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Needham Girls Basketball Enjoys TD Garden Experience

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By Josh Perry
Hometown Weekly Staff

The Needham High girls’ basketball team enjoyed a rare experience on Sunday morning when the Rockets traveled to Boston to face off against rival Wellesley in the early morning opening tip of the third annual GoodSports Invitational at the TD Garden.

It was an endowment game for the two programs, meaning that it would not count towards their final records and seeding for the state tournament, which added a little freedom for both coaches to empty the benches and allow every player to take the court and say that they played at the home of the Boston Celtics.

For the Rockets that included senior captain Megan Wentworth, who was sidelined for the season with a knee injury, but was allowed to score the first basket of Sunday’s game with a layup off the opening tip, before being helped back to her crutches with a huge smile on her face.

“It meant the world to me that my team, coaching staff and Wellesley’s program would allow me to start and score the first two points of the game despite our rivalry,” said Wentworth. “They gave me the opportunity to play one last time with the girls that have been by my side since the beginning of my basketball career.”

Needham coach Amanda Sheehy said that she had called her Wellesley counterpart Glen Magpiong the night before the game to set up the opening scenario knowing that he would have no complaints about allowing Wentworth this chance.

“It wasn’t even a question of the rivalry; there was no question at all,” said Sheehy. “He’s probably one of my favorite coaches I’ve ever coached against in that I know he understands all of this high school basketball goes beyond just winning games.”

The moment of Wentworth’s layup was a special one for the coach. She said, “On the court she was our leader, our point guard…but more importantly she was our heartbeat…To give her that opportunity it put the beat back to her heart so to speak. It was awesome.”

When asked what the experience was like for her to coach in the TD Garden, Sheehy, who is a New Jersey native, admitted with a chuckle that she is not a Celtics fan, but that it was still a “once in a lifetime” experience to take the court in Boston.

“It was definitely a moment that you had to reel yourself back in and look around and realize how cool it is to be part of that and how lucky you are to be part of a basketball program that brings you these opportunities,” she explained.

In addition to the varsity game, Needham and Wellesley were also able to get on the court an hour before tip-off to allow the freshman and JV teams to square off and to allow both sets of dance teams to perform. No other programs were afforded this opportunity and it was one that brought the whole program together.

“We all took one bus,” Sheehy recalled. “We got on the bus at 6:30, so when I pulled into the parking lot at 6:15 they were all jumping around the parking lot, screaming, singing songs, and all that.”

At the Garden, Sheehy limited her pregame speech to allow her players more time to take in the moment and the surroundings. Players, dance team members, parents, staff, and coaches were all taking time for photos and videos to mark the occasion.

“It was humbling and motivating to play where the greats have made history,” said senior captain Kathleen Rizzo. “Basketball courts do not get any better than that.”
She added, “Outside our locker room there were pictures of Larry Bird and Reggie Lewis, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett!”

Before the game, Sheehy instructed her team to play fast and loose and take the open shot when it presented itself. Basically, she told her team to relax and enjoy the game and, despite losing the game, she felt it worked and may be something that the 5-7 Rockets can use as they look to make a second half push to get back into the tournament.

“It was crazy to see how confident we were,” she laughed. “Do I have to pretend every time that we’re at the Garden? Because if I have to I will.”

Needham will be on the road this week with Bay State Conference games against Norwood and Framingham.

See more photos from the TD Garden at
https://hometownweekly.smugmug.com/Needham-2/Needham-School-Sports/Needham-Wellesley-girls.

Josh Perry is an Editor at Hometown Weekly. He can be reached at news@hometownweekly.net and followed on Twitter at @Josh_Perry10.

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