Sports 01-26-2016

A win in the Garden

Garraud, Nowicki pace Spartans past Lexington

By Cary Shuman

The Good Sports Invitational is an outstanding event that gives high school basketball teams an opportunity to play a game at the TD Garden on its world-famous parquet floor.

Most of the competing teams won’t be back in March for the Eastern Mass. finals that are also played at the Garden, but for the St. Mary’s High School girls basketball team, Sunday’s impressive 55-42 win over Division 1 Lexington may be a preview of a return engagement at the Garden.

Head coach Jeff Newhall’s Spartans are having another excellent season despite being wracked by injuries and loom as a favorite in the Division 3 North sectionals though Bishop Fenwick and North Reading loom as major roadblocks.

Sophomore guard Marnelle Garraud made her first appearance at the Garden a memorable one with 15 points and four assists. Garraud has been steadily improving all aspects of her game and her outside shooting and ability to beat Lexington’s press were keys to the victory.

Junior guard Mia Nowicki, one of the top softball pitchers the Massachusetts who has begun fielding college offers, showed the depth of her athletic talent with a solid 13-point performance that included a pair of long-range three-pointers.

Sophomore forward Olivia Nazaire ignited the Spartans early, scoring four quick points on her way to a 13-point effort. Nazaire is emerging as a force on the boards for St. Mary’s in the absence of other key frontcourt players who are sidelined by injuries.

Head coach Jeff Newhall knew that containing Lexington star Anna Kelly (who is heading to Division 1 Fordham University) would be crucial to victory. Newhall tabbed senior captain Kayla Carter for the defensive assignment and Carter and her teammates were able to slow down Kelly enough to give the edge to St. Mary’s.

Garraud said she enjoyed playing her first game at the Garden.

“I was little nervous at first but we settled in really quickly so it was good,” said Garraud. “It was an intense game so I really wasn’t thinking about my surroundings. My shot was going in and I was pretty confident and my team gave me confidence. I was looking more to dish to Olivia who was doing well in the post. First it was the passing and then my own offense came, too. Mia was also awesome coming back for her first game after her ankle injury.”

“It was fun and a good experience to play in the Garden,” said Nowicki. “During warm-ups you had to see how to adjust because it was different, but it was OK once you got the hang of it. We won the game which made it even better.”

Carter, whose famous cousin, Michael Carter-Williams of the Milwaukee Bucks has played often at the Garden, was making her second appearance on the parquet.

“This is my second game and second time winning said Carter, a member of the 2014 state title team that defeated Archbishop Williams at the Garden. “We want to get back here in six weeks.”

Newhall, who also led a Marblehead High team to the Garden before returning to coach at his alma mater, was pleased with his team’s strong win over a top-10 team.

“I thought late in the third quarter when Lexington cut it to four points and seemed to have the all the momentum – but the sign of a good team is that we dug down and battled back and the next thing I knew our lead was up to 15 points again,” said Newhall. “Mia hit a big three and Marnelle hit a big three and Olivia created some pace for us. We’re 11-2 and the way things have gone, I really couldn’t ask for much more.”

Classical Girls basketball celebrates successful Alumni Night

“It was great to see everybody and it’s amazing to see that the groups of friends who played on each team are still friends today.”

Those are words of Lynn Classical High School Principal Gene Constantino summed up the joy of Lynn Classical Alumni Night organized by none other than Classical hoop great Helen Ridley, an assistant coach on Tom Sawyer’s staff.

Constantino was once a very good basketball himself, with his most memorable season being the 2003-4 campaign when All-Scholastic center Monique Lee and Company stormed to a 20-0 record and the Northeastern Conference championship.

Ashley Donovan, one of the former standouts in the program, was on hand for Alumni Night. A sophomore on the 2003-4 team, Donovan hit a clutch jump shot to tie up the game and send it to overtime where the Rams defeated Gloucester to keep the team’s record perfect.

Donovan, 27, who went on to attend Quinnipiac University, is now working as a physical therapist at All Care VNA in Lynn.

Tom Sawyer said the event was a success, capped off by the team’s excellent performance in a win over Gloucester.

“It was a great idea by Helen Ridley to have our alumnae come back and I’m glad we could play pretty well [in a win over Gloucester],” tonight,” said head coach Tom Sawyer.

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