats' lead to 2-1.

A pretty goal by Johnson provided Gardner with a 2-0 lead. Johnson raced nearly the length of the ice after a Westfield shot went wide and beat Wiggs with a high shot over the goalie's right shoulder at 9:12.

Gardner opened the scoring at 4:28. O'Reilly was credited with an unassisted goal.

Wiggs made a save and tried to corral the rebound. But he failed to cover the puck and Johnson was able to tap it in for the game's first goal that gave Gardner a 1-0 lead.

ICE CHIPS: The game started 21 minutes late due to the length of the first game ... Lindsey Bellamy sang the national anthem ... Former Springfield Indians player Marcel Frere was in attendance to watch his son, Sean, play for Westfield ... The Bomber boosters gave their team a standing ovation when it took the ice for pre-game warm-ups ... Westfield survived a first period Gardner power play after Matt Gagnon was called for tripping ... Gardner negated both Bomber power plays in the second period.

Seniors lead Northampton

Sport:   Posted: March 14th, 2008

Seniors lead Northampton
Friday, March 14, 2008

NORTHAMPTON - Senior captains Brighid Courtney, Jamie Messer and Iris Santoni have helped lead the Northampton High School girls basketball team to the brink of the Division I state title.

Leadership and excellence, whether it's on or off the court, is common ground for the four-year varsity trio.

"They're very good students," said Northampton coach Tom Parent, whose 23-2 team defeated Westboro in a state semifinal Wednesday night at the Mullins Center at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. "They're smart basketball players, like they are in the classroom."

Next up for the Blue Devils is a shot at Andover (23-3) in the state final tomorrow at DCU Center in Worcester.

All three student-athletes take advance placement classes, and were accepted via early decision to Division III colleges, where they plan to play basketball.

"They have their priorities really set," Parent said. "They study. They're ready for school. They're ready for practice. They come and work hard for two hours or so, and they have other things in their lives, too.

"They're the ones who have the pasta parties and organize the breakfasts on weekend games. They're really the leaders. It's their team."

Courtney will attend Brandeis University in Waltham, Messer will go to Rollins College in Winter Park, Fla., and Santoni to St. Lawrence University in Canton, N.Y.

The trio led the way to the Western Massachusetts Division I championship last Saturday with a 60-49 victory over three-time defending champion Central of Springfield. The senior captains helped Northampton to its first sectional title since 1992.

Messer gave an inspiring performance, a la "Willis Reed," Parent said. Messer collided with an opponent late in the first quarter after diving for a loose ball, re-injuring her back and requiring medical attention.

"I thought she was done," Parent admitted.

Messer told Parent at halftime that she wanted to play, but "when we left the locker room to play, I figured we were going without her."

One minute into the third quarter, Parent was told by the school trainer that Messer's back was loose.

"He said if we're going to use her, we've got to put her in right now," Parent said.

Messer played well the rest of the way, with the guard scoring six of her 11 points in the second half.

"Seeing the pain she was in at halftime and seeing what she did in the second half was amazing," Parent said.

Courtney, meanwhile, had one of the best games of her career, holding Central center and counterpart Esther Wallace scoreless.

"The last three weeks she's really stepped up her game," Parent said. "She probably played her best physical game Saturday against Esther. She kept Esther off the boards."

Courtney finished with nine rebounds and 12 points. She also clogged the middle when Central's athletic guards tried to drive.

"That was probably the key to the whole ball game," Parent said. "Esther's a big kid. If she gets her 10 or 12 (points), who knows what happens."

Santoni had another unsung showing, scoring 12 points and doing a good job against Central's quick guards.

"Friends of mine say after you watch Iris play, she becomes you're favorite player after a while," Parent said. "She's a hard worker. She's a little shorter than most of the other players, but she's a real athletic kid and has become an excellent shooter and tough defender."

Long Reach, Casco Bay in 'Y' New Englands

Sport:   Posted: March 14th, 2008

Long Reach, Casco Bay in 'Y' New Englands
The National YMCA Championships are set to be held April 1-4 in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.

The Long Reach Swim Club of the Bath Area Family YMCA and the Casco Bay YMCA Stripers of Freeport are still swimming competitively.

The YMCA New England Championships are scheduled to be held Friday through Sunday at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass.

