A Season for the Record Books
North champion Winthrop falls to South champion Williams in state semis at Garden
By Cary Shuman
One of the greatest seasons in Winthrop High School history ended Tuesday afternoon on the Celtics’ famed parquet floor at the TD Garden in Boston.
The WHS girls basketball team, coming off successive wins over Catholic Central League powerhouses St. Mary’s and Bishop Fenwick to claim the Division 3 North title, fell short of a CCL triple-knockout, losing to powerful Archbishop Williams, 47-34, in the Division 3 state semifinals.
Williams has two Division 1 college players in its lineup, 6-foot-3-inch center Jaylen Williams (Penn State) and 6-foot-guard Alana Gilmer (Virginia Tech) and it was the latter’s 20 points – 10 in the fourth quarter – that ultimately kept Winthrop from advancing to Saturday’s state final in Worcester.
Senior Kristen Siscamanis, who emerged as one of the state’s best basketball players this season, led the Vikings with 16 points, (4-of-4 from the line) and 11 rebounds. Junior center Nina Bartlette had seven points.
Sophomore guard Ally Love had five points, including a three-pointer early in the fourth quarter that closed the margin to 31-27 and ignited the large Winthrop rooting section.
Senior forward Maura Lanza, one of the unsung heroes in the Vikings’ 21-4 season, had four points and was part of an excellent defensive effort that held Williams to 29 points for three quarter before Gilmer exploded in the fourth.
Senior point guard Niki Tsiotos had two points and it was her leadership at the defensve end that helped hold Gilmer in check for three quarters. Senior Poli Tsiotos and junior Jaida Hightower also played well in Winthrop’s first trip to the semifinals since 1993.
Several Winthrop fans, including Speaker of the House Robert A. DeLeo, who sat courtside, were thinking the Vikings were heading toward an upset of Williams when Lanza knotted the game at 14-14 and Siscamanis connected to give Winthrop a 16-14 lead with 3:45 left in the first half. But Williams went on a 7-0 run to take a 21-16 lead at the break.
Lanza’s second hoop of the day launched Winthrop’s comeback. Baskets by Niki Tsiotos and Bartlette, and two free throws by Siscamanis brought the Vikings to within one, 25-24. But Williams concluded the quarter with four unanswered points to make it 29-24.
Love, who played aggressively in the postseason and had huge baskets versus St. Mary’s and Fenwick, struck again for a three early in the fourth quarter. But Gilmer answered with her own three-pointer and the Virginia Tech-bound star scored seven additional points to help Williams pull away to the victory.
Winthrop coach Ignacio told reporters afterwards how very proud he was of his team, especially the four seniors, Niki Tsitotos, Poli Tsiotos, Kristen Siscamanis, and Maura Lanza.
“I’ve had these girls since the eighth grade, it’s incredible to see how far they’ve come,” said Oyola. “I couldn’t be more proud of our seniors and this team.”
Oyola felt his team played excellent defense, holding Williams to 29 points for three quarters and far below the Bishops’ postseason average of 66 points a game.
“I thought we played really well defensively,”
said Oyola. “We just never could get into the flow at the offensive end. But Williams did a great job denying us spots on the floor. Gilmer is a great player.”
Siscamanis, who will be continuing her career at Caldwell University, best summed up the thrill of playing at the Garden, though she was hoping for one more game in Worcester.
“I’m proud of what we did,” said Siscamanis. “It’s been a dream to play here at the Garden and we finally made it. I wish we could’ve gone on to play more. It breaks my heart that this is my last game. I’m going to miss playing basketball with these girls. And I can’t say thank you enough to Coach [Oyola], who made us all better players.”
Along the way to the Garden, the Vikings defeated defending state champion St. Mary’s, 47-44, in the semifinals. Siscamanis was superb with 19 points and seven rebounds. The game was a rematch of last year’s North final. Niki Tsiotos was immense on defense, helping Winthrop contain St. Mary’s freshman guard Marnelle Garraud.
“We hadn’t beaten them in four years,” said Siscamanis. “There’s nothing more you can ask for than a win against St. Mary’s. They showed their cards when we played them two weeks ago. We prepared and we executed and we won.”
The Vikings then earned a hard-fought 36-35 win over Fenwick in the North final Saturday. Siscamanis and Bartlette led the Vikings with 12 points apiece. Love hit two three-pointers for six points. Niki Tsiotos (4), Poli Tsiotos (2), and Maura Lanza also played well for the Vikings who held on for the thrilling victory that earned them a trip to the Garden.
