WORCESTER, Mass. -- The three-peat hasn’t been accomplished in Div. 1 girls basketball in more than a decade, but the pieces might be in place for the drought to end after Andover collected the second leg of the feat on Saturday.
The Golden Warriors will feature virtually the same core that drove them to a 27-1 season, and with one more championship next year they would be mentioned in the same breath as the Haverhill team that won from 1994-96.
“We are going to be good again next year when you have the best player in the state coming back and most of the nucleus coming back,” head coach Jim Tildsley said after the Golden Warriors 61-51 win over Amherst at the DCU Center.
Nicole Boudreau will have to try and outdo her impressive junior season. The 5-foot-10-inch junior grabbed the state's Gatorade Player of the Year honors after averaging 22.3 points, 7.9 rebounds, 6.0 steals in the 2011 regular season.
But anytime you get that kind of talent back for a second year, it’s never a bad start.
The question will be if the BC-bound Boudreau can stay motivated after all the success this year, but it was something she quickly rebuffed for her and her team.
“I don’t think our team needs extra motivation,” said Boudreau. “We all know how to pump each other up. We are a pretty competitive group of girls.”
Boudreau will probably need to play the point guard role in place of senior Natalie Gomez-Martinez. The two formed a special backcourt combination over the past few seasons, and the loss of the Golden Warriors floor general will be felt.
“You can’t replace Natalie,” said Boudreau. “She’s been our team leader this whole year. She’s been our point guard. She’s the one that handles then ball. When we are in trouble we give it to her. She makes the right choice. We are going to miss Natalie a heck of a lot.”
Tildsley believes that a slide over to point guard will be a seamless transition for Boudreau.
“She is going to be the point guard,” he said. “It’s her real position.”
Part of the optimism has to come from the play from Jackie Alois in the state final on Saturday. The 5-foot-6-inch sophomore scored 12 points and had eight rebounds in the state final win. The offensive output surprised her a little bit, because her role on this team all year has been to do the dirty work and the little things to help get Gomez-Martinez and Boudreau more touches.
With the talented backcourt fronted for most of the night, Alois got behind the defense on back cuts and back screens and showed an ability to finish at the rim.
“I have always been a defensive player,” said Alois. “In the second half I actually turned into a threat on offense. It made me feel invincible. It was so great.”
Added Tildsley: “That second half she was the difference. They were fronting Nicole. They were up on Natalie, so we said the screen-and-roll is going to work.”
The only other senior coming off the roster will be Elon Beasley, and the returning players will be a year older and will have another championship run under their belt. Does that mean that they are guaranteed, no.
Repeating as champion once is tough, just ask the head coach.
“It was tough this year to repeat,” said Tildsley. “I never expected us to repeat. Everyone says you’ve got it made, but it’s a tough, tough thing for high school kids. I just give my kids so much credit. They fought all year and this was a very tough game.”
But that doesn’t mean the team lacks confidence.
“Next year we are definitely excited,” said Boudreau. “We are all going to work our butts off during the offseason to get stronger.”