The Winthrop High girls basketball team learned once again that all roads to the Boston Garden will have to pass through St. Mary’s of Lynn.
Winthrop, champion of the Northeastern Conference South Division, met St. Mary’s in the Spartan Classic final Tuesday night, with the hosts prevailing 42-40.
Tournament MVP Marnelle Garraud (14 points) hit two clutch free throws with 21 seconds left to give St. Mary’s a 42-38 lead. Winthrop answered with a basket and was then in a position to either tie or win the game on an inbounds play with 2.4 seconds remaining, but St. Mary’s defense prevented Winthrop from a last shot.
St. Mary’s and Winthrop are considered the top teams in the Division 3 North Sectionals. Last year St. Mary’s defeated Winthrop, 47-45, in the North final on its way to beating Archbishop Williams in the Garden and Hoosac Valley in the state final at the DCU Center.
Winthrop coach Ignacio Oyola is getting used to exciting, well-played games against St. Mary’s with major titles on the line.
“It was a good game – they went on a run and we went on a run,” said Oyola. “They were smart. Their coach [Jeff Newhall] did a great job. They took away a lot of our strengths. They doubled Niki [Tsiotis] and Nina [Bartlette] a lot and Kristina [Siscamanis]. He tried to force our stop scorers to put the ball in the basket and they did a great job defensively.”
Indeed Newhall and his staff were never better than on the final sequence of the game when they chose to closely watch Tsiotos, Winthrop’s quickest player and best ballhandler. The strategy paid dividends as Winthrop was unable to get a shot off.
Oyola is hoping for another opportunity to play St. Mary’s in the State Tournament.
“I definitely think we can compete with them,” said Oyola. “We’ll try to make adjustments and I’m sure they will. It would be nice to another game in the North final at the Tsongas Center but we have to be able to pull one out. We haven’t been able to beat them over the past couple of seasons.”
St. Mary’s junior Gianna Moschella hit three 3-pointers in the first half and finished with 12 points. Moschella and Winthrop Kristen Siscamanis [20 points) were named to the All-Tournament Team.
Kayla Carter, a defensive standout in the game, added nine points for St. Mary’s. Freshman Olibia Nazaire had six points.
Bartlette, Winthrop’s 6-foot-1-inch center, who has received correspondence from Division 1 schools including Sacred Heart and Fairleigh Dicksinson, scored nine points.
Newhall said he is pleased with his team’s regular season after losing three outstanding players from last year’s state championship team.
“We’re looking ahead to the State Tournament,” said Newhall. “I think our record is a credit to our upperclassmen – Sophia Holmes, Gianna Moschella, and Kayla Carter – playing hard and showing the way. Temi [Falayi] and Amanda [Idusuyi] have really come one. And the two freshmen [Marnelle Garraud and Olivia Nazaire] have been good and have the ability to put the ball in the basket. To have 17 wins after 21 games is a great team achievement.”