Vocal support spurs Golden Tornado Boys Basketball to solid effort in loss to Chelsea
Has it been that long? It surely has, but the Malden High School faithful held true to the old “just like riding a bike” saying.
When Malden High basketball senior Ronaldo Nguyen launched one of his many three-point missiles from the elbow of the court in the first quarter on Tuesday night, an ample number of the student fans (Yes, you read that right! STUDENT FANS!) rose in unison as the ball hit the peak of its trajectory. Then, as the ball descended toward the rim and twine, they made a whooshing sound with their voices and a downward motion with their arms – then screamed in exultation as Ronaldo’s first “fan-witnessed” three-ball of his career hit nothing but net. More rises, drops and unfettered student cheering continued all night as Ronaldo (21 points) had his best game as a Golden Tornados b-baller and his Malden team took visiting Chelsea to the limit, before dropping a 66-51 game at Roy Finn Gym.
On this night, of course, the superb individual effort of the senior Malden three-man and the Golden Tornados’ valiant effort had to take a back seat to the news of the day. For the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic was first declared in March 2020, student fans and all others had been allowed to attend an indoor MHS sporting event. Previously, only two fans from the same family were allowed in, due to local, state and federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) regulations.
With the number of positive cases plummeting in the city and in the Malden Public Schools and after local city and Health Department officials conferred, on Friday the decision was announced that student fans would be allowed back into indoor Malden High sporting events for the first time in nearly two years. Tuesday night’s Malden High boys’ basketball home game with Chelsea was the first opportunity for any students to come and root for their Golden Tornados teams since February 21, 2020, the final home game for the 2019-2021 MHS boys’ basketball squad. While Ronaldo Nguyen’s and other Golden Tornados’ heroics kept Malden within shouting distance right down to the last two minutes before the Chelsea Red Devils pulled away for good in a 66-51, Malden’s gymnasium was full of winners, anyway, with the return of the fans.
“It’s been a long time coming, but the day finally came when it was decided it was safe enough to allow students to return to the stands,” seventh-year Malden Public Schools Director of Athletics Charlie Conefrey said. “We really wanted to make this happen for the students. It is such a traditional part of their overall high school experience.” Conefrey said the students have been asking very often since the winter season started when they could return to the games and cheer on their classmates.
While the stands were not jam-packed on Tuesday night, there was a hearty (and vocal!) contingent of student fans on hand, all wearing masks throughout the contest, as per locally mandated COVID-19 safety protocol.
Malden High Principal Chris Mastrangelo said it was a welcome addition to the games for both the student fans and the players, some of whom had played last winter in front of no one at all, with a no-fan policy in effect for much of the 2021 winter athletic season. “There was a buzz around the school ever since we announced the change in the fan policy on Friday,” Mastrangelo said, noting that the cooperation by the students and all the Malden fans regarding mask and safety policies was exemplary. “Our kids were so excited to be able to attend the games in person and so were our players. It was a great game to watch, and I believe our team was inspired by their friends rooting for them in the stands.”
Malden and Chelsea had matched up just a week earlier at Chelsea High and were back at it on Tuesday after just a week, due to a scheduling quirk caused by COVID and snow day postponements. Last week, the Red Devils, a fast-paced, athletic team, had essentially run Malden off the court in a one-sided, blowout win.
That all changed on Tuesday night as Head Coach Don Nally’s team came to play and play hard in the home end of the bookend series. Led by the early hot shooting of Nguyen and senior 6-4, 255 classmate Luke Zubrzycki’s work in the trenches under the basket, Malden claimed a 17-16 lead after the first quarter. Senior Jason Ong hit a pair of “threes” in the second quarter; Nguyen added two more, and Malden trailed by just a point at halftime, 31-30. It went back-and-forth the rest of the way, and Malden trailed by only three points with 2:31 left to play, 50-47, before Chelsea just pulled away for good down the stretch.
Nguyen led all scorers with 21 points, Ong added 12 points and Luke Zubrzycki and Ryan Delacour each scored 8 points.
The loss dropped Malden to 1-10 on the season (1-10 Greater Boston League) while Chelsea improved to an even 5-5 in the GBL, tied for third place with Medford, and 7-6 overall.
Malden High boys’ basketball was back on the road with a trip to Lynn Classical on Thursday (after Advocate press deadline).
The Golden Tornados play their first non-league game on Saturday (tomorrow) at 3:00 p.m. versus Burlington. A busy four games in six days stretch continues next week at Tewksbury High in a non-league game on Monday, Feb. 7 at 7:00 p.m. (varsity only) and on Tuesday, Feb. 8, at home against Revere High, with freshmen at 4:00 at Ferryway School, junior varsity at 4:30 at Malden High and a 6:00 varsity matchup.