LYNN, Mass. -– Two of the best girls basketball teams in the state faced off Saturday night in the championship game of the ninth Annual Walter Boverini Basketball Tournament, as No. 7 St. Mary’s of Lynn (6-0) was able to hold off host No. 9 Lynn English (3-2) for a 38-30 win.
It was not the typical game between the two, as there were numerous turnovers and the teams shot very poorly from the floor, but the defensive intensity showed by both teams treated fans to an intense, back-and-forth-game.
“It definitely wasn’t a work of art,” said St. Mary’s head coach Jeff Newhall. “It was two good teams and I thought our defense was outstanding. I think they played real hard too, as their defense definitely disrupted what we wanted to do. I think these are two of the better teams in the state and we knew it wasn’t going to be a high scoring game. We missed a lot of easy shots, but we hung in there.”
Entering the fourth quarter with a slim 21-19 lead, St. Mary’s junior guard Sharell Sanders took the game over scoring 10 of her 11 points in the fourth quarter enabling the Spartans to pull away and hold on for their sixth win of the year.
Even more impressive for Sanders was the defense she played on Bulldogs' superstar Catherine Stinson, limiting her to just three points in the game. For her efforts, Sanders took home tournament MVP honors.
“Sherrell (Sanders) was terrific all game,” Newhall said. “She ran the point very well, but to do what she did to Catherine Stinson, arguably the best player in the Northeastern Conference, was unbelievable.”
English cut the deficit to four at 32-28 with just over a minute remaining, but Spartans junior Brianna Rudolph’s layup and a foul with 47 seconds remaining, followed by a monster fist pump from Newhall, sealed the win.
Newhall credited his team's conditioning to be able to pull from the Bulldogs in the final quarter.
“We talked about before the game how we wanted to put on a full court pressure, not necessarily to steal the ball, but to wear them down,” he said. “We work hard and we pride our self in being in shape and I thought down the stretch [Lynn English] showed some signs of wear. They turned the ball over a couple more times than we did.”
Both teams struggled in the opening quarter, combining for just 11 points and Lynn English leading 6-5, but both teams eventually settled in.
This wasn’t the first time St. Mary’s has struggled early in a game this season –- nerves possibly playing a factor.
“Maybe,” Newhall said. “We played Arlington Catholic last Friday and the same thing happened, but once we settled in we were OK. I think when the ball won’t go in mentally it is an obstacle. Jennie (Mucciarone) hit the three towards the end of the first quarter and everyone was like ‘finally’.”
Rudolph led the way with 12 points, followed by Sanders and Mucciarone with 11. Nine of Mucciarone’s 11 points came from behind the arc.
The Bulldogs were led by senior Dolores Latimer who finished with 13 points.
With two big wins over Arlington Catholic and Lynn English so far this season and defensive efforts leading the charge, it is apparent defense will be what makes the Spartans go this season.
“We held Arlington Catholic last week to 42 points and then Lynn English to 30 tonight, so if you are holding some of the top teams in the state to those point totals, and you can make a couple of shots, you’re going to be in a good spot to win,” Newhall said.
He continued, “There is a long way to go. We had a great season two years ago, but last year was a struggle. We have already done some things this year that we weren’t able to do last year. The year before I think we won six titles, including tournaments and championships, and last year we got shut out. Being in our first championship game this year and winning it is gratifying, and to get this trophy back is significant to us. It is three out of four years (winning the Boverini tournament) and [Lynn English is] definitely a rival of ours. It was a great night for us.”
NEWHALL’S SPECIAL CONNECTION
The tournament has a special place in Newhall’s heart, as the man the tournament is named for, Walter Boverini, is his wife’s uncle.
Boverini was the state senate majority leader, as well as a teacher, administrator and football coach in the city of Lynn. He was a graduate of Lynn Classical and Boston College.
“It has a special meaning to me for me. First of all any tournament featuring all the Lynn schools is great, but it is always intense and there are bigger crowds,” Newhall said. “Secondly, Walter Boverini is my wife’s uncle so I have a personal connection and he was a very good friend of mine. To be able to compete in Lynn in honor of someone who you’re real close to is significant.”
In addition to Sanders winning MVP honors, fellow Spartan senior Emily Morris was named to the all-tournament team. Joining them on the team were Lynn English’s Latimer, Lynn Classical’s Chelsea Rogers and Lynn Tech’s Zulmary Gonzalez.