By Cary Shuman
St. Mary’s High School girls basketball coach Jeff Newhall annually invites the state’s top teams to play in the Spartan Classic.
This year Newhall’s Lady Spartans faced Cape Cod powerhouse Martha’s Vineyard and South Shore contender Rockland in the tournament that is held on Presidents Day weekend at the Tony Conigliaro Gymnasium.
The Spartans pulled away from the Vineyard in overtime, 67-56, in the semifinals and then bested Rockland, 56-44, in the Division 3 championship game.
Junior guard Mia Nowicki, more known for her softball pitching prowess, received the Most Valuable Player Award while senior guard Kayla Carter, one of the best defensive players in the area, was named to the All-Tournament Team.
Nowicki helped the Spartans break fast from the starting blocks versus Rockland with four three-pointers in the first half, finishing with 15 points. In the win over the Vineyard, Nowicki had three clutch hoops in the second half and had eight points overall.
Carter drew the toughest defensive assignments in both games and her contribution was vital to the victories. Carter had 11 points in the win over the Vineyard.
“Two straight nights Kayla covered two of the premier players (Molly deBettemcourt and Kyra Rose) on the South Shore and she did her job well,” said St. Mary’s coach Jeff Newhall.
Sophomore guard Marnelle Garraud and sophomore forward Olivia Nazaire were also major contributors to the victory. Garraud, who had a string of 30-point performances earlier this season, had 22 points in the opener, including a key free throw to tie the game with 18.9 seconds left. She netted 15 points in the championship.
Nazaire, an emerging star for the Spartans, had 32 points combined in the two victories. Meanwhile, Temi Felayi, who was sidelined by an injury, showed that she’s regaining her form with two excellent efforts in the tournament. The 6-foot junior center went coast-to-coast for a basket versus Rockland in one of the more eye-opening plays of the tournament.
The unsung hero of the tournament was senior center Katie Dixon, who gave the Spartans a big lift off the bench with her interior defense and rebounding.
In an emotional start to the Senior Night game Sunday night, captain Gianna Moschella, who is out for the season with a knee injury, took the floor for the opening tapoff.
Jeff Newhall was pleased with the two victories over the Division 3 South title contenders.
“We beat two of the teams in Division 3 that have a shot to win the Sectional [Hanover and Archbishop Williams are considered the other contenders],” said Newhall. “I thought Mia got off to a great start and we did enough to get by. It’s always good to win tournaments and improve.
St. Mary’s faces another difficult test Friday at 6 p.m. when it plays Revere High School on Senior Night at the Roland Ferullo Fieldhouse in Revere.