Lions win DCL, go far in tournament

By Erik Manditch
Published: March 2011

The Newton South Girls’ Varsity Basketball team had a season rarely seen at any level in any sport. They did not just compile a good record, the Lions also achieved something they never have before: they won the Dual County League (DCL). Their overall record was 21-2, including a 19-0 start to the regular season, and a 16-0 record in the DCL.

In the playoffs, the Lions defeated Brockton High School and Taunton High School in front of crowds that Head Coach Sam Doner believes have “a lot more respect [for the players] than I’ve ever seen.”

When South’s season ended on March 9, Doner was not as upset as many students assumed; he understood the value of this season to the South Basketball program. “It was a phenomenal season. The kids worked extremely hard. They achieved more than I ever thought they would,” he said.

During their stellar regular season, the Lions were dominant both offensively and defensively. They won their games by an average margin of 27.8 points and 12 of their 20 regular season games were won by 20 points or more.

In comparison, the 72-win Chicago Bulls team in 1995 only had an average winning margin of 15 points per game and only won 18 of their 72 games by 20 or more points, which is a 1:4 ratio compared to approximately a 2:3 ratio by the Lions.

It was only four years ago when the Varsity team went 2-17, and now it has transformed into a state powerhouse. Since Doner took over the team in 2007, the Lions went from a middle-of-the-pack squad to a team that can compete with the best in the region. This year’s senior class has seen the program rise from being at the bottom of the DCL to blowing through its DCL opponents and competing for a State title.

As magnificent as its season was, it is nearly impossible to go through an entire year without any adversity. As the players rolled into the closing games of the regular season, the Lions were thrown a curveball. Senior and starting center Julia Sloan-Cullen fractured her ankle after slipping on ice while taking a walk outside, and was forced to the sidelines for the remainder of the season.

This took away some of the season-long momentum the Lions had built up as they went into their game against Central Catholic High School, hoping to complete a perfect regular season. Unfortunately for South, it could not manage to pull through in overtime as Central Catholic defeated the Lions 73-70.

Nevertheless, the girls rebounded, pulling off back-to-back home playoff wins over Brockton and Taunton. Both games were very well attended and each included a raucous student section. The Girls’ team provided South with a team that was dominant and fun to root for, and they had a remarkable impact throughout the school.

Though the girls could not get past Mansfield and earn a trip to the TD Garden, this season will be remembered for the dominance South showed over the course of the season, the intense home playoff games that sparked huge school spirit, and certainly the 21 wins rather than the 2 losses.

“[This was] the most fun season of my life. The kids worked hard and were willing to go the extra mile and help other kids,” Doner said.

But what always will be remembered more than anything, are the camaraderie and the friendships built by this team that will last beyond the basketball season. “The chemistry and the atmosphere was outstanding between these kids,” Doner said.

After seeing three players get rewarded for their work with scholarships, a never-before-seen DCL title, and a strong run at the State championship, Doner is satisfied, if not ecstatic, about this past season. “I think this is a season we will never forget,” Doner said.

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