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Mascenic girls surpass all expectations

  • The Mascenic girls basketball team dropped its first playoff game since 2003, 50-25 at Monadnock on Tuesday, Feb. 19. 2013.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)

    The Mascenic girls basketball team dropped its first playoff game since 2003, 50-25 at Monadnock on Tuesday, Feb. 19. 2013.

    (Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)

  • The Mascenic girls basketball team dropped its first playoff game since 2003, 50-25 at Monadnock on Tuesday, Feb. 19. 2013.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)

    The Mascenic girls basketball team dropped its first playoff game since 2003, 50-25 at Monadnock on Tuesday, Feb. 19. 2013.

    (Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)

  • The Mascenic girls basketball team dropped its first playoff game since 2003, 50-25 at Monadnock on Tuesday, Feb. 19. 2013.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)

    The Mascenic girls basketball team dropped its first playoff game since 2003, 50-25 at Monadnock on Tuesday, Feb. 19. 2013.

    (Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)

  • The Mascenic girls basketball team dropped its first playoff game since 2003, 50-25 at Monadnock on Tuesday, Feb. 19. 2013.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)

    The Mascenic girls basketball team dropped its first playoff game since 2003, 50-25 at Monadnock on Tuesday, Feb. 19. 2013.

    (Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)

  • The Mascenic girls basketball team dropped its first playoff game since 2003, 50-25 at Monadnock on Tuesday, Feb. 19. 2013.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)

    The Mascenic girls basketball team dropped its first playoff game since 2003, 50-25 at Monadnock on Tuesday, Feb. 19. 2013.

    (Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)

  • The Mascenic girls basketball team dropped its first playoff game since 2003, 50-25 at Monadnock on Tuesday, Feb. 19. 2013.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)

    The Mascenic girls basketball team dropped its first playoff game since 2003, 50-25 at Monadnock on Tuesday, Feb. 19. 2013.

    (Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)

  • The Mascenic girls basketball team dropped its first playoff game since 2003, 50-25 at Monadnock on Tuesday, Feb. 19. 2013.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)

    The Mascenic girls basketball team dropped its first playoff game since 2003, 50-25 at Monadnock on Tuesday, Feb. 19. 2013.

    (Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)

  • The Mascenic girls basketball team dropped its first playoff game since 2003, 50-25 at Monadnock on Tuesday, Feb. 19. 2013.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)

    The Mascenic girls basketball team dropped its first playoff game since 2003, 50-25 at Monadnock on Tuesday, Feb. 19. 2013.

    (Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)

  • The Mascenic girls basketball team dropped its first playoff game since 2003, 50-25 at Monadnock on Tuesday, Feb. 19. 2013.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The Mascenic girls basketball team dropped its first playoff game since 2003, 50-25 at Monadnock on Tuesday, Feb. 19. 2013.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The Mascenic girls basketball team dropped its first playoff game since 2003, 50-25 at Monadnock on Tuesday, Feb. 19. 2013.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The Mascenic girls basketball team dropped its first playoff game since 2003, 50-25 at Monadnock on Tuesday, Feb. 19. 2013.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The Mascenic girls basketball team dropped its first playoff game since 2003, 50-25 at Monadnock on Tuesday, Feb. 19. 2013.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The Mascenic girls basketball team dropped its first playoff game since 2003, 50-25 at Monadnock on Tuesday, Feb. 19. 2013.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The Mascenic girls basketball team dropped its first playoff game since 2003, 50-25 at Monadnock on Tuesday, Feb. 19. 2013.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The Mascenic girls basketball team dropped its first playoff game since 2003, 50-25 at Monadnock on Tuesday, Feb. 19. 2013.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)

There were tears and looks of disappointment on the faces of the Mascenic girls basketball players following Tuesday night’s 50-25 loss in the first round of the Division III tournament.

But the final score and the way this season ended show have no effect on how much it meant to the history of the program. With any luck, many years down the road, the 2012-13 season will be looked at as the moment Mascenic girls basketball returned to relevance.

