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By Mike Flanagan
Hometown Weekly Sports Editor
A 15-5 regular season helped the Needham High School girls varsity basketball team to the No. 2 seed in Division I South in 2018-2019. The Rockets took down No. 13 Brockton (40-26) in the opening round before a 57-41 victory against No. 12 Bishop Feehan in the quarterfinals.
Needham proceeded to upset No. 1 overall seed Bridgewater-Raynham (47-33) in the semifinals, setting up a rematch with No. 3 Braintree for the sectional crown after the Wamps took both regular season meetings to win the Herget Division title. Unfortunately, Braintree continued the trend of being Needham’s kryptonite with a 50-34 victory and would eventually go on to win the state championship.
This season, the Needham girls return to the hardwood with the memories of last season’s tough finish still resonating. However, with the talent Needham is getting back, hopes and expectations for this year’s group are extremely high. The Rockets will look to take care of some unfinished business, come tournament time.
Leading Needham this season will be a trio of senior co-captains in shooting/point guard Kiara McIntyre, forward Jenna Petronio and forward Kelly Putnam.
"Some general hopes this season would definitely be to overcome the loss of eight seniors,” said McIntyre. “We need to not be discouraged by that and hold the mindset that we are one of the best teams and can definitely take it all this year. We just have to work a little harder in order to replace the talent and leadership we lost.”
Such departed talent that McIntyre is referring to includes former point guard Mariana Jantzen, but McIntyre also says she and her fellow co-captains are confident in Needham’s group of underclassmen and newcomers to fill such roles.
“Mariana was definitely a huge loss leadership wise and she was a very good point guard,” said McIntyre. “I think we are just going to have to rely on our young ones to be able to step up and help lead us to hopefully a state championship. They are very capable of doing it and we have some great leaders and still have great scorers on the team, so I believe we should be pretty good this year with players like Lucy Dorion stepping up and helping lead.”
Along with their three captains, another key impact player returning for Needham this season is junior forward Caroline Klemm, who dominated down in the post during last year’s playoff run.
The Rockets will open up the 2019-2020 season on the road at rival Walpole on December 17.
For funny and incisive sports analysis, follow Mike Flanagan on his personal Twitter and Instagram @flano0.