St. Mark boys team completes tough 10-3 season
The boys made the move into the Blue Open division of the Catholic Athletic League this season and knew that they would face some tough competition.
"The open division is the top in the league," Head Coach Tom Waddington explained. "For this team to play in the open division is a big deal."
Some members of the team may have wanted to rethink the switch after losing that first game by 23 points to St. Luke, but the loss provided a springboard for the team that would propel them into a great season.
"I have been coaching this team since most of them were in fourth grade and that first year we only won a single game," Waddington said. "This year we finished 10-3 and that says a lot about how far this team has come."
When St. Mark faced St. Luke for the second time, it was in the semi-final round of the playoffs and the outcome was very different, with St. Mark taking the victory by three points.
"It was a very close game, very aggressive with a lot of fouls, but our team stayed in there and we were able to win," Waddington explained. "It was very exciting for the kids to come back after such a loss in the beginning and go on to the finals."
The finals on Sunday had St. Mark face the team that handed them their only other losses of the season, a tough St. Michael team from Providence.
St. Mark came out with the first score of the game, but St. Michael quickly took a 15-7 lead early in the first half. Will Spahr's five points, including a three-point shot and a Ryan Southworth bucket brought St. Mark to within one point with 4:53 remaining in the first half. The team was unable to pull ahead despite Liam O'Farrell's aggressive play. O'Farrell kept the pressure on St. Michael, but the small, quick team forced several St. Mark turnovers and took a 36-18 lead at halftime.
St. Mark came back after the half determined not to let St. Michael gain anymore ground and matched them shot for shot in the first nine minutes of the second half.
A 9-0 run in the tenth minute of the half, sparked by Ben Thompson and Ben North steals, brought St. Mark within nine points of the 52-43 lead.
Matt Baptista entered the game for St. Mark and made a nice save to prevent an out-of-bounds turnover.
Steve Santos kept the team within reach with a quick steal and layup, but Danny Bailey was fouled on a three-point attempt and St. Michael was able to slow down the tempo of the game.
Guards Drew Waddington and Christian Tiexiera combined to keep St. Michael from penetrating to the boards, but it was St. Michael's perimeter shooting that ended up being the downfall for St. Mark and they ended in second place with a 66-52 loss.
Although the loss was disappointing, Waddington said that his players handled it well and he praised them for a good year.
"We knew going in that this was going to be a competitive game," Waddington said. "But they played a great game and it was a lot of fun."
"They are a great group of kids, a good passing team. They push up the floor well and they don't like to slow down," the coach explained.
One thing that was a challenge for the team this year is the lack of gym time for practices.
"All of these kids, except one, are on the middle school team and that is a good thing. If it weren't for that and Eric Bush, we would not have gotten nearly as much practice as we did," Waddington noted.
Although he is not sure about the direction the team will take next year, with the majority of the team moving on to high school, he said the important thing to remember is how far they have come.
"I just keep looking back to that fourth-grade year and seeing how far they have come as a team. In the beginning of this year I wasn't sure how we would fare, but that we would stay in and compete all year long is definitely a great thing," the coach concluded.