Noontime Sports 2016 Year In Review

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By Matt Noonan (@MattNoonan11)

Ah, the final day of 2016 has arrived.

And just like past years, it’s time to revisit some of our favorite stories from the past 12 months.

Yet, unlike past years, this year’s ‘year in review’ is made-up of a variety of stories from ‘Catching Up’ to features on the Amherst College and Endicott College football programs to Wheaton women’s basketball providing Coach Melissa Hodgdon with her 200th win as a head coach.

I also made sure to highlight a few podcasts from the past few months – yes, Noontime Sports the Podcast returned this summer and I am super excited to host the 16th episode, which will be posted later next week.

So, sit back, relax, and re-read or listen to some of our biggest posts from 2016, and have a wonderful and safe Happy New Year!

See you in 2017!

Catching Up With Charlie Mason (New England College Men’s Basketball Coach)

Charlie Mason's New England College men's basketball team has enjoyed an impressive start to their 2016-17 season, winning seven of nine games. (PHOTO CREDIT: New England College Athletics)

Charlie Mason’s New England College men’s basketball team has enjoyed an impressive start to their 2016-17 season, winning seven of nine games. (PHOTO CREDIT: New England College Athletics)

By NoontimeSports.com (@NoontimeSports

New England College men’s basketball has enjoyed an impressive start to their 2016-17 campaign, winning seven of nine games, including three-straight contests heading into the holiday break.

One of the Pilgrims’ three consecutive wins came against Husson, which captured the North Atlantic Conference (NAC) last season. First-year Izaiah Winston-Brooks highlighted the outing against the Eagles, tallying 24 points, while classmate Alonzo Cooper netted 17 points.

Winston-Brooks, who has been tabbed the NAC Rookie of the Week four times this season, leads the Pilgrims with 18.3 points per game, while Cooper is sixth in points (72) and fifth in total rebounds (25).

New England College returns to the hardwood on Tuesday, January 3, 2017 when they visit Johnson State with tip-off scheduled for 5:30 p.m. And despite not playing a game since Saturday, December 10th, Charlie Mason, the team’s head coach, believes the lengthy break will bode well for his squad heading into the second semester.

“With such a young team, I think the break was really needed for all of us,” said Mason, who is in his 15th year with the men’s basketball program.

“We have nine first-year players, so having a chance to go home and recharge (is essential). And to finish the semester on such a positive note will hopefully get the guys excited to get after it when we get back to campus.”

Noontime Sports caught up with Coach Mason to discuss his team’s exciting start, his various first-year players that have stepped-up thus far, as well as what his squad learned from a late November setback to Castleton.

From your perspective, how has the season gone thus far?

“We have gotten off to a good start and a big part of it is the buy-in from our guys. And what we have been trying to preach to them is the next game is the only game that counts, but we don’t have a single upperclassman on our roster, so I didn’t know what to expect (heading into the season). We worked really hard last year with our recruiting class and I thought we identified some really good players, but how they were going to respond and pick things up as quick as we needed them to buy-in has been a very positive experience.”

Izaiah Winston-Brooks has helped New England College men's basketball enjoyed an impressive start to their 2016-17 campaign. (PHOTO CREDIT: New England College Athletics)

Izaiah Winston-Brooks has helped New England College men’s basketball enjoyed an impressive start to their 2016-17 campaign. (PHOTO CREDIT: New England College Athletics)

Izaiah Winston-Brooks has been really impressive this season. He has earned four NAC Rookie of the Week honors thus far, so how has he helped the team enjoy an impressive start?

“I think what stands out about Izaiah is not just his production, but his efficiency every night – he is playing less than 30 minutes per game. He is leading the country in free throws made (75 of 97), while defending the best players on opposing teams. He is rebounding the ball really well – he has done a lot of different things very well, and that is definitely a big part of our early season success.”

Who are some of the other first-year players that have stepped up this season?

“Alonzo Cooper, who played at New Mission, has started every game for us. He is averaging I believe 24 minutes a game and he had 17 points against Husson. We knew he could play, but he has exceeded our expectations. Brenndan Rogers, who played for Whitman-Hanson High School last year, is another first-year player that has stepped up. He is averaging 10.1 points per game.

“If you were to look at our overall statistics, we have Izaiah and sophomore Ricky Leonard both scoring a lot of points, but we also have four guys averaging roughly nine points per game, so we have a lot more balance than what our team has typically had in the past. And if you look closely, three of the five leading point scorers are first-year players, so that is something we are really excited about.”

Your team’s last win was against the NAC defending champions. How does a win over Husson help this young squad moving forward?

“The opportunity to compete against a team like Husson and be successful is great, it gives everyone confidence. We started the game off on an 11-2 run and they made a run of their own, but we were able to stay with them and not let them take over or impact the game. I don’t think they sustained a lead throughout the 40 minutes, but they did tie the game at 26-26. For us to come back and answer the challenges (was very important) because Husson is a great team, they have consistently been one of the best teams in our conference, so to be able to meet those challenges says an awful lot about our guys, especially their confidence and mindset moving forward.”

One of your two setbacks this season came against Castleton. Would you consider that a good learning lesson, especially for a young squad?

“Absolutely. I think the NAC is a very good conference – much better than people might assume, and Castleton is another squad that has consistently always been in it. We had our opportunities up there, but to their credit they out executed and out performed us in that second half, so I think that was a very positive eye opener for everyone.”

Finally, what makes the NAC so competitive?

