Boston High School: Mike Nelson

D2 South: Bishop Feehan 73, Canton 56

February, 28, 2014
ATTLEBORO, Mass. -- Bishop Feehan head coach Matt Freeman admitted he couldn't have scripted junior Frank Oftring's role in Friday night's game any better.

Oftring exploded for a game-high 32 points and 10 rebounds to lead the top-seeded Shamrocks to a comfortable 73-56 win over Canton in the Division 2 South Quarterfinals.

Freeman said he had a clear message for Oftring in the days off between the Shamrocks win over Foxborough on Wednesday and their contest against Canton on Friday.

"I told him, 'If we can get the ball to you in places where you can do damage, you can absolutely be dominant on the interior against this team.' That's exactly what happened. I couldn't have scripted it any better the role he would have in this game."

The Bulldogs opened the game up in typical Canton fashion -- with a three-pointer -- but it was Oftring that answered on the other end, converting the layup and and-one to really set the tone for what would happen the rest of the game. Oftring finished with 12 points in just the first quarter alone as the Shamrocks raced out to a 25-9 lead.

"That's a very, very good team," said Canton head coach Ryan Gordy. "They have a lot of different weapons and a lot of different guys that can hurt you. It's an excellent ball club and they're well-coached. We had no answer, absolutely no answer for Oftring. The better team won tonight."

The Bulldogs made it interested with an 8-0 run in the middle of the second quarter, shrinking the Shamrock's lead to 11 at 31-20, but Oftring broke the run and sparked a Feehan one, scoring seven of Bishop Feehan's 14 points as the Shamrocks closed out the quarter on a 14-0 run and had a 45-20 lead at halftime.

"They were sitting in that extended 1-3-1 zone for a good position of the game," Freeman explained. "We worked on it in practice in the two days between. Because it was a little spaced in the middle of the floor, we wanted to try and get the ball in Frankie's hands and he could look opposite. When they collapsed there, we were able to get the cross pass or to the corner and we knocked down a couple of those. I think what really made the difference was with the movement, we were able to get guys to leave their feet and we could turn the corner and get into the lane and dish for easy layups or get fouled going to the basket."

The Shamrocks had little trouble on the offensive end of the floor and a big part of that was their ball movement. The team combined for 16 assists and often used an extra pass to find a wide open team for either an easy lay up or a open three.

"A lot of teams have been able to get the extra pass on us this year but they haven't had that extra option," Gordy said. "[Feehan] has a lot of weapons. We've done a good job all year of taking away team's weapons but they just had too many weapons."

Canton heated up in the third quarter, hitting four three-pointers and outscoring the Shamrocks 19-10 in the quarter to trail 55-39 heading into the final frame. After being shutout in the third quarter, Oftring dropped 11 points in the final frame, including a three that pushed Feehan's lead past 20.

Shamrock sophomore guard Mike Nelson has proven himself as a scorer but it was his defense that stood out. He was assigned the task of guarding Canton leading Sam Larson throughout the game and though Larson finished with a team-high 17 points, Nelson didn't allow many clean looks - if any at all - for Larson.

"He may have actually been the unsung here with his defense. We all know he can score but he's such an unselfish player and when he digs in on defense and slides the feet and cuts off driving lanes, he made Larson take very difficult shots."

Eight different Feehan players made a mark in the scorebook as David Carchedi chipped in with 10 points, Austin Burlone added seven points and both Nelson and Nick Botelho each had six points.

Canton senior Tristin Morris added 16 points for the Bulldogs and Ato Botsio chipped in with 12 points.

Bishop Feehan now advances to the D2 South Semifinals to face off against No. 12 seed Milton.

Recap: No. 14 Bishop Feehan 72, Durfee 54

February, 8, 2014
ATTLEBORO, Mass. – Where do you start when analyzing Bishop Feehan’s 72-54 non-league romp over Durfee on Friday night?

One could start with the fact that the Shamrocks (15-1), who began the game ranked 14th in the latest ESPN Boston poll, put four players in double figures: Nicholas Botelho (20), David Carchedi (15), Frank Oftring (12) and Mike Nelson (10).

One also could underscore the fact Feehan shot a scalding 90.5 percent (19-of-21) from the free throw line.