“We wanted this game and everybody really played their best,” said Niki Tsiotos. “Now we get to realize one of our dreams and play at the Garden.”
From the Press Box
By Jim Lederman
The Lady Vikings (20-3) defeated the Bishop Fenwick Crusaders (36-35) to capture the Division 3 North Championship at the Tsongas Center in Lowell. The victory was extra sweet for the Lady Vikings who lost a (47-45) heartbreaker last March at Lowell.
The shouts of “We’re going to the Garden” could be heard from players, fans and coaches. The Vikings journey to the TD Garden in Boston for the Division 3 title on Tuesday. The Lady Vikings will battle an Arch Bishop Williams team that will be a big favorite.
Captain Kristen Siscamanis and Poli Tsiotos drained big foul shots in the last minute to give the Lady Vikings a scintillating victory. Kristen led the offense with 12 points. She averaged (16.9) in the last five games. She played like a Division 2 college star. She will play at Caldwell University in New Jersey next season.
Co-captain Niki Tsiotos (the best point guard on the North Shore and NEC) was the cool quarterback and defensive giant in the MIAA playoffs.
Two outstanding leaders and great student-athletes Winthrop players leading the Vikings to the third championship of the 2014-2015 Vikings!
The ride home last year was the motivation for four Winthrop seniors (Kristen Siscamanis, co-capt. Niki Tsiotos (another brilliant game on defense), Poli Tsiotos and Maura Lanza).
The Lady Vikings shot only (12 for 38) but a tenacious second half defense, forced 12 Crusader turnovers. For the second consecutive defensive game, that provided the key to victory and a trip to Boston.
The last victory parade was in 2011, the Viking boy’s hoop team, under the tutelage of Dave Brown, captured the State Division 4 title in the Garden.
When the final buzzer sounded at the Tsongas Center, I talked with Lt. Brian Perrin, “Can you get a police escort for the champions?” Brian got the job done! I called Chief Paul Flanagan, can you have a fire engine at the bridge? The chief obliged! The parents and Viking fans led by Hunter Gillis (number 33) waving the Winthrop Vikings flag.
The tour around town for the Lady Vikings – Champions of Division 3 North was exciting!
Another championship team – NEC football champions, NEC hockey champions, Lady Vikings best team on the North Shore! We salute coaches Sean Driscoll, Dale Dunbar and Ignacio Oyola.
Let the Games Begin!
Breaking the Jinx
“Third time is a charm” – the quote form Kevin ‘the Spoon’ Corkhum, minutes before the classis St. Mary’s vs. Winthrop game number 3!
The Lady Vikings defeated St. Mary’s of Lynn (47-44) Wednesday night at Essex Tech in Danvers. The victory propelled coach Ignacio Oyola’s Lady Vikings to the Division 3 North Final at the Tsongas Center in Lowell Saturday morning.
Winthrop had lost two consecutive (two point) losses to the Lady Spartans. The D-3 North Final last March (47-45) at Tsongas and another thriller (42-40) in the St. Mary’s Spartan Classic last month.
The Lady Vikings soccer team defeated St. Mary’s (2-0) to reach the MIAA Division 4 soccer championship game last fall.
Co-captain Kristen Siscamanis and Niki Tsiotos led the Vikings on offense and defense. I have called Kristen and Niki, two of the best basketball players on the North Shore and in the NEC and if you were at the St. Mary’s – Vikings Classic, you were cheering for Kristen and Niki all night.
Kristen hit her first four shots (14 first half points) and Niki was tenacious on defense and her leadership on the floor is the reason the Lady Vikings have reached the North Finals two years in a row.
“Defense wins championships,” stated a proud dad, Chris Tsiotos, as he watched his twin daughters Niki and Poli play defense and at the crucial final minute (30 second mark). Poli calmly went to the foul line to sink 2 foul shots that proved to be the “biggest foul shots of the season” and a thrilling Winthrop victory.
Kristen led the team with 19 points. Junior standout Nina Bartlette had 11, Poli Tsiotos had 6 points, Niki Tsiotos, 6 points and sophomore Allie Love, 5 points.
The Lady Vikings held a (27-21) halftime lead. The tenacious Viking defense and full court press was the key to a Vikings victory. Kristen and Niki provided the leadership, Poli Tsiotos and Maura Lanza, experience and great athletic play that was a reason the Lady Vikings had the best record in a very strong NEC league this campaign. The WHS Class of 2015 has great student-athletes that have led the Vikings to three NEC titles. What team in the NEC can make that claim? Not Beverly! This has been the “Year of the Vikings”!