New England female entries from LRSC include Rebecca Bonnett, (15-18 200 IM, 100 butterfly, 100 backstroke), Emily Buczkowski (13-14 100 free, 50 free, 100 back), Emilie Burrill (9-10 100 breaststroke, 200 medley relay, 100 IM, 50 breaststroke, 200 free relay), Rachel Clegg (200 IM, 200 free, 100 breaststroke), Caitlin Foster (13-14 200 IM, 200 free, 500 free), Petra Janney (13-14 100 fly, 100 back, 500 free), Sonia Lin, (9-10 100 breaststroke, 200 medley relay, 50 back, 50 breaststroke, 200 free relay), Tessa Lindsley (11-12 50 back, 50 free), Hope Logan (11-12 50 fly, 100 fly, 200 IM), Annie Metcalf (15-18 50 free, 100 back, 500 free), Bronwyn Morissette (9-10 200 medley relay, 200 free relay), Kara Mullin (11-12 50 back, 200 IM, 50 free), Celia Ouellette (11-12 50 back, 50 breaststroke, 50 free), Abby Parker (13-14 50 free), Mallory Plummer (15-18 50 free, 100 breaststroke), Abbey Ridge (15-18 50 free, 200 free, 100 breaststroke), Jessica Russell, (11-12 100 free, 200 IM, 100 back), Lynsie Russell (9-10 50 fly, 200 medley relay, 50 back, 200 free), Audrey Thames (11-12 100 breaststroke, 100 free, 50 breaststroke), Caitlin Tycz (8-and-under 25 fly, 25 back, 25 free), Rachel Vanhooijdonk (13-14 100 back) and Kelsey White (13-14 100 butterfly).

Long Reach boys who are New England-bound include Tucker Banger (9-10 50 fly, 200 medley relay, 50 back, 200 free relay, 50 free), Timothy Blair (15-18 100 free, 50 free, 100 back), Peter Burtt (15-18 500 free), Edward Capoldo (8-and-under 25 fly, 100 IM, 25 free), Maxwell Gurney (8-and-under 25 back, 50 free, 25 free), Will Hadden (11-12 50 fly, 100 free, 50 free), Phillip Jacques, (15-18 100 free, 100 fly, 100 back), Niall Janney (15-18 200 IM, 100 fly, 100 back), Robbie Johnson (13-14 100 fly, 100 back, 500 free), Nathan Leonard (13-14 100 free, 50 free, 200 free), Cameron Lindsley (15-18 200 IM, 50 free, 500 free), Spencer Lindsley (9-10 200 medley relay, 50 back, 200 free relay, 50 free), Damon McDorr (15-18 50 free, 100 fly), Ian Nichols (15-18 100 free, 50 free, 100 breaststroke), Nate Samson, (9-10 200 medley relay, 100 free, 100 IM, 200 free relay, 50 free), Kevin Tolan (9-10 200 medley relay, 50 breaststroke, 200 free relay) and James Wells, (15-19 200 IM, 100 fly, 100 back).

Long Reach coach Jay Morissette said that most of the hard work and strategy has been done.

"Most swimmers have already tapered," said Morissette. "James Wells and Matt Johnson are the only swimmers not tapered yet. James will taper for nationals as will Matt. New Englands will still count as a nationals qualifying meet."

Casco Bay has entrants
Casco Bay female entrants include Abby Belisle Haley (11-12 50 and 100 fly), Kaylon Brown (15-18 100 breaststroke), Amelia Deady (11-12 100 fly, 200 free, 50 free), Andrea Goodrich (15-18 50 free, 100 breaststroke), Eliza Lunt (8-and-under 25 fly, 25 back) and Kayte Demont (15-18 100 back, qualified but is not attending).

Casco Bay boys headed to Harvard include Jordan Lajoie (15-18 100 breaststroke), Travis Libsack (11-12 50 back, 200 free, 100 back) and Pat McCann (15-18 200 free, 100 breast).

Evan Coleman qualified in every 11-12 boys event except for the 50 breaststroke and is scheduled to swim the 50 fly, 50 back and 100 back, while Matt Libby qualified in every 15-18 boys event but the 100 breaststroke and will be swimming the 100 free, 100 fly and 100 back.

