St. Mary’s Girls Basketball Defeats Rockland, 46-44, to Capture the State Championship

The St. Mary’s High School girls basketball team won 26 games this season, but saved its best for last.

Junior forward Kellyn Preira blocked Rockland’s last-second shot at the buzzer to give St. Mary’s a thrilling 46-44 victory over Rockland in the Division 3 state final Friday at the Tsongas Center in Lowell.

Junior guard Yirsy Queliz’s jumper with 30 seconds left had given the Spartans a two-point lead. Queliz scored her 1,000th career point during the memorable season, but the ‘best for last’ label also applies to her immensely clutch basket.

The 2022 MIAA Division 3 Girls Basketball Champion.

“We were running a double-screen high, and Yirsy just slipped right behind the screen and hit a nice, little elbow jumper, which is quite frankly her shot,” lauded Newhall. “To have the ball in your best player’s hands and taking that shot, you really couldn’t ask for much more than that with 30 seconds left in the state final. Yirsy was our steadying force all game.”

Preira had 16 points, seven rebounds, and six blocked shots, capped by her game-winning defensive play.

“That play happens to win the state title at the end of the day, but Kellyn’s effort against [Bentley-bound] Elie for 32 minutes was the story of the game,” said Newhall.

Niya Morgen, who scored five points, completed a tremendous season for the Spartans. Morgen (414) was one of three players to score more than 400 points this season, joining Queliz (457) and Preira (405), to form the highest-scoring trio in school history.

“Niya played very well defensively against Rockland,” said Newhall. “She didn’t get as many shots as we like, but we certainly wouldn’t have been in this game if not for her performance against Bishop Fenwick in the state semifinals when she scored a game-high 23 points.”

Seventh grader Bella Owumi had six points, and including a dazzling drive against Rockland’s senior frontcourt.

“Bella had a take right at their scholarship player. She made a quick move, blew past the defense, and laid the ball in with her left hand,” noted Newhall. “Not many 13-year-old players can do that.”

Owumi’s premier contribution in the season was a 21-point effort in an Elite 8 win over Watertown.

Also excelling in key roles this season were team leaders Olivia Abbott and Abby Constine.

“They’re our two seniors and they led this team,” credited Newhall. “They did so much for this team on and off the floor. We would not have been in the position we were in Friday night if we didn’t have those two players’ contributions in games and their leadership off the court.”

AJ Hyacinthe (a key three-pointer versus Rockland) and Brooke Maloney (a terrific three-sport athlete) were other key performers for St. Mary’s on the road to the championship.

For Newhall, the win over Rockland was the 350th victory of his remarkable coaching career. The 26 wins this season is a school record. Newhall’s teams have won four state championships (2011, 2014, 2020, and 2022. Head of School Dr. John Dolan presented Newhall with a plaque at a school rally Monday.

“The support of the school, the faculty, the staff, and the administration was unbelievable,” said Newhall. “The electricity that was there in Lowell (for the girls and boys state championship games), I think that’s a credit to the St. Mary’s family and the city of Lynn, because we got a ton of support from the city.”

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