But the most appropriate place to start is in the first half when Feehan’s man-to-man defense grabbed the Hilltoppers (9-7) by their collective necks and never let go.

“We’ve scouted them and seen a lot of teams play Durfee,” Feehan coach Matt Freeman said after his team won its 10th consecutive game. “A lot of teams have been playing zones against them. We just said ‘You know what? We’re going to play these guys man-to-man and make them have to earn it.'

“In the two times we played them (Feehan prevailed, 61-47, at Durfee on January 14), that caused them some problems – having to use post moves and run a set, structured offense and score out of it.

“I think we showed them we could hold them in check,” Freeman added. “So, I really was proud of the defensive effort. It set the tone.”

How true.

Blazing start: Before an SRO crowd at Feehan, the Shamrocks went on a 20-2 run in the first half which increased a 10-7 lead to 30-9 lead with 4:09 left in the half.

Altogether, Feehan forced Durfee into 12 first-half turnovers and scored nine points off those miscues. But as Freeman alluded to, the Shamrocks’ tenacious, man-to-man defense took the Hilltoppers completely out of their offense as Feehan led 36-15 at intermission.

“I think they were a little bit bewildered when they realized they realized they were down 20 at the break,” Freeman said. “I definitely was very pleased.”

Freeman had mixed feelings once Durfee mounted a mini-rally and sliced its deficit to 15 points (53-38) late in the third quarter. But during one stretch, Botelho tipped in a missed shot; Carchedi blew through Durfee’s zone defense for an easy layup; and Botelho buried a 3-point shot.

Altogether Botelho, a sophomore forward, scored 11 of his points in the second half.

“The third quarter is what we’re going to use as fodder moving forward because we gave up as many points in the third quarter (25) as we gave up basically in the other three quarters combined, minus the three (by Yamgel Rivera) right at the end,” Freeman said. “We’re always looking for cannon fodder to get on our guys.

“They broke us down off the dribble too many times for our liking. Luckily, we were keeping pace with them scoring-wise. But once it gets down to, 13, 14 or 15 it gets a little dicey. I think we hit a couple of bombs at that point (one was a trey by Stephen Gagnier with 33 seconds left in the third). And I think a couple of their guys lost a little bit of their composure and we took advantage of that at the foul line and made our free throws.”

Free throw city: The sequence Freeman referred to commenced at the start of the fourth quarter when Durfee was whistled for a flagrant foul which resulted in two freebies, each of which was buried by Austin Burlone.

Before the final period ended, Durfee was slapped with two technical fouls. Burlone converted both ends of the first while Nelson (who was 8-for-8 at the stripe) sank both ends of the second.

Two Hilltoppers did reach double figures, Nick Salmon and Chris Farmington with 13 points apiece. But one notable absentee from the double-figure column was Tyree Robinson, who torched Dartmouth for 34 points during a 77-64 victory last Tuesday.

In this game, Feehan held Robinson to a microscopic six points.

“We know how talented and dynamic a player Tyree is,” Freeman said. “Nick Botelho is a talented sophomore and we wanted him to play (Robinson) physically, fairly and hard. We challenged him again tonight.

“I don’t think Tyree ever was on the verge of taking over the game.”

Walpole's Arsenault wins inaugural Shot For Life Challenge

August, 4, 2013

HANOVER, Mass. –- Even Mike Slonina was impressed.

More than two years since the 20-year old Watertown resident hoisted jumpers for 24 consecutive hours and created A Shot For Life Foundation (ASFL) -– a non-profit dedicated to funding brain cancer research at Mass General Hospital and Boston Children’s Hospital -– the former Catholic Memorial School varsity basketball manager was awestruck by his surroundings.

As he stood in the middle of the eight basketball courts that comprise the University Sports Complex in Hanover –- site of Saturday afternoon’s inaugural “A Shot For Life Challenge” – the rising junior from Quinnipiac University pronounced, “The amount of shooting talent in this room is . . . it’s tough to match. And the fact that they’re all doing this, really, to make a good impact on the world, outside of basketball, is awesome. All these kids deserve a ton of credit for this.”

