WORCESTER — The New Mission boys basketball team took flack after winning the Division 4 championship last year with Division 1 caliber players. This season they took even more criticism for bumping up to Division 2 without as many top caliber players.
“They said that we’re not ready, that the program itself was not ready, that we were a one hit wonder and we weren’t going to do it without a point guard,” New Mission coach Cory McCarthy said on Saturday night after becoming the first team in state history to win the Division 4 and Division 2 state championships in consecutive seasons.
A season after losing all scholastic point guard Osmel Odena, the Titans (22-4) took home the D2 state title by defeating Northbridge, 67-57, at the DCU Center in Worcester.
Senior guards Darius Davis (team-high 17 points) and Samir McDaniels (16 points) both played out of position this season to fill in for Odena, who plays for American International College.
“We just made history,” McDaniels said. “Nobody ever went up to Division 2 from Division 4 and won it. It feels great.”
McCarthy, who lost four seniors from last year’s squad who are all playing college ball, said it would’ve been “arrogant” to try to play in Division 1 this year, even though he feels his team could compete at that level.
“We only have 260 kids [at New Mission],” he said. “I’m not crazy, I’m semi smart but I’m not crazy.”
Northbridge senior forward Thomas Murphy, however, said New Mission was good enough to win the Division 1 title.
“With the athletes they have it’s tough to compete,” he said. “We needed them to play a bad game and us to play a perfect game.”
Murphy won state titles in baseball and football the last two seasons.
“It’s a tough end to the season in a loss,” he said. “Our run had to end at some point.”
McCarthy’s own state championship run began with the New Missions girls’ basketball team two years ago before he took over a boys squad that only won five games.
“Once we made the jump [to Division 2] it was a huge test for us,” McCarthy said. “We knew the kids would have to compete every night. Now we had to beat teams with tradition when we didn’t have any ourselves. We came a long way. We wanted to be here.”
McDaniels, who committed to play for the University of New Haven next year, admitted taking the leap to D2 was tough even though they didn’t belong in Division 4 last year.
“We shouldn’t have been playing Division 4, we won almost every game by 30,” he said. “This year was a little harder but we still got here, we still beat everyone. It was scary because we didn’t have the success at the beginning of the season but we kind of picked it up and I knew in my heart we were going to win.”
The rough start only fueled the fire for New Missions’ critics.
“These guys have heard everything,” McCarthy said. “You can say whatever you want about the program but the kids are the ones who’ve shown the commitment and the kids are the ones who put us over the top today.
”I told them they had to carry me today.”