LYNN— It’s not often that everything goes according to plan for a team. But Wednesday evening at Conigliaro Gymnasium, everything went the way coach Jeff Newhall and the St. Mary’s girls basketball team hoped it would.
Senior forward Olivia Nazaire needed 20 points to become the fifth player in program history to reach the 1,000-point mark and the Spartans were looking to come away from Wednesday’s game against Cardinal Spellman with a Catholic Central League win. Both missions were accomplished.
Nazaire led the Spartans with 21 points, cracking 1,000 career points with a basket in the fourth quarter, and St. Mary’s featured 10 different scorers in a 70-34 rout over Cardinal Spellman.
“We started 1-2 and I think we’ve been playing a lot better since the beginning of the season,” Newhall said. “I thought we played extremely well on Tuesday night against the No. 2 ranked team in the state (Cathedral). I liked the way we played and I told them it was something to build off of but we had to come out tonight with that same energy.
“It’s a great night,” Newhall added. “Olivia’s been very solid for us for four years.”
Junior guard Pamela Gonzalez finished with 17 points, sophomore guard Gabby Torres scored 10 points and junior guard Mashayla Johnson knocked in three 3-pointers to add nine points.
Spellman junior Victoria Williams led the Cardinals with 18 points, half of which were scored in the first quarter.
The Spartans’ offense fired on all cylinders coming out of the gate. St. Mary’s scored 24 points in the first quarter, led by Gonzalez, who took advantage of her hot hand early with 11 points in the first. Nazaire added six points in the quarter, and all five Spartan starters found the scoresheet. After one, St. Mary’s was in control with a 24-14 lead.
“It was good to see because when someone’s going for 1,000 points, I think the other four players on the court become more nervous than that actual player,” Newhall said. “They think the No. 1 thing they have to do is give her the ball. They understood that the No. 1 thing to do tonight was win the game.”
Nazaire added a lay-in and a pair of free throws to start the second quarter, bumping St. Mary’s edge to 28-14. Spellman’s Cheyanne Dottin hit a pair of buckets to slice the deficit to 10 points but St. Mary’s closed the quarter on a high note. Johnson swished two 3-pointers and Torres knocked in one, and the Spartans held a commanding 44-21 lead at recess. Nazaire tallied 11 points in the first half.
“I thought we were a little bit sluggish,” Newhall said. “We were still able to do what we wanted to do. It wasn’t as fast as I wanted it to be but playing back to back nights in this league is tough.”
With a hefty lead, the Spartans played relaxed basketball in the second half. Torres added to the lead with a couple free throws in the early minutes of the third. Nazaire took over late in the quarter, adding three buckets to her total. After three, Nazaire scored 17 points and her Spartans led 57-31.
Needing three points to crack the milestone, Nazaire got it done in the fourth quarter. She swished a basket in the paint in the opening minute of the period, took a quick seat for a breather, and returned to the game. With 4:10 remaining on the clock, Nazaire missed a hook shot, grabbed her own rebound and scored on a put-back off the glass to crack the 1000-point milestone.
From there, the Spartans emptied their bench and the reserves closed out the victory to boost St. Mary’s record to 5-3.
“It’s been hard,” Newhall said. “We were 0-3 in the league but our first three (conference) games were against the defending Division 4 state champs, Division 3 state champs and Division 2 state finalists. Those aren’t three cupcakes by any stretch. In two of those three games, you can argue that we were in the game with a chance of winning.”
The Spartans are on the road Friday night (6:30) for another CCL clash at Austin Prep.