When the two-hour exhibition – which challenged 11 competitors to 20-minute intervals of specific shot types, including mid-range jumpers, free throws and three-pointers – concluded between the Commonwealth’s top marksmen, Scott Arsenault, who will be a senior at Walpole High this fall, was crowned the “Best Shooter in Massachusetts.”

With a large crowd of friends and family looking on, the Rebels two-guard knocked down 90.6 percent of his attempts to better runner-up Shiraz Mumtaz of Brookline High, who finished at an 81.8 percent clip. Newton North’s Tommy Mobley placed third with a shooting percentage of 79.2.

Arsenault, who led throughout, also received a trophy and will have his number retired at future ASLF events.

“I was just trying to hit as many as I could in a row,” he said. “I knew I was going to get tired because it was for two hours. So, I made sure to stay disciplined and not break my form.”

Drawing visions of Jimmy Chitwood -– the lean, smooth-shooting sniper from the film Hoosiers -– Arsenault battled through the final half-hour despite “feeling [his] leg kind of giving out.”

Such physical ailments were commonplace amongst a field that included Ben Judson (St. John’s Prep), Sam Bohmiller (Franklin), Nick McKenna (Danvers), Jake Foote (Duxbury), Ryan Roach (Cardinal Spellman), Mike Nelson (Bishop Feehan), and Tyler Gibson (Rockland), the Massachusetts’ Gatorade Player of the Year who will play at Bentley University next season. Vinny Clifford (Danvers) was a late scratch after injuring his knee during a recent pickup game.

“Extremely tired,” said Mobley in the competition’s immediate aftermath. “I think my right arm is significantly stronger than my left arm now.”

Judson acknowledged similar symptoms.

“It was definitely tough,” said the Plaitstow, NH product. “My arms and legs were so tired halfway through, but I just had to keep pushing.”

Said Bohmiller, who will play at Babson College next season, “My arms are heavy and I’m pretty tired, but I had a lot of fun.”

Despite their collective fatigue, there was a general sense of elation that each competitor had pushed themselves to their physical limits for a worthwhile cause.

And though many were aware that what they had accomplished –- regardless of their final stats -– was significant, they also knew it paled in comparison to Slonina’s 24-hour shooting marathon.

“It seems impossible to do that,” Mobley said of shooting for a full day. “I’m right now very exhausted. I’m probably going to sleep the whole car ride home. And when I get home, I may take a shower and sleep some more. He shot for 12 times longer than I did, so, I mean, doing that 11 more times, back-to-back, I can’t even imagine what it must mean. It’s incredible that he was willing to work that hard for the cause; it’s incredible that there are people out there with that much passion to help others.”

Echoed Bohmiller, “No way, I don’t know how he [did] it . . . Props to him for 24 hours. That’s something special.”
Still, Slonina knows that for now his shooting days are over. He’s traded in his sneakers for wingtips as he focuses on expanding ASFL and its marquee event each year.

“For A Shot For Life to grow in the way that I want it to grow,” he said, “A Shot For Life can’t be synonymous with Mike Slonina. It just can’t be. A Shot For Life needs to outgrow me in that sense. I [received] a big outpouring of support for the 24 hours; that’s great and I appreciated all of it. But I want A Shot For Life to grow to the size of Livestrong. I want A Shot For Life to be nationwide. If it’s about one kid shooting over and over, it can’t do that. The face has to change.”

With Saturday’s one-day event already topping $10,000 in proceeds, Slonina understands that there is more money to collect and donate and additional events to plan.

“Raising money is the part that counts,” he said. “We raised $10,000 without any corporate help whatsoever. In my mind, I think, we can easily turn that into $50,000. That’s with no corporate sponsorship; that’s a really good sign.”

As for the structure of next year’s event, Slonina said, “We’re definitely having a dunk contest, I can guarantee that. We’re almost going to turn it into an NBA All-Star Saturday where they have the skills competition, three-point shootout and dunk contest. That’s what this event will eventually evolve into.”

While Slonina will no longer be doing the shooting, it’s undeniable that the legacy he created and the standard he set with his courageous effort in April 2011 will endure.

