HISTORY MADE: First time in almost 20 years – since 2005 – both teams in postseason in same season
There are not any “watch parties” planned. They are not gathering to see what the final decisions become. But rest assured a large contingent of Malden High School basketball players and coaches – boys and girls – will be intently awaiting the news tomorrow. On Saturday the MIAA will release the Division 1 State Basketball Tournament seeds and pairing for the preliminary and first rounds.
For the first time in nearly 20 years, both the Golden Tornado Boys Team, coached by Don Nally, and the Girls Team, coached by Scott Marino, are competing in the postseason.
That’s some very positive energy – and upbeat history – around the school and Malden Public Schools (MPS) district, according to MPS Director of Physical Education Charlie Conefrey, who is in the midst of his seventh year at the helm. “This is the first time since 2005 that both the Boys and Girls varsity basketball teams made the State Tournament, and we could not be happier,” Conefrey told The Advocate this week. “There is a good buzz around the school and these two teams genuinely support each other.”
“Just last week we had back-to-back Senior Nights – on Thursday [Feb. 16] for the Girls Team and Friday [Feb. 17] for the Boys Team – and just about the entire Boys basketball program’s players were there in the stands for the girls’ game and the same the next night: All the girls players came to the boys game to support those guys,” Conefrey said. “It was a terrific atmosphere both nights and great to see. A lot of memories were made.”
Coach Nally’s Boys Varsity team finished 12-8 overall, winning four of five and its last three in a row last week, an impressive feat for a team that bottomed out last season at 1-19. They roared back and “flipped the script” this year – largely with a lot of the same players. “It’s a big relief and a big accomplishment for our kids,” Coach Nally said. “Who wants to have that record? No one.”
“These players who are seniors had to go through a season like that and then motivate themselves for a turnaround year – and they did it,” Nally added. “They deserve a lot of credit.”
A big part of the turnaround was the return of 6-6 senior forward and captain Jonald Joseph, who missed all of last season with a microfracture in his lower back, an increasingly common basketball injury with college and professional players. Joseph was a stabilizing player up front who really came on strong in the second half of the season, emerging as “a gamechanger he was expected to be before he got hurt,” Nally said.
Senior guard and captain Justin Bell led the team in scoring at a 15.9 points per game clip, and senior captain Peyton Carron “steered the ship,” according to Nally.
“Peyton really stepped up as both a leader and a contributor this year,” Nally said. “We could not have done this without his efforts.”
Malden also leaned on junior 6-3 forward Zeke Noelsaint and freshman point guard Ethan Phejarasai for important contributions this year.
All five of those regular starters are worthy of All-Star consideration in the Greater Boston League (GBL), Nally said.
On the girls’ side, Malden Head Coach Scott Marino had the youngest team in the GBL – one senior, Anna Yak – and still managed to go 11-9 and qualify for the postseason. Marino had to count on big contributions every night from the 6-2 Yak under the boards and from junior Tori Gammon in the scoring department.
“After those two, it was a very young group and difficult to expect what they could contribute, but they gave their best and it was very satisfying to see these players make it to the postseason,” Marino said. “I have told them the competition they will face next week will be top shelf and they have to be ready.”
With both teams in the mid-40s in the MIAA Power Rankings, each is expected to be on the road either Monday or Tuesday, Feb. 27-28 against a 30-34th seeded team. Check out Twitter accounts @MaldenHS_Sports and @NewsMalden or @cityofmalden Twitter accounts on Saturday for updates.