Also expected to compete is Lily Wade of Lisbon Falls and Twin Cities YMCA (Lewiston/Auburn) in the 12-and-under 200 medley relay and the 200 freestyle relay.

Nationals on tap
The National YMCA Championships are set to be held April 1-4 in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.

YMCA National qualifiers from LRSC include the girls 400 medley relay of Metcalf, Ridge, Bonnett and Buczkowski. Buczkowski is also slated for the 50 free.

LRSC boys qualifying include Wells (50-100 free, 100-200 back, relays), Janney (100-200 fly, 200-400 IM, relays), Nichols (100 breaststroke, 50 free, relays), Matt Johnson (1,000 free), Jacques (200 IM, 200 breaststroke, 400 IM, 200 backstroke) and Jack Burnham (50 free, relays).

Libby has also qualified for Nationals from Casco Bay.

Monmouth's Woodman success on, off court

Sport: Basketball (girls)  Posted: March 14th, 2008

Monmouth's Woodman success on, off court

File photo
File photo
MUSTANG DRIVE: Monmouth senior guard Katie Woodman, left, drives past Wayneflete junior guard Nina Russem during Western Maine Class C semifinal game on Thursday at the Augusta Civic Center. Monmouth won 46-41.

There are some pretty impressive statistics being talked about in conjunction with this weekend's Maine McDonald's High School Senior All-Star basketball games. But amid all the points, rebounds, steals and assists, here's one you probably won't hear: 3.93.

That's the grade point average for Monmouth Academy senior Katie Woodman, a guard who helped the Mustangs reach the Western Maine Class C championship game.

Woodman is not among the 82 girls and boys participating in the games this Saturday. But she is among the 20 members of the state's all-academic team who will be honored tonight. She is a three-sport athlete who learned to integrate sports and studies into her life and emerged as the school's No. 1 student.

"School obviously comes first, but I think sports is a great outlet," said Woodman, who also plays soccer and softball. "It's just a matter of coming home and getting my homework done."

Woodman is nearly as good an athlete as she is a student. This year, she shared the point guard duties with fellow senior Jill Armstrong and was instrumental in the team's 18-3 record.

"Her approach to the game is the same as it is for her as a student," Monmouth coach Rick Amero said. "She's always asking questions. She's constantly thinking out on the floor."

Woodman's basketball stats are relatively modest -- 6.0 points and 2.5 assists a game -- but only begin to describe her value to the team. She routinely was asked to defend the other team's top guard, and she rarely came off the court.

"She played 32 minutes a night for us," Amero said. "She's played every position. When we had some injuries she stepped into the point guard position."

Woodman worked on her outside shot and it paid off this season, particularly when teams doubled their defenses against high-scoring Jenn Lola. When that happened in a preliminary-round tournament game against Traip Academy this season, Woodman scored a team-high 17 points.

"When you need her to do more, she steps in," Amero said.

Woodman's versatility extends to others sports as well. An all-conference midfielder for the soccer team, she stepped in and played goalie last season when one of her teammates preferred playing in the field instead of goal. She's also thinking of trying out for catcher this spring -- she's the regular center fielder -- because of a team need.

Woodman will attend Brown University next year and plans to study biology. She doubts she'll play any organized sports, although she considered soccer.

"Oh my goodness," she said of the prospect of no more organized athletics. "I'm already thinking about what I'm going to do this summer.

"I'm still going to stay in shape. That's one of my goals throughout adult life."

Woodman said self-discipline is the primary correlation between academic and athletic success. As far as advice for athletes goes, Woodman said, "Don't get caught up in the social pressure (to drink and party). Just stay away from that. And you've got to make sure you're doing well in school."

Gary Hawkins -- 621-5638


Maine athletes bound for meets

Sport:   Posted: March 14th, 2008

Maine athletes bound for meets
David Slovenski of Brunswick will head Maine competitors in Maryland, New York or both.
By RACHEL LENZI, Staff Writer March 14, 2008

David Slovenski

David Slovenski thought he could take his final semester of high school in stride, with his focus on two things – pole vaulting and generally enjoying his final weeks at Brunswick High.