Paul Lazdowski can be followed on Twitter: @plazdow

High expectations for A Shot For Life Challenge

July, 23, 2013
WEST ROXBURY, Mass. -– Mike Slonina has always found solace and strength on the court. In 2010, when he learned that his mother had been diagnosed with brain cancer, the Watertown resident went straight to the Waltham YMCA and shot jumpers for four hours, while trying to process the news. Gratefully, the initial diagnosis turned out to be incorrect and he became determined to try and prevent others from suffering from the hopelessness that he felt that afternoon.

It turned out that basketball would provide more than just a coping mechanism, it also became the method by which Slonina, then a senior at Catholic Memorial High School, would try and fight back.

“I’m one of those people that, when something goes wrong, I feel like I have to do something,” he recently reflected. “The thing with cancer is that it makes you feel helpless and that’s what makes me so mad. I just wanted to give that hope back and show people that you can make a difference.”

He formed a non-profit foundation, trained for several months, and, on April 9, 2011, took to the Ronald S. Perry gymnasium court and shot jumpers for 24 hours straight. That day, A Shot For Life Foundation (ASFL) raised more than just awareness about brain cancer; it also raised nearly $30,000 for Mass General Hospital and Boston Children’s Hospital.

Two years later, as a rising junior at Quinnipiac University, Slonina has organized another competitive event to further his organization’s mission of funding cancer research.

On Saturday, August 3, at the University Sports Complex in Hanover, 11 of the best shooters in Massachusetts high school basketball -- including Rockland's Tyler Gibson, the state's Gatorade Player of the Year -- will fire jumps shots for two straight hours. The winner of the “A Shot For Life Challenge” (to be determined by field goal percentage) will not only be crowned the “Best Shooter in Massachusetts,” but will also have his number retired for all future ASFL events.

“I think it’s great because you hear so many terrible things happening in youth sports today and here are 11 really tremendous basketball players unselfishly using their talents for a good cause,” said Slonina last week during a break in a youth camp that he is helping to run at his alma mater. “It was so great seeing that many young kids embracing it and realizing the good that they can do with basketball.”

His own basketball career was cut short in seventh grade by a nerve problem in his ankle, which it was later determined was caused by a bone being in the wrong place, but the game remained a huge part of his life. Slonina was the team manager for the CM team that won the 2008 MIAA Division 2 state championship and, when he needed an outlet for his desire to give back, basketball (and his great jump shot) was a natural fit.

He showed up at CM every morning at 6:30 a.m. to shoot, would lift during lunch periods, and then shoot for hours again after school. He demonstrated the same determination off the court, going door-to-door to raise funds for the event. While Slonina admits that ASFL is not yet raising the type of money that will make a huge difference, he firmly believes that every penny counts. He also believes that this is just the beginning for his foundation.

He explained, “That’s what everyone needs to grasp. On a bigger scale, that’s what I was trying to do with the 24-hour thing. People kept saying, ‘But, you’re only one person.’ It only takes one person.”

Following his feat, Slonina’s life changed and the profile of A Shot For Life was at its highest point. He hopes that the foundation, which he loves, can reach that potential again through the August competition and that the players will feel honored to be taking part in the event. There is no question that Slonina is already eyeing the future and placing high expectations on himself and the foundation.

“I want to be the Nike of non-profits,” he said with total sincerity and a contagious enthusiasm for what the future holds for ASFL. The inaugural “A Shot For Life Challenge” is still more than two weeks away, but Slonina is already thinking of ways to make it bigger and better in 2014. He exclaimed, “I can tell you right now that next year is going to have a dunk contest!”

Since his record-breaking effort, Slonina and A Shot For Life have inspired countless people and he can recount numerous examples of people that have shared stories that, he says, nearly bring him to tears. An example was a comment from one of his former teammates from the 2008 state title-winning team, who came back to rebound for him that day.

“[One of the players], who was a senior when I was a freshman, told me, ‘You don’t know how many people you just inspired.’ I look up to him, so him saying that...It just means so much to me,” marveled Slonina. “I don’t want to say a cliché, but it means the world to me.”

After several other tries to put into words just what it meant to read the letters and emails that he received after the 2011 event or to have people tell him how about how he affected their lives, Slonina simply shook his head and laughed, “This is the first time I’ve been speechless in an interview. I don’t know how to word it. It’s awesome.”

