The winter high school sports season is officially coming to an end this weekend with the MIAA hockey and basketball state finals taking place on Saturday and Sunday. Now that we have had over a week to reflect on the stellar winter sports season on Cape Ann it's time to recognize some of the top individual and team achievements from this winter with the Gloucester Times winter sports awards.
Most Valuable Player: There were countless individual stars this season around Cape Ann, but none meant more to their team then Gloucester girls basketball captain Heather Cain. The Northeastern Conference South MVP was Gloucester's most important player this season as she did just about everything for the 14-8 Fishermen. She led the team in scoring with 15 points per game and was a versatile scorer as she can both shoot and drive to the basket, but that is far from all she brought to the table.
Cain was the team's point guard meaning she facilitated the Gloucester offense, which ran through her on every trip down the floor. Gloucester's senior captain was also one of the best defenders on the team and despite the fact that she played point guard, the team's leading rebounder. Head coach Lori Sanborn called Cain "an MVP in every sense of the word" and she could not have been more right.
Honorable Mention: Chris Bishop, ME boys hoop; Olivia Lantz, ME track; Mike Russo, GHS hockey; Colby Foster, Rockport hockey; Megan Jones, ME skiing.
Best Team: This one is a no brainer. The Manchester Essex boys basketball team was the best team Cape Ann had to offer this winter. The Hornets finished the season with an outstanding 19-3 record winning the Cape Ann League Division 3 Title for the third season in a row. Manchester Essex, led by head coach Duane Sigsbury, could beat teams in a variety of different ways. They were deadly in transition sometimes running teams right out of the building. If teams were fortunate enough to keep them out of transition the Hornets can knock down jump shots from anywhere on the court.
Manchester Essex fell to an incredibly talented St. Mary's team in the Division 4 North Semi Finals but its season was certainly one to remember.
Honorable Mention: Rockport hockey, Gloucester girls basketball
Best Game: Rockport Hockey's 3-3 tie with Shawsheen on February 4 was some what of a coming out party for the Rockport hockey team. Shawsheen is the top dog in the Commonwealth Athletic Conference and a perennial contender in Division 3 North. On that night Rockport announced its presence as a contender in Division 3 North, and they did it in impressive fashion as the Rams dominated play for two periods. Rockport, however, showed its heart and resiliency battling back from a two goal deficit to tie the score in the third period. The game was vintage Rockport as the team played smart positional hockey, got outstanding goaltending and took advantage of every opportunity the Rams gave them.
Honorable Mention: Gloucester girls basketball's 50-47 loss to Wilmington in the Division 2 North Quarters; Gloucester hockey's 5-5 tie with Saugus in February; Manchester Essex boys basketball's comeback win over Newburyport in January.
Breakout Player: Gloucester hockey player Mike Russo was certainly well known to Cape Ann hockey fans as he was a solid contributor on the team in his sophomore and junior seasons, but this year Russo took his game to a whole different level. The senior forward established himself as the team's top scorer and top playmaker as his shifty skating ability and savvy passing skills saw him put up 35 points on the season, the most by any Gloucester player since 2008.
Honorable Mention: Mike Muniz, Gloucester hockey; Sophie Black, Gloucester girls basketball; Jason Vizena, Gloucester boys basketball; Josh Guertin, Rockport hockey.
Future Star: Gloucester boys track's Mike Sheehan is actually already a star, but the sky is the limit for the Sophomore high jumper. Sheehan qualified for the All State meet this winter with a jump of 6' and head coach Jeff Destino says he has the potential to be one of the best high jumpers the school has ever seen.
Honorable Mention: Fiona Davis, ME track; Conor Kuykendall, Rockport boys basketball; Heather MacArthur, Rockport girls basketball; Kyle Nelson, Rockport hockey.
Best Individual Performance: Cape Ann had one state champion this winter, Manchester Essex Freshman distance runner Olivia Lantz, who took home the Division 4 State Title in the mile. Lantz's future prospects are downright scary as she finished third in the All State mile and recorded one of the top four mile times from a Freshman in the entire country.
Honorable Mention: Bianca Giacalone's record setting run in the 300; Chris Bishop's MVP performance in the BankGloucester Holiday Tournament; Colby Foster's shutout of Marblehead in the Division 3 North Quarter Finals.
Unsung Hero: It's tough to call someone of Sean Nally's caliber an unsung hero, but his numbers just don't tell the story of how good he is and how important he was to the Manchester Essex boys basketball team. Nally took a back seat in the scoring department this season as he was well aware of the caliber of offensive players he had around him. Nally could score 20 points per game if he wanted to, but the team was at its best when he was distributing the basketball and he did just that opening up the floor for all of his teammates thanks to his deadly shooting range and an ultra quick first step. Nally was non stop energy on the floor and his energy rubbed off on his teammates.
Honorable Mention: Casey Weld, Manchester Essex boys hoop; Katie Ciaramitaro, Gloucester girls hoop; Kyle Edmonds, Rockport hockey; Jess Crossen, Manchester Essex girls hoop.
Top Moment: The top moment of the winter sports season was its biggest milestone in Audrey Knowlton's 1,000th point. As she closed in on the milestone she was not getting any help from opposing defenses as they started to give Gloucester's ultra consistent guard extra attention on the offensive end. But on February 17 Knowlton sunk a jump shot from the free throw line to become the fifth Gloucester girls basketball player to reach the milestone.
Honorable Mention: Rockport hockey making its first appearance in the sectional semi finals.