Instead, this week mirrors Slovenski's hectic second-semester schedule. Band on Tuesday, a math meet on Wednesday and a National Honor Society induction on Thursday.

Today, Slovenski and his family will fly to Maryland. He will compete Saturday in the pole vault at the Nike indoor nationals in Landover, Md., then drive to New York that night – with a stop to visit his older brother, Steven, at Princeton – to compete in the national high school indoor championships.

Slovenski is one of the 23 Maine athletes to compete in the two events.

"I've actually been anticipating this," said Slovenski, who enters both meets with a New England-best qualifying height of 16 feet, 2 1/2 inches.

"I've done a couple of two-meet weekends as practice, combining regular-season meets (Fridays) with the Dartmouth Relays and at Boston University (Saturdays).

"The travel can affect you, but part of the reason we did those double meets was to see what it would do to me. But neither day affected me."

Dan Smith of Thornton Academy plans to take a similar route, just in a different order of competition.

Smith and his family will drive to New York, where he will compete Saturday in the boys' shot put, then drive to Landover, where Smith will compete the next day at the Nike meet.

Two years ago, Smith made the trip to Landover with his older sister, Brynn, a former Thornton standout in the shot who now competes at Brown University.

"That year, (Brynn) and Becky O'Brien were the best in Maine," said Smith, a junior who won the Class A title.

"We go down there and they're not even close. It gives you the perspective of where Maine stands. But it's cool to be with those guys, competing. It's pretty incredible. The rest of the country excels. To be seen with them, that means you're in that group."

O'Brien, a Greely senior who will compete at North Carolina next year, is one of the nation's top high school shot putters and is one of the three Maine girls who will be in the shot put at the Nike meet.

The others will be Bethany Karter-O'Brien of Waterville and Anna Niedbala of Erskine Academy in South China.

Karter-O'Brien also will compete in the girls' weight throw.

Slovenski, who has been accepted to Stanford and has applied to Princeton, believes the weekend meets are two of the nation's most prestigious high school track events.

"The Penn Relays have a bigger prestige, but these are only high school meets so they focus on that," said Slovenski, who was third at the 2007 New York meet.

"They're pretty much the top meets. It's going to be pretty good (competition). There's a 17-foot (vaulter) at the New York meet, and a couple other 16-footers at Nike."

At the Nike, Jesse Labreck of Messalonskee will compete in the girls' pentathlon – the 55 hurdles, high jump, shot put, long jump and 800.

Sara Evans and Kelly Baickle of Lisbon, Christine Bernier of Edward Little, Emily Reed of Mt. Blue in Farmington and Ashley Cox of Bonny Eagle will compete in the girls' mile racewalk at both meets.

Ethan Shaw of Falmouth and Riley Masters of Bangor will compete in the boys' mile, and Tyler Campbell of Lisbon and Riley Forgues of Boothbay Region will compete in the boys' mile racewalk.

At the New York meet, Kris Floridino of Falmouth will join Smith in the boys' shot put, Brian Seitz of Falmouth will compete in the boys' 400, Brad Nakanishi of Scarborough will compete in the boys' pole vault and Nate Hathaway of Scarborough will be in the boys' mile.

In the girls' competition, Clare Franco of Brunswick will be in the 400 and Kristin Slotnick of Brunswick in the 200, Hillary Cederna of Greely will compete in the long jump and Bethany Dumas of Cony of Augusta in the pole vault.

Staff Writer Rachel Lenzi can be reached at 791-6415 or at:


COLUMN: Accomplishments go down fighting

Sport: Hockey (boys)  Posted: March 14th, 2008

COLUMN: Accomplishments go down fighting
Ejections, fights and filled penalty boxes is not the image high school hockey wants.

STEVE SOLLOWAY March 14, 2008

The lasting impression of Saturday night's Class A championship hockey game could have been Biddeford High's players and coaches milling together on the ice, laughing and hugging and tumbling on top of each other after a 4-1 victory. For the second straight year they had beaten Lewiston, the school synonymous with championship hockey.

Or maybe it was the sight minutes before of both penalty boxes filled with teenaged players who forgot what they had been taught and coached. One player from each school was ejected. Decisions that took a second or two to make will ripple out for much longer.

"We had players making great efforts, a crowd of 4,000 watching a good game and it's the one mistake that becomes the focus," said Dennis Walton, Biddeford's athletic director.