The “A Shot For Life Challenge” will take place on Saturday, August 3 at the University Sports Complex in Hanover beginning at 1 p.m. The 11 shooters are: Ben Judson, St. John’s Prep; Sam Bohmiller, Franklin; Tommy Mobley, Newton North; Nick McKenna, Danvers; Jake Foote, Duxbury; Ryan Roach, Cardinal Spellman; Vinny Clifford, Danvers; Scott Arsenault, Walpole; Mike Nelson, Bishop Feehan; Shiraz Mumtaz, Brookline; and Tyler Gibson, Rockland.

To donate to the A Shot For Life Challenge, CLICK HERE.

With strong young talent, future bright for MIAA hoops

March, 26, 2013
In the biggest game of the year in MIAA hoops, the Division 1 state title game, it seemed as if the sophomores were hitting all the big shots. With hundreds of Mansfield fans directly behind the basket screaming and waving, Putnam sophomore Ty Nichols nailed two free throws with eight seconds left in overtime to seal the Beavers’ first state title in school history.

But let’s not forget how the game got to that point. Rewind to the end of regulation.

Mansfield sophomore Ryan Boulter put on one of the gutsiest performances that we saw all season. After he was fouled on a three-point attempt with five seconds to go in the fourth quarter, Boulter went to the line with an opportunity to tie the game and send it into overtime. Miss one, and his team, in all likelihood, would lose the game.

Not only did Boulter hit all three free throws, he did so without ever taking his eyes off the rim -— not even to catch the bounce passes that came from the referee following each of the first two free throws. He sent the game into overtime, then hit a three-pointer from the wing to give Mansfield the lead.

Following a four point swing by Putnam, Boulter put the team on his back one last time -— draining a three-pointer to tie the game with just seconds to go in overtime. Enter Nichols, and game over.

While Putnam’s entire team circled around their trophy in the pressroom after the game, a few of Mansfield’s players sat across the room waiting to be interviewed. Boulter fought back tears. Brendan Hill -- a sophomore who was Hockomock League MVP and considered to be a Division 1 prospect in both football and basketball -- stared at the floor, head in hands.

While listening for Putnam senior KayJuan Bynum talk about the pride that Springfield has in basketball, I couldn’t help but glance over at Hill and Boulter across the room. Both fierce competitors with unbelievable poise, they sat in the shadows of the pressroom while Putnam’s players hugged each other in celebration.

That was the ringing overtone talked about for days following the state title game: Mansfield will be back.

It was the same reaction seen on the floor of the Tsongas Center only a week earlier. After a crushing defeat to a more experienced Central Catholic team, Lynn English sophomore guard Stevie Collins pulled his jersey over his face as the final buzzer sounded, hiding tears from watching Central Catholic celebrate the Division 1 North championship.

The playoff run was an unexpected one for the Bulldogs, and English can be expected to be back next year. With Collins’ classmates Johnny Hilaire (6-foot-6 forward) and Erick Rosario (6-foot guard) both returning, as well as juniors Freddy Hogan and Danny Lukanda, expect a big run from English once again. The Bulldogs' run to the North final almost wasn’t possible, mainly because of 20 points from Everett sophomore Gary Clark in the quarterfinal match -- a high-scoring, back-and-forth match that left English the 94-87 victors.

English, Putnam, and Mansfield, and Everett are not alone in boasting talented young players, though. Statewide, the MIAA’s depth in the 2015 and 2016 classes is one of the best we have seen in recent memory.



Collins leads a long list of talented floor generals in the 2015 and 2016 classes. Those included (and very close behind him) are Lowell sophomore Kareem Davis, who ignited one of the state’s most exciting offenses this year; New Mission's Randy Glenn, a left-handed playmaker who was pivotal in helping the short-handed Titans make a run to the Boston City League championship; St. Peter-Marian freshman Makai Ashton, a fearless point guard who is considered to be the best long-term guard prospect in the Worcester area; and Melrose frosh Sherron Harris, whose "on-court killer" style of play is scarily similar to his cousin, Cushing Academy star Jalen Adams.

