The St. Mary’s High School boys basketball team celebrated its state championship season at an awards banquet March 28 at Thompson Country Club in North Reading.
It was an event befitting the achievement as each player received awards and gifts commemorating the Spartans’ season. The St. Mary’s junior varsity and freshman teams were also honored while the cheerleaders were recognized for their efforts and support.
St. Mary’s coach Kevin Moran, who was named the Boston Globe Coach of the Year, spoke about the 20-4 season that spanned an opening night loss to St. John’s Prep to the state title-clinching victory over Cathedral at the TD Garden.
“In the first game of the season we played St. John’s Prep, the defending Division 1 state champions, and we ended up losing by a point in overtime,” said Moran. “As a coach you don’t typically like to lose in any respect, but I think the players on the team in that game saw that if we do things right here, we might be able to do something special.”
Moran also noted a game at Arlington Catholic, calling it “the watershed game of the year.”
“There were two sides to that game,” said Moran. “We were losing by 17 points at halftime. The second half we scored 60 points and ending up winning the game by 17 points. That night showed what they’re capable of doing. You play like you did in the second half and you can win the state tournament and in their mind, they believed that.”
In that memorable victory over Arlington, senior Nick Gagliolo scored the 1,000th point of his four-year varsity career. Gagliolo received a beautifully engraved basketball and trophy at the banquet.
“That’s a commendable event for any athlete,” said Moran. “He scored the point right at the end of the half and it gave us some momentum. But in looking at that, his twelve teammates were on the floor and I believe they were as excited for him as he was. All twelve of those guys were probably happy or more happy for him that he scored those points and I think that’s a commendable thing for the rest of the team.”
What Gagliolo said after scoring his milestone point greatly impressed Moran. “When he got back to the bench, he said, ‘that’s over now, let’s go out and win the game.’ “That full team approach is what this team was about the entire year.”
St. Mary’s opened the State Tournament with a highly anticipated showdown against Winthrop, dethroning the defending state champions in front of a full house at the Conigliaro Gymnasium, The Spartans went on to defeat No. 1-seed Manchester-Essex and No. 2 seed Pope John to win the North sectional. In the state championship game against Cathedral, senior Devin Thompson scored 25 points as St. Mary’s won 70-64 to clinch the title.
The banquet was such a fun and festive occasion for the players, coaches, cheerleaders, parents, and guests that you almost wish that you could freeze the clock and bottle those moments.
But the players will remember this season and this banquet for the rest of their lives. One look at those trophies will reinforce what Kevin Garnett once said, “Anything is possible.”