Talk about a “Family Tradition”! Vasili Mallios, ex-Viking hoop captain, is an outstanding high school basketball official. “Billy” was the official on Saturday for the Pentucket boy’s final game at the Tsongas Center. He watched his cousin play vs. Bishop Fenwick and worked the nest big game. The number of Tsiotos and Mallio’s families and relatives at Lowell had to be 100! That’s a Viking tradition! Winthrop basketball teams with Winthrop players (article and commentary to follow).
The St. Mary’s – Winthrop and Winthrop – Bishop Fenwick Classics were televised on Viking TV, Channel 15. Kevin Corkhum and yours truly did the play by play. Catch the action on TV on the WHS Viking TV channel 15.
Ex-Viking Harvard athletes, Ed Rossi – Harvard Hockey captain, WHS Hall of Fame, one of the four finest defenseman to play for Winthrop.
Hockey standouts Bobby McDonald (WHS All-Scholastic), 57 goals in 1976. WHS Hall of Fame Jackie Burke, the late WHS All-Star, game winning goal in 1976 thriller (three overtime victory).
Football standout, Greg Zikos, NEC All-Star lives in California.
In 1953 Winthrop played Wakefield and Winchester (Joe Bellino, Heisman Trophy winner, played for Winchester and at the Naval Academy), thanks to ex-football player Kenny Goddard.
In 1973, the Vikings lost to Rindge Tech in Boston Garden and captain Chris Tsiotos on bench with mono in 1976. Vikings lost to Rindge Tech in Beverly, State title. Steve Demetriou and Kevin Corkhum were Viking standouts.
In 1964, Chelsea High and University of Iowa hoop legend, Lew Perkins was U Conn athletic Director.
Perkins played on my team in Winthrop Summer League final. We lost to Terry Driscoll (BC and NBA star) and Charlie Jesso and Chuck Mullane.
Boston College baseball captains form Winthrop high school, Bobby DeFelice and Joe Giaquinto.
In 1960, my team played against the DeFelice Club. Playing for DeFelice were – Jack Concannon (BC and the Chicago Bears), Artie Graham (BC and Boston Patriots), Don McKinnon (Dartmouth and Patriots), the ‘Good Old Days’ of the Winthrop Summer Basketball League.
When will the Summer League return? When will WHS boy’s basketball become NEC contenders? That’s another summer story to follow!
The two dramatic victories for the Lady Vikings over St. Mary’s and Bishop Fenwick, “Free Throws” were the winning points.
Senior Poli Tsiotos (playing her finest game in a Vikings uniform) calmly sank two foul shots, that proved to be t he key with Winthrop holding a 45-42 lead. On Saturday at the Tsongas Center, Poli swished the first of a one and one. Captain Kristen Siscamanis drained a free throw at the end of the one point Winthrop victory. With ten seconds on the clock a Bishop Fenwick player had two free throws to win the game, she missed both. Keep practicing those foul shots – that will win a game for your team!
Kudos to Poli and Kristen!
The Tsongas Jinx
The “Jinx” is over in Lowell. The Lady Vikings have not won a tourney game at the Tsongas Center in Lowell in over 20 years.
Saturday at noon, the jinx ended when the “Lady Vikings” won the Division 3 North Championship with a scintillating (36-35) victory over Bishop Fenwick.
The victory propelled coach Ignacio Oyola’s team for a trip to ‘The Garden’, the legendary TD Garden in Boston for the Division 3 championship game with Arch Bishop Williams of Braintree.
The champions celebrated with the trophy – Division North champions, coaches and parents at JW’s Restaurant following the game on Saturday. Will they return after the game at TD Garden vs. Arch Bishop Williams. “The Guru” predicts Lady Vikings by five!
Let the Games Begin!
The last minute in the North Final Saturday seemed to last 5 minutes. Key plays by Kristen Siscaminis, foul shots by Poli (call her Ms. Clutch) sealed the Vikings victory!
Coach Ignacio Oyola, “Our experience was the key to our victory”.
Defense with a Capital D was the reason this very talented team (20-3) is playing in the TD Garden!
Kudos to the defensive pressure! A salute to sophomore Allie Love! Allie forced many turnovers (Fenwick committed 12) in the crucial wins (St. Mary’s-Fenwick).
The Lady Vikings must stop Alana Gilmer (the 6’1” forward, bound for Virginia Tech).
Two victories over two schools that recruit talent from all over the North Shore. Winthrop won with Winthrop Players! I will talk about that next week!
Let the Games Begin!