-- St. John's (Shrewsbury) sophomore Davon Jones has more big-game experience than any of the point guards listed above, as he has helped lead Bob Foley’s Pioneer squad to WPI each of the last two years. As mentioned with Hill, Jones is considered to be a Division 1 football prospect.

-- Boston English freshman Ernie Chatman will win a lot of games for Boston English over the next three years, Chatman is a great ballhandler who is also lightning quick and a great floor leader.

-- Along with Glenn and Chatman, Brighton freshman Javaughn Edmonds will make a major impact in the Boston City League in the coming years. Edmonds will be looked to to step in and help fill in some of the production missing from departing ESPN Boston Mr. Basketball Malik James.



There is no question who has the highest ceiling of any player in the MIAA. It is Springfield Central’s 6-foot-8 sophomore Chris Baldwin. A sureshot Division 1 prospect who can block shots, rebound at a high rate, and score in a variety of ways, Baldwin will make sure Central remains one of the state’s best hoops programs after making the Western Mass. Division 1 championship game once again this year.

St. Peter-Marian freshman Greg Kuakumensah will have big shoes to fill next year for the Guardians, especially as they soon graduate forward Tim Berry, the heart and soul of their offense. Kuakumensah, the younger brother of Brown University forward Cedric Kuakumensah, will join Ashton in what should be a very bright future for St. Peter-Marian. At 6-foot-4, he is a great shot blocker like his older brother, but is also tremendous athlete and competitor.

-- SPM isn’t the only squad returning a talented young duo though. Brighton, the Division 2 state champion, will, alongside Edmonds, return 6-foot-5 sophomore forward Jason Jones, who played a lead role in helping the Bengals to their first Boston City League championship.

-- Andover's 6-foot-5 sophomore forward Connor Merinder was limited in minutes this year as he recovered from a severe wrist injury. However, he was able to recover by playoff time and led the Warriors to the Division 1 North semifinals, knocking off Medford and St. John’s Prep in order to do so.

-- For all the attention to the prospects at larger Division 1 and 2 schools, keep an eye on 6-foot-5 sophomore forward Jake Wisniewski out of Quaboag. After averaging over 20 points per game for Quaboag this past year, the already-experienced post scorer is one of the state’s top prospects in Division 3. A talented forward at Division 3 New Leadership, 6-foot-6 freshman Davidson Pacheco, will take his talents elsewhere after averaging 10 points per game this year, what with the expected closing of the Springfield-based charter school.



Newton North sophomore Tommy Mobley was one of the state’s most feared scorers this year, leading the Tigers to a 20-4 record and picking up Bay State Carey MVP. Mobley and St. John’s Prep sophomore guard Ben Judson showed that they can be two of the MIAA’s best scorers again next year. Like Mobley, Judson’s three-point range extends all the way out to 25 feet—as both were known to drop a barrage of three-pointers on opponents this year, heavily guarded or not.

New Mission's Juwan Gooding, New Bedford's Tyree Weston, and Catholic Memorial's Guilien Smith, were all early exits from the state tournament this year. But as three of the MIAA’s most talented pure scorers in the 2015 class, they’ll be back for big runs next year. Smith and Gooding are finesse guys who use their quick first step to get to the rim, while Weston uses his sculpted frame to overpower opponents and score inside-out.

-- One other Springfield product to keep an eye on is Cathedral sophomore Darrick Boyd. The young, talented sharpshooter scored 19 points per game this year, leading Cathedral to a 13-9 record. Danvers sophomore Vinny Clifford, also a dead-eye shooter, will be looked at to be a leader for the two-time defending Division 3 state champion. Clifford, the younger brother of Merrimack College forward Mike Clifford, was an integral piece this year for a team led by Eric Martin, Nick Bates, and Nick McKenna.

-- Yet another two-sport star, Wakefield sophomore Bruce Brown, helped the Warriors make a deep run in the Division 2 North tournament this year, eventually falling to a deeper, more experienced North Andover team. Brown is an elite athlete who, at his best, is nearly unstoppable because of his upper body strength. On the football field, Brown caught seven touchdown passes as a wide receiver last fall.