"I tell our athletes, you have complete control to influence the reputation of a school and a community. Think before you act."

In Lewiston, veteran coach Norm Gagne has used different words, but the message is the same. Hockey is an emotional game, but if you can't channel the anger or the frustration, you lose.

This is the Sports Done Right era. The bad behavior police are everywhere. Most school administrators and many coaches are proactive, asking athletes to understand the consequences. Most do, most of the time.

A year or two ago, there was concern within the Maine Principals' Association that one-game suspensions attached to ejections in any sport were meaningless if the penalty came in the last game of the season. Thursday, MPA Executive Director Dick Durost said what happened in Lewiston Saturday night was not a red flag.

One incident is one too many, he said. The brawl at the Lewiston-Lawrence basketball game this winter wasn't a signal that athletes and fans are out of control. It did get everyone's attention and there's nothing wrong with that.

That Lewiston was involved in both incidents is more likely a symptom of a small city going through tough times rather than leadership at the high school.

Saturday night, the fight on the ice didn't spill over into the stands. Arena security and MPA staff mingled with the standing-room-only crowd.

Although near the end of the game, when the bulk of the penalties were handed out, large sections of seats on the Lewiston side were already empty. That was a sad sight, considering the pride the city has always had in its hockey teams.

Another whistle stopping play, another slow skate to the penalty box. On the ice, those Lewiston High players left short-handed leaned on their hockey sticks or bent over, hands braced on knees.

For two periods and part of the third, it had been a close game. By this point it didn't seem to matter that Biddeford was also giving up penalties. The Tigers had the lead and they weren't letting Lewiston back into the game.

It's dangerous to interpret body language. Were the Blue Devils catching their breath before Biddeford's power play? Maybe they were asking themselves the obvious question: Why? There are good penalties and bad penalties, but there isn't a more selfish act than taking a dumb penalty and leaving your teammates down a player when you're behind.

Gagne says his team has cut its penalty minutes in half since he took over the team two years ago. He preaches mental discipline while understanding he's not programming robots but trying to reach 16- and 17-year-old kids.

Neither is it smart to look for a little revenge when the championship is within your grasp. What, a little trash from the game or Internet message boards stuck in your ear? Walton is aware of the lies and distortions in cyberspace, where there are few rules. Ignore them, he tells his athletes.

What wasn't ignored, at either Lewiston or Biddeford high schools, was what happened in the last two minutes of a championship game. The ejected players didn't walk away from their school administrators. At Biddeford, Walton cited privacy and confidentially rules in not discussing it further.

Like any teacher, he expects a lesson learned and maybe remembered.

Staff Writer Steve Solloway can be contacted at 791-6412 or at:


Morse High standout ready for Miss Basketball verdict

Sport: Basketball (girls)  Posted: March 14th, 2008

Morse High standout ready for Miss Basketball verdict
Jill Henrikson, who had a standout career, is one of the three finalists, with the winner due tonight.
By MIKE LOWE, Staff Writer March 14, 2008

Jill Henrikson

For four winters, Jill Henrikson has been one of the better girls' basketball players in the state.

Tonight she'll find out if she's considered the best senior.

Henrikson, a 5-foot-9 guard, is one of the three finalists for the Miss Maine Basketball Award that will be presented in a ceremony at Husson College's Newman Gymnasium in Bangor.

She is joined as a finalist by Rachael Mack of Cony in Augusta and Aarika Ritchie of Lee Academy.

The finalists for the Mr. Maine Basketball Award are Sam Leclerc of Winthrop, Ryan Martin of Maranacook in Readfield and Jon McAllian of Bangor.

"Everyone that is a finalist is a great player," said Henrikson, who helped Morse to a 16-4 record and a spot in the Eastern Class A semifinals. "All the girls deserve it."

Henrikson, who was also named to the academic all-state team, doesn't like to talk about herself, but admits that being a finalist is exciting.

Winning the award would not only be a tribute to Henrikson, she said, but to everyone who ever has supported her.

"It would mean a lot to me, more as representing Morse and the city of Bath because everyone really supported (the team)," she said. "The award would be a way to thank the community for supporting me."

