A hard-earned crown
Hull girls win state title after fund-raising saves program
An exhausted Nicole Heavern walked over to the Hull bench, hugged a teammate, glanced up at the scoreboard and then over to the large Pirates crowd, and flashed a satisfied smile.
Heavern took a seat and enjoyed the double-digit lead over Greater New Bedford Voc-Tech. The 5-foot-10 senior captain had just wrapped up a 13-point performance last Saturday in the Division 4 South final. Less than a minute later, the Pirates walked out of the Clark Athletic Center at the University of Massachusetts Boston with their heads held high to start preparing for the state championship game.
Their Cinderella season culminated with a trip to the TD Garden, allowing Heavern to end her Pirates’ career on the biggest stage playing for a state championship. But in the back of her mind, she remembered how close Hull came to not having a season at all.
“I definitely didn’t think there was going to be a basketball season during the fall,’’ said Heavern. “We had to fund-raise and the whole soccer season we were just being told that we weren’t sure if we had basketball yet and to keep fund-raising. . . . I had to make sure I went to every single fund-raiser to make sure that we got money for this.
“I really just have to thank the boosters and everyone that helped with raising money.’’
Without their efforts, the Pirates would not have experienced the once in a lifetime thrill of capturing a state title on the parquet floor at the Garden, a 59-55 win over New Mission.
Heavern was instrumental, finishing with 27 points and 10 rebounds. It was a fitting end for a team that, through no fault of its own, was under a tremendous amount of outside pressure dating back to before the tipoff of the season.
The last two years, Hull athletics have operated on a zero budget. Declining tax revenues coupled with required debt service payments for major renovations in Hull’s three schools necessitated budget cuts.
Voters rejected a Proposition 2 1/2 override last May that, among other things, would have helped restore the high school’s athletic budget. The year before, voters rejected debt exclusion.
Year-round fund-raising has become a part the town’s sports culture. Gate receipts previously directed to the booster club now help directly fund the athletic budget. Games are staffed entirely by volunteers. Step user fees were implemented to bridge the gap.
Hull athletic director Jim Quatromoni said his teams, on average, are playing 20-percent fewer games. His department has spent a combined $200,000 the last two years. Three years ago, the operating budget was $240,000.
“If we don’t [fund-raise], the day will come where we’ll have to cut something,’’ said Quatromoni, a Hull High graduate. “I can’t say enough, we’ve been very successful with fund-raising right now. Everyone has been fantastic, but the burden of the funding of our athletic department has gone from a town-wide issue, a town-wide responsibility, to a select few — those who pay the fees, those who pay the tickets, and those who take the time to open up their pocket books and donate to us.’’
“This is not sustainable. The day will come, and I’m up at night worrying that the day will come, when some student-athletes will be denied an experience like this. It’s been a very difficult and emotional roller coaster. As I’ve said before, these kids are working hard in the offseason to improve — if they have a team. It sounds crazy after what was just accomplished.’’
On the court, the Pirates overcame their share of challenges to capture the program’s first state title since 1997. Hull entered the Division 4 South Sectional as the 16th seed after a 10-10 regular season.
“I always knew that we had a good team,’’ said third-year head coach Elizabeth Londergan. “We had this poster we made in the locker room called ‘little things.’ Back in December we put it up and wrote down the little things that we have to do. I told the girls that ‘I truly believe if you do all these little things, you’ll play at the Garden.’ We really, really work on little things. Little things equals champions.’’
Hull defeated 17th seed Southeastern Regional in the prelims (73-43), knocked off top seed Old Colony in the first round (67-45), topped eighth-seeded Westport in the quarterfinals (61-57), and beat fourth seeded Cohasset in the semis (51-47).
Heavern was the catalyst as a tough presence in the paint. She surpassed 1,000 career points earlier in the season and finished as the program’s all-time leading scorer (1,157 points).
She felt playing in the South Shore League against teams like Norwell (21-3), Cohasset (18-4), Abington (16-8), and Harwich (13-10) provided excellent preparation for the tournament.
“You don’t go into any game thinking this is going to be a cakewalk,’’ said Heavern of league play.
“Every single game is a hard game and you have to fight to the end to win. It definitely prepared us, because we have the best league,’’ she said. “So when we face other leagues it’s just not the same competition.’’
Heavern, who also plays soccer and lacrosse at the high school, hopes to play basketball in a Division 3 college program.
All of the players on the team are either members of the National Honor Society or are enrolled in Advanced Placement classes, according to Quatromoni. The Pirates will graduate Heavern, guards Amy MacDonald, Stefanie Cohen, and Elena Karski, forward Marissa Johnson, ) and 5-10 center Samantha Larson.
Here and there The Cohasset boys lost to Winthrop, 58-55 in the Division 4 State championship game Tuesday afternoon at TD Garden. The Skippers will lose captains Robert Jones and Sam Richardson to graduation. But Kyrel Jaudoo, a 6-foot-1 junior, is a phenomenal athletic talent who will steal headlines next season. . . . The Cardinal Spellman boys lost to Watertown, 56-36, in the Division 3 state semis. The Cardinals will return the dynamic 6-foot-5 Joey Glynn for his senior year. . . . The Mansfield boys were eliminated from Division 1 with a 64-55 loss to St. John’s Prep in the state semis on Tuesday night.
Michael Mancinelli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org