LYNN — The expectations for the St. Mary’s boys basketball team don’t need to be re-explained at the beginning of the season. St. Mary’s, a state tournament mainstay, expects to win.
That’s the mentality the Spartans are carrying as they start a new winter season.
“The kids have worked hard in the offseason,” Spartans coach Dave Brown, now in his sixth season guiding St. Mary’s, said. “We have some motivated kids. Hopefully we can continue the success we’ve had over the last few years.”
St. Mary’s fell short of its ultimate goal of winning a state championship last fall when the Spartans ended their season after a loss to Watertown in the Division 3 North final. The Spartans finished the 2017-2018 regular season at 17-3 and won the Catholic Central League.
“We had a great season,” Brown said. “We finished the regular season 17-3, we were CCL champs. We had a good run in the state tournament and had a bad night against a good basketball team. We played a good team, we just didn’t shoot the ball well.”
The Spartans return a plethora of experienced veterans this winter, beginning with last year’s CCL co-MVP, Jalen Echevarria. A senior guard who’s 26 points away from reaching 1,000 for his career, Echevarria’s one of a handful of two-sport athletes who’ll miss the first week of basketball practice as he gears up for Saturday’s Division 7 Super Bowl with the school’s football team.
“We’re going to be short handed because of the football team playing in the Super Bowl,” Brown said. “It’s my third time I’ve been through that as a coach. We’ll evaluate the kids to see what level they can help the program at. The first few days it’s mostly conditioning and evaluating the kids.”
Also returning are senior forward Chibuikem Onwuogu, senior forward Joey Abate-Walsh, junior guard Josh Perez and senior guard/forward Lee Pacheco. Marvens Rosirus, Sammy Batista and newcomer Ademide Badmus, all sophomores, are also projected to play key roles. Junior Eni Falayi will bring height off the bench, giving the Spartans two players at 6’6 (Falayi, Badmus) and one at 6’8 (Ababte-Walsh).
Brown said it’s the most height he’s ever had on a team — and he’s excited about it.
“Not even when I was at Winthrop did I have this much height on a team,” Brown said. “It’s unfamiliar territory. I’m excited. It’s an adjustment for the players and coaches to have a 6’8 player on the wing. I’m hoping we can take advantage of that by pounding the ball inside and beating opponents on the backboard.”
Brown foresees a competitive CCL this season. Although the Spartans feel positive about where they stack up against CCL opponents in terms of talent, winning league games on the road won’t be easy.
“Going on the road in the CCL is tough,” Brown said. “The courts are very different from our home court. The gyms are small, hostile environments. Wherever you go on the road, it’s tough. Talent-wise I think we’re the top dog in the league but we have to come in ready to play night in and night out.”
Brown’s looking forward to rekindling rivalries within the league.
“There’s no love lost between St. Mary’s and Fenwick,” Brown said, “but the result of last week’s (football) game (a 60-0 Fenwick win over St. Mary’s) is definitely going to renew the rivalry.”
With a trip to the state tournament at the top of their list of goals for the seasons, the Spartans put together a tough regular season schedule with top-notch opponents. St. Mary’s will matchup against a number of state tournament mainstays this season, including Burke, TechBoston, Central Catholic and St. John’s Prep.
“I took this job and one thing I’ve always said is ‘we want to play the best teams in the state,'” Brown said. “It prepares you for the tournament. We’re a small school but we’re not running from anybody. Our schedule’s heavy with good teams.”
St. Mary’s opens the season next Friday night when it hosts Central Catholic in the first Pistol Pete Classic at Conigliaro Gymnasium.