The Andover High girls basketball team was crowned Division 1 state champions last week, and head coach Alan Hibino is leaving no room for an asterisk.
“We’re state champions, and we’re going to celebrate it,” said Hibino. “Our two seniors are leaving this program as state champions for life. A banner is going up on the wall in the gym, and it’s not going to say ‘co-champs.’ It’s not going to have an asterisk. Holding up a trophy on the TD Garden parquet (after winning the state semifinals) is a pretty good way to end our season.”
The North champion Golden Warriors were named co-state champions for the 2019-20 season after their Division 1 state title game against Franklin scheduled for Saturday was canceled by the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA) due to the coronavirus outbreak.
As co-state champions, Andover earned its first girls basketball state title since the Nicole Boudreau-led Golden Warriors won three straight championships from 2010-12.
“We’re still state champions!” said co-captain Shea Krekorian. “We wanted to do it ourselves, but to know we are champs is pretty awesome. We watched those teams with Nicole Boudreau, and we dreamed of being like them. Now, we’re going to have a banner next to those teams. It hurts, but we know we deserve to be champs. We earned it.”
Hibino knew there was major news the moment he stepped off the court after practice last Thursday afternoon.
“We had just finished a great practice, and I looked at my phone and saw text messages from our principal, my parents and lots of other people,” said Hibino. “I thought to myself, ‘What’s happening?’ We were still on the court when we found out the news.”
The news was that the MIAA had canceled all of its remaining state championship games, and that the Warriors had been named co-champs. The team initially struggled with the news.
“Coach Hibino brought us to the middle of the court, and I had a pit in my stomach knowing what he was going to say,” said emotional senior co-captain Brooke Hardock soon after the announcement. “There were a lot of tears. We were definitely emotional. We weren’t ready for this season to end. We wanted to finish the job.”
The Golden Warriors had been waiting on a decision since beating Bridgewater-Raynham in the state semifinals on Tuesday at the TD Garden.
“I think Brooke and I were in denial a little,” said Krekorian. “We refused to believe (Tuesday) was the last time we were going to put on an Andover basketball uniform. We always believed we were going to go far this season. This is a tight-knit group, and I think that makes it even more heart-breaking.”
The MIAA officially announced the cancellation of all of its remaining state title games that afternoon with a short post on its website (miaa.net).
“We understand this is disappointing news, however, this decision was made in the best interests of all our student athletes, schools and communities,” it said in a press release. “Schools who would have been participating in the state finals will be considered co-champions.”
When the announcement was made, the Golden Warriors were still preparing for the title game.
Hibino said, “We were planning on a great practice tomorrow, then going to work on Saturday. It was such a fluid situation. First the NBA suspended play, then the NCAA and schools start closing. But we had work to do, and we went to work together.
“We understand the decision by the MIAA. But, as a competitor, this was not the outcome that we imagined.”
SEASON TO REMEMBER
Following the announcement, the Golden Warriors remained on Andover High’s Dunn Gym court to console one another and celebrate the season.
“It was a very hard moment because the season ended so abruptly,” said Hardock. “We were ready to play our hearts out on Saturday, even if there were no fans in the gym. We feel like we didn’t have a chance to finish the job. But we reminded each other to be proud.”
Andover closed out its season 19-6. As the No. 6 seed in the tournament, the Golden Warriors went on the road to beat archrival Central Catholic — a team they had lost to twice during the regular season — then defeated Cambridge Rindge & Latin in the North title game.
“We are state champs,” said Hibino. “I showed them the banners in the gym, and reminded them that the last girls team to win a (basketball) state title was their idols, and that they are with those girls now. They are leaving behind a tremendous legacy, and they should be very proud.”