Since the turn of the century, Lynn athletic teams have generally had a seat at the big table in the winter state tournaments.
Whether it’s been basketball or hockey, Lynn has typically had teams advance to the further rounds of the MIAA tournaments.
However, this year may take the cake for all of them. Saturday, in Worcester, two basketball teams from the city will be competing for state titles: the St. Mary’s girls and English boys. And while we’ve had other instances of Lynn teams going for state championships in the same year, they don’t always play the title game on the same day.
For example: Two years ago, the St. Mary’s boys basketball and boys hockey teams both won titles. But the basketball game was on a Saturday at Springfield College and the hockey championship was the next night at the TD Garden.
You’d have to go back to 2001 and 2002 for the other time Lynn has been involved in multiple championships, but, again, the circumstances were such that those championships weren’t won on the same day.
Both St. Mary’s basketball programs were in Division 4 back then and, since there were no D4 teams in central or western Massachusetts, the tournament for them ended with wins at the Garden. So, even though St. Mary’s and Tech both won games at the Garden in the same year (who could ever forget the sight of former Tech coach Marvin Avery jumping up on the scorer’s table after the Tigers’ win to lead cheers), Tech, being in Division 3, had only won the semifinal. The Tigers had to play another game in order to capture the state championship.
So we’ve tiptoed all around it since 2001, but this finally may be the year we send two teams to Worcester and come back with two state titles.
English, which has knocked on the door a couple of times in the past, gets a chance Saturday night at Holy Cross in Worcester (6:45) against Putnam, a western Massachusetts team. The Bulldogs got this far one other time in this century — 10 years ago, when they lost to St. John’s of Shrewsbury.
There’s an interesting sidelight to the English story. Antonio Anderson, the Bulldogs’ coach, played on the Tech team that won the title in 2002, and assistant Ryan Woumn was a junior on the ’09 Bulldog team that came up a game short.
Should St. Mary’s defeat Hoosac Valley (Worcester PolyTech, noon) it’ll be the third for the Spartans in this decade. The first, in 2011, saw the Spartans defeat Lee, led by a “Big 3” of Tori Faieta, Kirsten Ferrari and Cassi Amenta. Faieta went to Stonehill and became a Division 3 All-America while there.
Three years later, the Spartans were back on top with a dominating 73-36 win over the same Hoosac Valley team they’ll be playing Saturday. Those Spartans had their own “Big 3”: Brianna Rudolph, Sharell Sanders and Jennie Mucciarone. It would be interesting to see each “Big 3” pick their supporting casts, the way the NBA does the all-star games, and have a showdown to see which of them would win.
This year, both teams benefit from a strong mix of seniors and underclassmen. Last Saturday, in the Division 3 North final, two St. Mary’s players — Nicolette D’Itria and Gabriella Torres — went down with ankle injuries, senior Pam Gonzalez held the fort and the Spartans won. Torres recovered in time to play a big role in Wednesday’s squeaker over Archbishop Williams in the state semifinal.
Tuesday, at the Garden, junior Jarnel Guzman (22 points), senior Alonzo Linton (20) and sophomore Jack Rodriguez (19) helped English sprint out to an early lead and never look back in its state semifinal win over Newton North.
This has been a particularly good year for Lynn in the state tournament. The Lynn Jets, the combined public school hockey team, made it to the Division 3 North semifinal. St. Mary’s boys basketball also made it to the Division 3 North semifinal, and the KIPP Academy boys, in their first year of MIAA competition, advanced to the North final in Division 4.
It’s no wonder high school sports around here await the winter sports tournaments eagerly every year.