-- Two 14-seed over 3-seed upsets in the first round of the Division 1 North tournament should be remembered going forward. Freshman Saul Phiri’s heroics in a first-round upset win helped lead Haverhill past Westford Academy, while frosh Keyshaad Dixon’s three-pointers sparked perhaps the most surprising win of the first round, as Braintree knocked off heavily-favored BC High.

-- St. John's (Shrewsbury) freshman Adham Floyd, was a very important piece for the Pioneers’ run to the Central Mass. Division 1 title game, starting several games during the season. Bishop Feehan freshman Mike Nelson, a teammate of Floyd's with the Shooting Stars AAU program, showed great poise in leading his team to an impressive run in the Division 3 South tournament, falling narrowly in the quarterfinals to eventual D3 South champion Martha’s Vineyard.


Picking the Super Team for this year's ESPN Boston MIAA All-State Team sparked as much debate as any Super Team selection in recent years. The statewide parity, talented young players bolting to prep school, and lack of scholarship-level talent in the upper classes forced careful consideration and a never-ending debate about picking out the MIAA’s elite upperclassmen.

However, with the amount of freshmen and sophomores who made a name for themselves on a big stage this year -- the instant-classic Division 1 state final between Mansfield and Putnam being the prime example -- it's likely we won’t spend too much time worrying about the pipelines of scholarship-level talent coming up the ranks in MIAA basketball.

Saugus officially moving to Cape Ann League

December, 17, 2012
Last Friday, principals from the Northeastern Conference member schools voted to allow Saugus High to leave the conference, effective for the 2013-14 schools year, for the Cape Ann League.

Saugus High athletic director first confirmed the news Friday afternoon with a post on the Saugus Athletics Twitter account. The Sachems will become the 13th member of the league, essentially taking the place of North Andover, which left the CAL this year for the Merrimack Valley Conference.

Nelson issued a statement to the Boston-area media this afternoon candidly explaining the rationale:

I am pleased to announce that Saugus High School is the newest member of the Cape Ann League. This past Friday the Northeastern Conference principals voted to allow Saugus High School to leave the conference effective next fall. The Cape Ann League had already approved this move a week prior. Principal Joe Diorio and I both believe that being a member of the Cape Ann League is the best situation for our student-athletes and we are excited to start this endeavor.

Though we highly respect the Northeastern Conference, we feel the Cape Ann League is better suited for Saugus High School. The two major reasons for this historic decision are simple: size and competitiveness. As of today, SHS has 699 students and the average size of the schools in the CAL is 678 students; as opposed to the NEC, where the average size school is over 1200. SHS is a Division 3 school and 10 of the 12 schools in the CAL are Division 3; as opposed to the NEC, where 9 of the 12 schools are either Division 1 or Division 2. Based on this fact, SHS has not experienced a great deal of success during the regular season. In fact, SHS has won only 2 NEC Championships (lacrosse 2008 & softball 2011) over the past six years. Though the CAL is also a highly competitive conference, we believe SHS will experience more in-season success based on the parity of the league and the size of all the schools in the conference.

Over the past year I have been in constant conversations with my coaches regarding this possible move and I have been getting their feedback on the pros and cons for their individual programs. As the Athletic Director, it is my job, and my responsibility to do what is best for all the athletes in my program and not to focus on just one team. With this said, and to the contrary of what many believe, this move to the CAL is not a decision based solely on football, but rather a decision on what is best for our overall athletic program.

I have heard comments that this move is based around football; which although this move will help our football program, it is not the driving force. Again, this decision is based on what we believe is best for all our student-athletes! I understand there are issues for some programs based on their strong tradition, such as hockey, and I completely respect these concerns and the tradition. I have given my word to my coaches that we will continue to play such NEC schools that have strong traditions in specific sports; such as Winthrop, Beverly, and Danvers in hockey.

I also understand the concerns that there is more travel involved in playing in the CAL, which is true; but it is not as bad as one would think. Many of the CAL schools are directly located off of I95 and one would be able to get to these schools in the same time frame as many of the NEC schools. Yes, the distance is further,but the time to get there is equivalent.

Overall, I am very grateful to the NEC, the CAL, the Saugus School Committee, and the MIAA for allowing this opportunity for our student-athletes. I believe this change will have a positive influence on our athletic program, on the town and, most importantly it will be beneficial for the student-athletes at Saugus High School.