By Mike Flanagan
Hometown Weekly Sports Editor
The abbreviated and successful Fall I athletic season showed that organized high school athletics are possible during these crazy times. The big test for the Bay State Conference (BSC) and MIAA will come in the months ahead, when athletic events are held indoors in rinks and gymnasiums instead of on open, outdoor fields.
On November 20, the BSC announced December 14 as the official start date for winter sports. The original plan was to start on December 7, but all events were pushed back one week following recent spikes around the state. These winter sports include boys and girls ice hockey, boys and girls basketball, swim and dive, gymnastics and alpine skiing. Wrestling has been moved to the Fall II athletic season, which will likely start sometime in February. December 14 will be the first day on which winter athletic teams can get together and practice or hold tryouts.
The BSC announced their official proposal for winter athletics on their Twitter account.
With Walpole and Needham High School winter athletes in the midst of preparation for their upcoming seasons, the 2020-2021 season promises to be unlike any other that these athletes have ever endured. It's obviously going to be tough to adjust to things like not playing in front of fans, a lack of close-contact defense, wearing a mask while playing and staying socially distant on the sidelines and bench areas. But for now, it appears that Walpole and Needham High School winter athletes are going to get their chance to compete this winter.
The two schools have not yet released official winter athletic schedules, and it also remains to be seen as to whether Walpole and Needham will even play each other in hockey and basketball this year. Walpole and Needham did not meet at all during the Fall I athletic season after Needham was limited to playing only its neighboring towns (Wellesley, Newton North, Brookline, Natick), and Walpole playing only three teams from the South Shore (Milton, Braintree, Weymouth).
Walpole's boys ice hockey team is the reigning champion of Division I South. Walpole was set to play Belmont for the state championship in early-March, but the game was cancelled due to COVID-19. It goes without saying that the Walpole boys are dying to get back out on the ice and show that their run to the state title game last year was no fluke.
In Needham, both the boys and girls varsity basketball teams enjoyed long runs into their respective Division I state tournaments last season. The Needham girls finished the regular season 18-2 and won their way to the sectional finals before falling, 44-43, to Bridgewater-Raynham. The Needham boys finished their regular season 16-4 and defeated Plymouth North and Newton North in the state tournament before falling to eventual sectional champ Mansfield in the semifinals. With the Needham girls returning star forward Caroline Klemm and the boys returning John Hood, Tim Reid and Nick Petronio, expectations for both Needham basketball teams this winter are extremely high.
For funny and incisive sports analysis as well as video highlights of games, follow Mike Flanagan on his personal Twitter and Instagram handles @flano0.