As modest as Henrikson is, her coach, Tom Morong, knew how valuable she was to the Shipbuilders' success.

"Sometimes when you get a player of her caliber, who has a great sophomore year, they sometimes tend to plateau," he said. "Not Jill. She actually got better this year. She was very improved defensively.

"And other teams knew they had to stop her. She got double-teamed, saw a box-and-one all the time. Everyone put their best defensive player on her. Still, all her stats went up, scoring, rebounding. Her total game was better."

Henrikson averaged 18.7 points per game, along with 5.2 rebounds and 3.3 assists. She hit 36 3-pointers and always seemed to come up with the big shot. She scored 32 points in the quarterfinals, including the winning three-point play with 3.3 seconds left in a 49-46 victory against Skowhegan.

And she did this, said Morong, with a partially torn labrum in her right shoulder. "There were times she had to pass sidearm," said Morong, "because it hurt to throw overhand."

Henrikson, 17, said the injury was the result of playing basketball countless hours over the years.

Henrikson finished her career with 1,439 points, averaging 19.2 points and 6.7 rebounds per game. Next fall she'll attend Bowdoin College.

"We had a pretty amazing season," she said. "Even though we didn't make it as far as we wanted to as a team, everything about this season was great."

Staff Writer Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or at:

Win sends Scituate to state title game

Sport:   Posted: March 13th, 2008

Win sends Scituate to state title game
By Tim Coughlin
The Patriot Ledger
Posted Mar 13, 2008 @ 06:25 PM
Last update Mar 13, 2008 @ 11:17 PM

Jeff Loughlin


The Scituate High School boys hockey team took its Div. 3 state semifinal game with Marblehead by the throat early and finished with an 8-2 victory behind confident, aggressive play despite four penalties in each of the first two periods at the DCU Center in Worcester.

The defending champion Sailors (13-6-5) seized control early, taking a 4-0 lead just 7:17 into the game. Danny Galvin scored twice in the frame and finished with a hat trick, while fellow seniors Mac Luciani and Pat Duggan scored two goals apiece.

"I told them 'Don't go out tentative in that first period, because they might,'" Scituate coach Mike Breen said. "I think that was the key.

"I told them we've got to come out and take it to them in that first period. They've beaten every other team who's tried to pull it together in the third, because by then it's too late."

Scituate will have a chance to take home two state titles this season. The hockey team will now play to defend its title at the TD Banknorth Garden on Sunday against Westfield, while the boys basketball team plays in its Div. 3 state final Saturday at the DCU Center.

Brad Stenbeck scored 3:39 into the game, then Galvin caught fire, scoring two goals in a 2:29 span starting less than two minutes later for a 3-0 lead with 7:04 to go. Just 21 seconds after the ensuing faceoff, Ryan Woodford pushed the puck over to defenseman Mac Luciani, who blazed toward the net and scored the Sailors' fourth goal.

"It was great," Galvin said. "Even to get the first goal is big."

 Galvin's two goals in particular took skill to deke the goalie, bring the puck back to the other side of his body and flip it in. Marblehead goalie Aaron Reny had been solid this year with a 2.19 goals-against average, but seemed to lose confidence with the early flurry.

 The Sailors took two penalties soon after they captured the big lead, and the Headers capitalized on Anders Gunderson's goal on a well-placed shot up close through a crowd in front of the net with 5:09 remaining in the period. Another Scituate penalty began second 5-on-3 for Marblehead, but the Sailors killed it effectively with two good clears. Scituate finished with the edge in shots on goal in the period, 12-5, and the game, 35-16.

The Headers (14-11-0) scored another goal with the two-man advantage with 10:07 left in the second to cut it to 4-2, but Scituate didn't let the momentum shift last for long. Luciani made it 5-2 on a shot from the point during a power play with 7:34 to go in the middle period. Fellow senior Pat Duggan scored to make it 6-2, slicing into the slot unassisted with 1:54 to go.

"The opportunities came; we just got more shots and more rebounds," Galvin said.

The Sailors took four minor penalties in each of the first two periods. Jamie Pratt warned after each of the Sailors past two games that his team needs to cut down on the penalties, but the Sailors managed to more than get away with it.

Still, Breen said he "didn't feel comfortable at all with a team like that out there. I felt very uncomfortable.

