Sports 03-22-2016

Maynard meets Megatron Jr.

Calvin Johnson follows father’s script in title game

By Cary Shuman

When Maynard High School basketball coach Paul Howes looked at the St. Mary’s roster, he recognized a familiar name.

Howes was the coach of the 1993 Maynard team that lost to Lynn Classical in the state finals. One of the true stars on the Lynn Classical team was Calvin Johnson, a 1,000-point scorer who with Marcos Echevarria, formed one of the most prolific and productive Lynn combinations of all time.

Saturday it was Calvin Johnson – the son – leading the St. Mary’s basketball team to a 61-52 victory over Maynard in the Division 4 state championship game.

Twenty years after Maynard’s last appearance in the state finals, another Calvin and Company had denied Paul Howe’s Central Mass. champions a state title.

“In 1993, interestingly we lost to Lynn Classical and the best player was Calvin Johnson,” recalled Howes. “I was the head coach and here I am again and his son beats me. They’re both great players. My son, Kyle, plays at Merrimack College so he played against Tom Grassa’s kid [Jasper] at Bentley.”

Howes’s youngest son, Cal Howes, had 22 points in the game and is considering Salem State, Keene State, and Springfield College among other schools.

Calvin Johnson came out firing and hitting his shots in the first quarter of the state final. With the defense keeping an eye on 6-foot-6-inch eighth grader Matt Cross and the dynamic Johnny Mercado, Johnson was open and he delivered from long range.

St. Mary’s coach Dave Brown said Johnson’s 18-point performance sealed “a tremendous season for him.”

“When Calvin gets out on transition and hits his jump shot, he’s a tough cover for anybody. His speed and athleticism are second to no one. When he’s connecting on his jump shots, he’s a force to be reckoned with.”

Calvin Johnson now has one state championship on his resume. (His father won back-to-back titles).

“It feels great,” said Calvin after the game. “I did it for my teammates, my coaches, my family, my school, and my city. We just worked so hard during the season. Coach tells me to shoot the ball and hopefully it falls. When I’m off, I start to the attack the basket like I did in the second half.”

Could the sports year have gone any better than it has for Calvin Johnson, a member of the St. Mary’s football team that missed the Super Bowl by only one game?

“It’s been an unbelievable year,” said Johnson. “I’m just glad to have this opportunity to be able to play sport at St. Mary’s. Coach Brown is like a father figure to me. He does a lot for the players on and off the court that goes unnoticed. He’s a great guy. I love coach Brown.”

Guarding the Trophy

Cerulli’s defense keys St. Mary’s run to the state championship

 By Cary Shuman

There is no doubt Mike Cerulli can shoot the basketball very well and score points in bunches. Three years ago as an eighth grader he was an offensive force for a powerful St. Pius School basketball team that was coached by his father, attorney Michael Cerulli.

This season for the St. Mary’s High School basketball team, Cerulli had the team’s highest free throw percentage, was among the leading three-point shooters, and had a number of key baskets and assists in the MIAA Tournament.

And in a fitting conclusion to an outstanding season for the 5-foot, 8-inch junior guard, it was Cerulli who scored the final point in the Spartans’ 61-52 victory Maynard in the Division 4 state championship game Saturday at Springfield College.

Coach Dave Brown asked Cerulli to take on a new role this season, that of defensive stopper. Brown tabbed Cerulli to cover the opponent’s best player and he delivered a succession of solid performances all season, especially so during the run in the State Tournament.

“You win championships with players like Mike Cerulli, who doesn’t care how often the ball is in hands or the number of shots he takes,” said coach Brown. “He goes out there and gives you 110 percent every day in practice and in games. He always covers the opposing team’s best players. He led the team in deflections and he just makes this team a better basketball team when he’s on the floor.”

Brown, a 1,000-point scorer at St. Mary’s and a Hall of Fame inductee at Westfield State College, said Cerulli keeps opposing defenses honest with his outside shooting and crisp passing.

“If you leave Mike open, he’ll knock down the three-ball consistently,” said Brown. “We as a team had tons of confidence in him to score points but we asked him to be the leader of the defense and do some rebounding and he gave us what we needed to be a successful basketball team.”

Cerulli shared his thoughts about being a vital part of a state championship team during the post-game press conference.

“I don’t think it’s kicked in yet but it’s amazing,” said Cerulli. “Before our game, I looked over at  the Cathedral girls team celebrating their state title, and I said to my teammates, Matt and Joe, ‘I want our team to win a state title so badly,’ and we just put it all out there.”

Cerulli said he enjoyed his role as the catalyst of the St. Mary’s defense. “I wouldn’t change it for anything. My coaches know that I can rebound when we need a rebound. I can shoot the ball but I don’t try to force it. I let the offense come to me.”

Cerulli said it’s been “a great experience” playing alongside Johnny Mercado in the backcourt and teaming up with Calvin Jonson, Jonathan Mola, Joe Fama, and 6-foot-6-inch eighth grade sensation, Matt Cross.

“We’re a really close bunch – I love these kids,” said Cerulli. “We all bring different things to this team. Johnny can dribble the ball fabulously, set people up, and hit jumpers. Cal can drive unbelievably and shoot the lights out and I try to do all the little things.”

Cerulli said coach Brown is a tremendous motivator who has the ability to maximize each player’s role and contribution to a team. “He taught me so much. Since I came here freshman year, I’ve become a different basketball player.”

“And my dad taught me a lot, too – he taught me how to grow up, I guess.”

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