St. Mary’s High School girls basketball coach Jeff Newhall always constructs a very challenging regular season schedule. By playing the elite teams, Newhall reasons that the tough inter-divisional competition will best prepare his team for the MIAA Tournament.
Last season was a perfect example of this successful formula. Newhall’s Spartans played eventual Division 1 state champion Andover (and defeated the Warriors), won the Hoosac Valley Tournament, and traveled to South Carolina where they won two inter-state games.
When the postseason came, the Spartans were r-e-a-d-y and they proved their mettle by winning the North sectionals at Tsongas and the state semifinal at the TD Garden. St. Mary’s and Hoosac Valley were crowned state champions when the title game in Worcester was canceled due to the coronavirus.
During this past off-season Newhall reached out to Bridgewater-Raynham coach Cheryl Seavey to schedule a non-league game with the Division 1 South powerhouse and she agreed to the intra-state showdown. That mega-matchup will be played on Wednesday, Jan. 20 at 6 p.m. at the Tony Conigliaro Gymnasium.
Bridgewater-Raynham is the defending Division 1 South champion. The Trojans are led by 6-foot-3-inch junior Shay Bollin, who has already committed to Duke University. Senior Kenzie Matulonis has committed to UNH, giving B-R two Division 1 players in its starting five.
St. Mary’s is the defending Division 3 state champion. Maiya Bergdorf, a 6-foot-1 inch senior, has signed a letter of intent to attend Division 1 Sacred Heart University. Bergdorf is a reigning Globe and Herald All-Scholastic.
St. Mary’s two other returning starters, Nicolette D’Itria and Yirsy Queliz, form one of the best backcourts in the state. Alyssa Grossi and Van Nguyen are two outstanding reserves who stepped up big in the State Tournament.
The matchup within the matchup is, of course, Bollin, the 19th ranked player in the ESPN 100 for the Class of 2022, and Bergdorf, who is the No. 1-ranked player in Massachusetts (MIAA) high school basketball in the Class of 2021. Caroline Ducharme (UConn) of Noble and Greenough is the top prep school player.
The St. Mary’s/Bridgewater-Raynham game would surely draw a sell-out crowd at the Tony Conigliaro Gymnasium. You can bet that Lynn basketball superfans like Patrick Smith, Anthony Palmieri, James Ridley, and Marvin Avery would be at courtside and John Hoffman would be calling the play-by-play for Lynn TV-15.
But due to COVID-19 restrictions, it is unknown how many spectators will be allowed to attend the game.
“We’re excited that this game is on our schedule, said Newhall. “We’d love to have our students, parents, and fans in the gymnasium but the health and safety of our players and our school community is our top priority.”
Newhall has a long-time connection to the town of Bridgewater. He is a 1999 graduate of Bridgewater State University, where he began his coaching career as an assistant in the Bears’ baseball program.
Twenty years later, Newhall is still coaching and winning state championships. And the 6-foot-3-inch coach and athletic director has scheduled the game of the year for his program which could well determine who the No. 1-ranked girls basketball team in Massachusetts is for this unprecedented season.