"I know a team like that can come back at any time, but we just kept plugging away."

Duggan scored his second goal 3:46 into the third, and Galvin followed after a failed Sailors power play with a rebound in the slot past a sprawled-out Reny to give him a hat trick and make it a staggering 8-2 lead with 8:23 left in the game.

Breen said the team figured they might as well try to score a ninth goal in memory of former sophomore defenseman Tim Mahoney, who wore the number before he died in a Cohasset car accident in early February. Instead, they can consider he scored it from above.

The team has rallied around the cause of playing for Mahoney, whose brother Pat is a senior defenseman and notched three assists on the game, and has played more confident with every game.

"Confident, but definitely not cocky," Galvin stressed regarding the team's psyche heading into their game Sunday. "We still have to keep it simple."

Fairhaven's Baldwin nets Cowens Award

Sport:   Posted: March 13th, 2008

Fairhaven's Baldwin nets Cowens Award
By Buddy Thomas
Standard-Times senior sports writer
March 13, 2008 6:00 AM

Fairhaven's Erin Baldwin and Taunton's Apollo Wade pose with there Dave Cowen's Awards last night at GNB Voc-Tech.ANDREW T. GALLAGHER/Standard-Times Special

Erin Baldwin's brilliant high school basketball career ended on a happy note after all.

One week after being held to just five points in her final game for Fairhaven High School, Baldwin found herself back on center stage last night when the school's all-time leading scorer was named the female recipient of the Dave Cowens Achievement Award.
"I was surprised to even be nominated for it. To actually win it is something I would have never imagined," Baldwin said while being congratulated by family and friends following the awards ceremony at GNB Regional Voc-Tech High School.

The award is presented annually to the area's top male and female basketball players by a majority vote from the representatives of the participating schools.

Baldwin becomes the second female winner from Fairhaven in the 19-year history of the prestigious award. Jillian Cunha shared the 1996 award with Karen Walsh of Old Colony and Janelle Ferguson of New Bedford.

Apollo Wade of Taunton was the boys' recipient, becoming the school's first boys' winner and second Tiger to hoist the trophy. Catie Furtado was named the girls winner in 2002.

For Baldwin, winning the award couldn't have come at a better time.

In addition to having her high school playing career end on a negative note, the Fairhaven star is facing ankle surgery, which could keep her inactive for up to five months.

"I broke my ankle in the seventh grade, and it really hasn't been right since," she said.

The 5-foot-8 shooting guard could have had surgery this past season but opted to play with pain through her senior year.

"There was no way I was going to risk my final year at Fairhaven," she said.

A four-year starter, Baldwin finished her career with more than 1,400 points and 180 3-point field goals, averaging more than 17 points, eight rebounds, four assists and two steals per game over her career. Those gaudy numbers were enough to earn Baldwin a scholarship to the University of Southern New Hampshire.

"Right now, I'm just going to cherish this award," she said. "I was very aware of it because my grandfather (former radio and sports personalty Russ Baldwin) was involved with the presentation of the award and my father (Fairhaven Superintendent of Schools, Robert Baldwin) used to coach the Fairhaven boys team and talked about it all the time. But no way did I ever dream I'd be here as a nominee or win it one day."

Baldwin was a four-year starter at Fairhaven, earning South Coast Conference all-star honors in all four seasons.

"We have pictures of her in her (Michael) Jordan uniform when she was very young, so it was obvious to us she enjoyed the game," her father said. "We didn't know she'd evolve into the player she's become, but she sure worked hard at getting better."

After accepting the trophy, Baldwin stood before the microphone and thanked everyone from her family to teammates, ending her brief speech with the words "I love you guys," apparently directed to long-time teammates Maggie Rossi and Kaleigh Charette who were seated in the back of the auditorium.

"It's been great playing with those guys and all the rest of my teammates. I'm really going to miss them next year," she said.

Wade was a three-year starter for Taunton, leading the Tigers into the postseason tournament all three years. Averaging more than 15 points a game, the 5-10 senior was asked to play a variety of positions during his career, spending most of his final year at point guard. In addition to his prowess as an offensive star, Wade was a defensive stopper assigned to guard the opposition's top backcourt scoring threat.

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