Be careful what you wish for when trying to fill a holiday tournament vacancy. You might get it.
You might get St. Anthony of Jersey City.
The Garden City Classic of Newton did.
Nothing like having a living high school legend and a high-wire basketball act visit your home town.
Newton North coach Paul Connolly needed a fourth team last week to round out his annual Classic field, one that already included Newton South and Catholic Memorial. St. Anthony, ranked No. 4 nationally in the MaxPreps Xcellent 25 Writers Poll, had a trip to Canada fall through, and coach Bob Hurley was looking for a couple of games ... or at least court time and five guys in opposite-colored jerseys.
The results were what you might have expected - mostly good, even in light of the Friars' 72-48 win against Catholic Memorial in the semifinals, and their 77-33 romp in the finals over Newton North.
The appreciative crowds came early, came in large numbers, and stayed late to get autographs and a glimpse of the Hall of Famer Hurley, who is approaching 1,000 career wins. Catholic Memorial (3-3) stayed surprisingly close to St. Anthony (now 6-0) for the first half of the semis before getting buried over the final two quarters by the Friars' wealth of talent.
Though it wasn't your traditional holiday break matchup, seeing the iconic Hurley and players such as Rutgers recruit Myles Mack and Kyle Anderson proved to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for the many who attended.
St. Anthony played the first night without several key players, including 6-foot-6 Jimmy Hall, who forgot one of his game jerseys.
"What (Hurley) stands for as a coach, a teacher, he’s the best,” Connolly told the Boston Herald.
“I don’t think it was St. Anthony basketball (in the semifinals),” Hurley said. “I think we lacked the passion and intensity we’re used to having. (For the final), we had a nice workout at Boston College and addressed the things we just didn’t see. And I liked so many more things about what we did tonight.”
Due to the scheduling shortfall caused by the Canadian event, the games in Newton were only the fourth and fifth of the season for St. Anthony. The Friars returned to play in New Jersey on Jan. 2 with a 12-point win over Plainfield.
But they'll be back in Massachusetts on Jan. 15 to face DeMatha in a nationally televised game at the annual Basketball Hall of Fame showcase, the Spalding Hoophall Classic, at Springfield College.
“In high school basketball, you’re just playing to get better,” Hurley said. “I think that’s good for us, because it’s made us try to find out what this group could be good at.”
Asked what his strategy would be prior to his team's encounter with St. Anthony, Connolly figured he'd keep things simple:
"Keep my eyes closed."
TARGETED FOR SUCCESS
Playing with targets on their backs hasn't affected the Andover girls basketball team in the least. In fact, it may be making them stronger.
The defending MIAA Division 1 champs improved to 7-0 as they captured their second straight Greater Lawrence Christmas Tournament title with a 66-41 win over Pinkerton (N.H.), at Methuen High.
Boston College commit Nicole Boudreau, a 5-foot-9 junior guard, earned her second consecutive Greater Lawrence MVP award by scoring 25 points in the final, while recording six rebounds, three assists, four steals and one blocked shot. She sat out most of the final period as the outcome had already been decided.
Earlier this season, Boudreau passed the 1,000-point mark for her career.
"She thrives off the crowd,” Boudreau's twin sister, junior guard Danielle, told the Lawrence Eagle-Tribune. “The bigger (the game) the better. She just works off the energy and she’s an amazing player. But when she’s put under pressure, she really knows how to step up.”
For the season, Nicole Boudreau is averaging 21 points per game, 6.7 rebounds and 3.9 assists. Senior captain, point guard and Marist College recruit Natalie Gomez-Martinez contributes 12.4 points per game, five assists and 4.1 steals per outing for Andover, which hasn't lost since the third week of January 2010.
The Golden Warriors routed Longmeadow by 73-37 in the MIAA Division 1 final last March at the DCU Center in Worcester, and have won 22 in a row overall. They'll go for their 23rd consecutive win Tuesday night when they face the last team to beat them, Wachusett Regional.
"It is difficult to be the hunted," Andover coach Jim Tildsley said in an e-mail. "But we are doing a good job so far...(It's) a big week facing Wachusett tonight and our rival, Central Catholic, who I believe is the second best team in Division 1."
ARLINGTON HONORS ONE OF ITS OWN
Ed Burns, the 90-year-old former coach at Arlington High, already had a hockey tournament named after him. Now he has an entire building bearing his name.
The Arlington Veterans Memorial Skating Rink formally became the Ed Burns Arena last week between games of the annual Ed Burns Holiday Tournament. The tournament featured a star-studded lineup that included Arlington Catholic, Reading and Billerica.
Burns won 695 hockey games at Arlington in 50 years as its head coach. He also coached the school's football team to 110 victories in 21 seasons, a dual role that was marked by undefeated seasons and state championships in both sports in 1966-67.
Among the many former players of Burns who attended the re-naming ceremony was current Hockey East Commissioner Joe Bertagna, who was a goalie at Arlington.
“We looked up to (Burns) like he was God,’’ said Bertagna to the Boston Globe. “It was a privilege playing for him. He was very structured and always made us feel prepared."
SUCCESSFUL BOYS COACH RETURNS WITH THE GIRLS
Ron Wojcik once coached the Pittsfield boys basketball team to nearly 200 victories. Today he's trying his coaching touch with the Hoosac Valley girls, so far with great success.
After taking several seasons off to watch his son play at Agawam High, Wojcik has the Hoosac girls off to a 4-1 start.
"It's very different," Wojcik told the Berkshire Eagle. "It's been fun. There are definitely differences between (boys and girls coaching). Probably what I'm seeing with girls is they pay attention to detail a lot better than the boys do for sure. They ask more questions about plays, sets, defenses. Girls think about it a little more.
"I think that with girls I've probably laughed and joked more with them in practice than I did with boys teams," Wojcik added. "With girls, something funny happens - somebody trips over a ball - you laugh, blow the whistle and get back into the drill. They turn their intensity on and off just like that."
ISLANDERS HOCKEY RIVALRY IS BORN
The football teams on the neighboring islands of Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard have played 63 times over the last 64 years. It was such big news the one season they didn't play - 2009 - that the Wall Street Journal covered the demise of the rivalry.
Never, though, had the schools' hockey teams met. All that changed last week at the Christopher Nugent Bovers Community Rink on Nantucket. Already the rivalry is a heated one.
A total of 23 penalties were called on the two teams as Martha's Vineyard skated away with a 4-0 victory. Colby Gouldrup finished with a goal and two assists for the Vineyarders, who will play host to Nantucket in the second of the home-and-home set on Jan. 14 at Martha's Vineyard Arena.
PERFORMANCES OF NOTE
* Sophomore guard Shanelle Sims scored 38 points as the Burncoat girls basketball team knocked off St. Peter-Marian, 67-58.
* Sophomore center Isaiah Robinson of top-ranked St. John’s Prep scored 13 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in a 81-77 victory over New Bedford in the finals of the Class A BABC Holiday Classic at Chelsea High.
* Tournament MVP Edward Toney had 20 points and 30 rebounds as No. 7 Brighton went into Brockton and knocked off the No. 15 Boxers, 73-67, in the 37th-annual Brockton Rotary Holiday Tournament.
Jim Stout is the CBS MaxPreps Media Manager for the Eastern United States. He may be reached at 845-367-2864 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.