Nobody expected the Vikings to win a state title or make the playoffs. Many probably didn’t even expect them to win a game. To be honest, there is no fault in that. I had hoped Mascenic would win a game, but after the recent history I was not convinced it was a viable possibility.

And I have never been so happy to be so wrong. The Vikings did win a game this year. They actually won six and maybe could have won another one or two if not for senior point guard Jocelyn Ojala going down with a torn ACL in her right knee on Jan. 30. But I will get to that part of the story later.

“I think people would have been happy with one win, let alone six and the playoffs,” said first year coach Wiley Billings. “A 6-12 record at Mascenic with the way the girls program has gone is phenomenal.”

They also qualified for the playoffs for the first time since 2002-03, the last time the program had six wins in a season. After a win at Farmington on Feb. 10, 2007, Mascenic went on to lose 94 straight games, spanning the better part of seven seasons — including five straight with one lopsided defeat after another.

“So we didn’t win a playoff game. We made it to playoffs and when was the last time a Mascenic girls basketball team made it this far?” said senior center Erin Scollans.

But after three consecutive losses to begin this season, it finally happened. Mascenic won a game. It was Dec. 14 and Hillsboro-Deering was visiting for the first of two meetings on the season. The 41-34 victory not only gave each player on the team their first ever high school win, but it ignited a fan base that had been waiting so long to see something positive. The players celebrated like they had won the state championship. It meant that much.

Yet they also quickly realized that this was a team capable of much bigger things. This was a changed group under Billings and it showed each time they took the court. Sure, against some of the upper echelon teams in D-III, the Vikings still struggled, but nobody expected a complete 180 this season.

“At the beginning of the season I thought I’d be happy with winning one game,” said Ojala. “But making the playoffs is a big step in the right direction for the program.”

Mascenic won two of three in early January and the idea of a playoff run started to become more of a reality than a far off fantasy. With a crucial 48-46 overtime win at Newport, the Vikings began a three-game winning streak that brought them to within one game of .500.

Unfortunately in the last of those three wins, Ojala went down and did not return. The ACL diagnosis was a crushing blow for the Vikings, who relied on Ojala for so much. They were not the same team down the stretch, losing the final five games of the regular season.

“We lost confidence in ourselves because Jocelyn is the heart and soul of our team,” said Scollans

Yet they did enough early on to earn one of the 20 playoff spots in Division III, finishing 17th and drawing Monadnock in the first round.

“As far as the season, I can’t ask for a better one,” said Billings. “This is the best season I’ve ever had coaching because you could see the progression.”

I will admit that I did a double take when I saw Ojala warming up for the game with a big brace on her right knee. I was told she was done for the season — and most people would have been. But she could not imagine her high school basketball career sitting on the bench in her warm-up suit.

“I wanted to get out there one last time and not take one minute for granted,” said Ojala.

While Ojala was severely limited by her injury, the fact she even thought about taking the court gets huge points in my book. I guess that just shows the heart of this team and how much this season actually meant.

“Originally I thought my knee was just sprained so I told my team I’d be back for playoffs and they got their hopes up,” said Ojala. “I did some research and found out that people can still play on them. So I got a brace and ran sprints in my kitchen to prove to my parents I could play.”

And she wasn’t the only one that took the floor well below 100 percent. Scollans rolled her left ankle in practice on Monday and was told after the game by Monadnock’s athletic trainer that she may have fractured it. You would have never guessed it, as she recorded a double-double in her final game with 12 points and 11 rebounds.

So what I say is who cares if the Vikings lost by 25 in their first playoff game in 10 years. Who cares if they lost six in a row to end the year. This team is no longer the doormat of Division III. No longer can teams count the Vikings as an easy win.

“We’re not the laughing stock of the division anymore. Teams have to play us to win,” said Billings.

And lets just hope that continues for years to come.

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