By Cary Shuman
The St. Mary’s High School boys basketball program, fresh off winning the Division 4 state championship, will opt up for placement in Division 3 next season.
The Spartans, led by coach David Brown, defeated Maynard, 61-52, in the Division 4 state title game March 19 at Springfield College. In the days following the school’s victory, the chatter grew in intensity in the basketball community that St. Mary’s would ask the MIAA to move up to Division 3.
After consulting with director of athletics Jeff Newhall and school officials, Brown said that St. Mary’s will formally request an “opt-up” to Division 3. The request would be for the 2016-17 State Tournament, which is the final year of the MIAA’s current four-year alignment, and carry over in to the next four-year alignment (the 2018, 2019, 2020, and 2021 State Tournaments). The MIAA could decline St. Mary’s request but the consensus is that the MIAA will rule favorably on the move.
“We are going to put in a request to move to Division 3,” said Brown. “We’ve been wanting to move up. We didn’t want to move up until we proved we were the best team in Division 4. We’re going to move up and compete against the bigger schools.”
Brown has directed St. Mary’s to the sectional finals two out of the last three years. The two teams (St. Clement and Hamilton-Wenham) that defeated St. Mary’s in the State Tournament went on to win state championships.
St. Mary’s has enjoyed success against teams in higher divisions. The Spartans have defeated Lynn English, Lynn Classical, Cardinal Spellman, and Arlington Catholic, among other schools, in the regular season. St. Mary’s is the reigning Walter Boverini Tournament champion, symbolic of being the best team in Lynn.
“We try to schedule the best competition we can,” said Brown. “We’ve played Malden Catholic and Lawrence. The players have been wanting to play in a higher division.”
St. Mary’s will return its entire starting five (Calvin Johnson, Jonny Mercado, Mike Cerulli, Matt Cross, and Jonathan Mola). Jalen Echevarria is expected to play a larger role on the varsity next season. Joe Fama, who made the crucial pass to eighth grader Matt Cross in the dramatic win over Cathedral in the state semifinal and hit a key three-pointer in the state championship game, and Tyler Devine, a team leader, are the graduating seniors.
St. Mary’s is already drawing attention as a state title contender for next season. IAABO Board 27 officials have extended an invitation to St. Mary’s to compete in the annual Comcast Tournament that brings together the top teams in Eastern Mass.