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St. Mary's coach Jeff Newhall is relying on Olivia Nazaire to provide leadership this season. (Katie Morrison)

St. Mary’s Nazaire bearing down on 1,000 points

LYNN -- Things haven't exactly been easy for St. Mary's senior Olivia Nazaire this season. She's in there swinging, and she's on the threshold of scoring her 1,000th point.

Nazaire, who specializes in playing the low post, needs 35 points to reach the millennium mark. But a series of knee injuries, plus an auto accident she was in over the Christmas vacation, has affected her somewhat.

"She's had patella tendinitis," said coach Jeff Newhall. "As a result, she didn't participate in much basketball for the five months leading up to the season."

Consequently, he was a bit behind, especially in terms of conditioning, when the season began.

"It was a matter of getting into the speed of the game, and getting into basketball shape," Newhall said. "Over the last eight to 10 quarters, I'd have to say she is getting there."

"Over the summer," Nazaire said, "I did physical therapy, but it didn't make much of a difference. I can still play, but it's painful sometimes. But ice and Advil help a lot during the games. I have to ice right after the game, and once more when I get home."

She absolutely found her groove last Friday in the finals of the Boverini basketball tournament in which she scored 15 second-half points and the Spartans defeated Classical, 57-39. After that game, Classical coach Tom Sawyer said that the Spartans are just as strong from the outside as the inside, making them difficult to defend.

"I'd say that if we can play every game like we played that one, we'll do pretty good," Newhall said.

"Olivia is pretty consistent from from the blocks to the foul line," Newhall said. "I can't remember too many times where she's hit a basket from beyond the perimeter. They key though is that we need girls to hit from the outside. Otherwise, they're going to double team Olivia."

Nazaire credits a quirk in the schedule for giving her a little extra push in the Classical game.

"I was in an auto accident that week, and I was a little more banged up than usual," she said. "I had a big bruise on my knee and something with my foot. But we had a day off between the first round and the final, and that helped me. I could rest."

Nazaire, who is from Peabody, is the only senior on the Spartans, which means Newhall is counting on a lot of leadership from her.

"She can almost be another coach on the floor," he said. "She was in the flow of the game pretty well against Classical, and she has the type of basketball IQ where, when we were subbing players, she was matching players up for us. To have that presence on the floor is certainly a huge advantage for us."

"That was definitely a big win for us," said Nazaire. "Classical has Paris (Wilkey) and she's also about to get her 1,000 point. She is an amazing player. To beat them was really good."

Newhall also said that Nazaire, unlike some others on the team, can appreciate the intensity of a tournament such as the Boverini, where schools from the city play each other.

"If you're not from Lynn, which some of our kids aren't, you don't understand the Lynn basketball experience," he said. "You're in a packed gym, where all kinds of people are yelling all kinds of different things. Once we got past that, I think we did well."

At the end of the day, all she wants to do is win the game, Newhall said. And that goes to her feelings about getting 1,000 points.

"It's obviously a big deal," she said. "It's a huge milestone for anyone who plays high school basketball. But I get more satisfaction if our team is doing well, and getting wins. That's much more important to me."

Nazaire, Newhall said, can play in college if she wants to, "but it comes down to whether she wants to go through four more years of the discomfort she's been in.

"She's a really good student (3.8 GPA)," he said. "She could play at a really high level."

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