The St. Mary’s High School boys and girls basketball and hockey teams are winning a lot of games this winter. That is no surprise for a program that produces state champions and title contenders every year.
But this season and the fall season that preceded it have been impacted greatly by the continuing COVID-19 pandemic. Many high schools canceled their fall and winter sports seasons.
St. Mary’s officials decided to go forward, with its teams adhering to strict guidelines for social distancing and some new in-game rules established by the MIAA.
St. Mary’s Director of Athletics Jeff Newhall said that more than 270 student-athletes participated in the fall sports season. This winter St. Mary’s has 275 student-athletes competing in sports. There are nine basketball teams from the middle school through varsity levels, four hockey teams at the varsity and JV levels, along with a varsity swimming team.
“The fall season went off without a hitch,” said Newhall. “During the winter we’ve had some issues but thankfully they were minor, though it did require a brief shutdown. But the athletes continue to do what they’re supposed to do, and we were able to get up and running in 14 days.”
Newhall said all athletes and coaches must wear masks at all times – at practices and games, during halftime strategy sessions, and on the buses to and from games. Spectators also have to wear masks at the games.
St. Mary’s students must wear masks in all classrooms, in the school corridors, and during school activities.
“Our Care For All reopening plan allowed us to offer in-person learning on campus for all of our students every day,” said Newhall. The only time students take off their masks is when they eat lunch. They know what they need to do to be able to go to school and play sports. And the students have been great at really following the rules.”
Newhall, who coaches the girls basketball team, has the Lady Spartans rolling along with a 9-1 record, the lone setback to reigning Division 1 South champion Bridgewater Rayhnam. Many observers believe that Newhall’s powerful St. Mary’s contingent would have been the favorite to repeat as the Division 3 state champion, but the MIAA has canceled the State Tournament due to concerns about the coronavirus.
The boys basketball team, coached by David Brown Sr., is also excelling. Coach Brown’s son, sophomore guard David Brown Jr., has emerged as a star with 32 and 33-point individual performances to-date.
The boys hockey team, led by Hall of Fame Coach Mark Lee, is once again one of the top-tier teams in the Catholic Central League.
The girls hockey team, coached by Frank Pagliuca, has a 4-2-1 record, and is the No. 3-ranked team in Massachusetts. With no state tournaments being played in the winter of 2021, Catholic Central League teams will compete for the CCL Cup in a single-elimination, intra-league tournaments following the regular season.