March 20, 2017
ITEM PHOTO BY KATIE MORRISON
St. Mary’s hockey coach Mark Lee and the Spartans won the Division 1 state championship on Sunday at TD Garden.
By STEVE KRAUSE
Idle chatter as the letdown begins …
— There’s always a bit of a comedown after the winter tournament season ends.
Whether it’s the fact that the action takes place in enclosed buildings where sound doesn’t travel as far and the action is right on top of you, or the sports are generally faster and movements quicker, it just seems more thrilling, and more invigorating, when you’ve just witnessed a good basketball or hockey game.
This winter, we produced team state champions in swimming (St. John’s Prep) and boys hockey (St. Mary’s) and had a state finalist in boys basketball (also St. Mary’s).
In addition, we had sectional finalists in girls and boys basketball (Bishop Fenwick and Lynn Classical respectively).
Easily, the most heartwarming story of the winter was St. Mary’s winning the state Division 1 hockey title. Let’s dispense with all the rancor of Catholic vs. Public schools (and no one did that better than Arlington High, which defeated Malden Catholic and then Central Catholic to win the Division 1A title) and just focus on the people involved. This group of high school boys came so close to a state title last year only to lose in double overtime. These kids spent the entire off-season and then regular season with only one thing in mind — to get back to the Garden and try again.
Lots of teams have this goal. Few accomplish it. These guys did, and for that, they deserve all kinds of credit.
The other aspect of this is that coach Mark Lee has brought the program back from near oblivion to being one of the state’s elite. After 31 years of trying, no one deserved the payoff more than Lee.
The last time a Lynn boys hockey team won a state title, prior to Sunday, was 1957, when English achieved the second part of a back-to-back. Among the luminaries on those teams were Lorne “Tippy” Johnson, who is among the top 5 athletes to ever play sports in Lynn; Ernie Carpenter; and former English principal Andy Fila, who was a goalie.
— The Classical boys basketball team played a whale of game against Brighton in the North final, even if the Rams ended up on the wrong end of the score. And as it turns out, Classical gave the Bengals a better game than either of the teams Brighton played next. The Bengals went onto crush both Whitman-Hanson at TD Garden (94-48) and Nashoba Regional in the Division 2 state final (82-58). One gets the impression Classical would have had an excellent chance to win its first state title since 1994.
— You have to take your hat off to Stevie Patrick and Kaitlyn Wechsler, boys and girls basketball coach at Tech, for directing their respective teams to the tournament. The girls team has a couple of kids who are due to be back next year, and who could make the Tigers tough to beat. Props too to Saugus’ Mark Schruender, the Northeastern Conference’s girls basketball coach of the year, whose Sachems went 16-6 and made the tournament for first time in anyone’s memory.
— You can’t do anything about the weather. Like Mark Twain once said, everybody complains about it, but nobody ever does anything about it.
So when the weather forecasters predict a late-winter snow-mageddon event on the same day basketball teams are due to play at TD Garden (which is certainly one of the highlights of tournament season) the responsible thing to do is hold your nose and cancel. A day on the parquet is no justification for putting everyone’s safety at risk.
You can certainly wish there had been a better alternative than making them play at another high school, but the logistics involved in setting these things up must be complicated even under optimum conditions, never mind when mother nature throws a curveball at you. So I wouldn’t be too critical of the MIAA on this.
Besides, I believe that everything in life is interconnected — meaning that that had the venue been different, the St. Mary’s-Cathedral game would have been different too. There would have been no 21-point comeback by the Spartans and perhaps they wouldn’t have won at all.
At any rate, I’m pretty sure everyone connected with that game, and the boys basketball program, is just as happy things turned out the way they did. At least as far as that game went.