The league has a very good competitive balance, particularly this year. I think we have a very competitive group of coaches and programs that take a lot of pride in competing, so I think that bodes well for everyone.”

Noontime Sports The Podcast: Episode 15 (Mike Loveday | Lax Records)

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By NoontimeSports.com (@NoontimeSports) 

Ah, the final podcast of 2016 – it’s time to shed a tear!

Before we close the book on 2016 (from a podcast perspective, to be exact!), Matt Noonan welcomed Mike Loveday, the founder of LaxRecords.com, onto Noontime Sports the Podcast to discuss his love lacrosse and statistics.

Additionally, Noonan and Loveday shared their take on covering the oldest sport in North America – could we see more coverage this upcoming season or in the future? – along with some sports media and social media talk, too.

Make sure to follow Lax Records on Twitter (@LaxRecords) and Facebook. Also, make sure to Mike a follow on Twitter (@McLoveday).

Catching Up With Rachel Norton (Bowdoin College Women’s Basketball)

Rachel Norton has guided the Polar Bears to eight-straight wins this season. (PHOTO CREDIT: Brian Beard/CIPhotography.com)

Rachel Norton has guided the Polar Bears to eight-straight wins this season. (PHOTO CREDIT: Brian Beard/CIPhotography.com)

By Bob Whitney (@WhitneyBob)

Former Braintree High School scholar-athlete Rachel Norton is finishing her senior year at Bowdon College.

The 2013 Braintree High School graduate, three-sport captain (volleyball, basketball and lacrosse) and honor student has continued to excel at the collegiate level, both in the classroom and on the basketball court.

Norton, in her senior year, is the captain of the Polar Bears’ basketball team where she has led the squad to an 8-0 record and a No. 13 ranking in the most recent national poll (third in the Noontime Sports Women’s Basketball Top 10).

Norton took some time out of a hectic exam week schedule to reflect upon her college experiences.

What motivated you to continue to play at the college level and why did you chose Bowdoin?

I’ve played sports for as long as I can remember, and I just wasn’t ready to give that up after high school. I couldn’t imagine not continuing to play basketball, and perhaps more importantly, I couldn’t imagine not being part of a team. I chose Bowdoin because it has strong academics and athletics, and I felt that I would have a good balance between the two.

What have you noticed are the biggest differences in transitioning from playing in high school to college?

I would certainly say that the pace of the game is significantly faster in college. Everyone is stronger, faster, and quicker.

How prepared were you to play at the collegiate level?

I definitely experienced a transition period on the court where it took me some time to adjust to the faster pace of the college game. However, I think I was extremely prepared for college in the sense that I knew what kind of player and teammate I needed to be at the next level, and I can thank Kristen McDonnell for that. First of all, she stressed the importance of being a good teammate – to be gritty, selfless, and positive – and she always stressed things like defense and boxing out over hitting shots. Everything she values at Braintree High is also valued on my college team, so in that sense, I was able to transition very easily.

What challenges have you faced on the offensive end?

I’ve definitely struggled with confidence on the offensive end. I’ve been working on being more of an offensive threat, and having confidence in taking my shot and attacking the basket. So far this season, I’ve been doing a better job than in past years.

What are the challenges of being a student-athlete?

Time management is definitely a challenge. Striking a balance between sports and school requires planning and good time management skills.

Through eight games, Rachel Norton has averaged 5.3 points per game and is a perfect four-for-four at the charity stripe. (PHOTO CREDIT: Brian Beard/CIPhotography.com)

Through eight games, Rachel Norton has averaged 5.3 points per game and is a perfect four-for-four at the charity stripe. (PHOTO CREDIT: Brian Beard/CIPhotography.com)

What are the benefits/values of playing a sport in college?

I think being part of a team is an invaluable experience, and it has made my time at Bowdoin incredibly enjoyable. I certainly feel that I’ve learned lessons through my sport – the importance of hard work, how to overcome adversity, how to be a good leader – that will serve me later in life.

What advice would you give to a high school player looking for a good fit to play college basketball and get a quality education?

I would definitely encourage them to reach out to coaches and visit as many schools as they can. I’ve really enjoyed my experience as a D3 college athlete and feel like I’m getting a quality education while playing for a strong basketball program.

What are your plans after graduating from Bowdoin?

Great question… I’ll get back to you!

Finally, what kind of senior season do you expect to have?

We’re off to a strong start, so I’m looking forward to seeing what we can do this year, hopefully in both the NESCAC tournament and NCAA tournament. I’m just trying to focus on one game at a time, and really soak up and enjoy my last season of basketball.

Follow Bob on Twitter @WhitneyBob; like him on Facebook and Instagram.

Dan Mulrooney Tabbed Anna Maria College Football Coach

Former WPI defensive coordinator Dan Mulrooney was recently named the next Anna Maria football coach. (PHOTO CREDIT: WPI Athletics)

Former WPI defensive coordinator Dan Mulrooney was recently named the next Anna Maria football coach. (PHOTO CREDIT: WPI Athletics)

By Matt Noonan (@MattNoonan11

A “new culture” is set to begin at Anna Maria College as Athletic Director Serge DeBari announced yesterday that Dan Mulrooney would become the next football coach of the AMCATs football program.

“He is a hardworking football coach with a great attitude looking for an opportunity to develop high character student-athletes on and off the field,” DeBari said in the athletic department’s release.

Mulrooney comes to Paxton, Massachusetts following an impressive three-year stint with the WPI football team as the defensive coordinator. Mulrooney helped the Engineers enjoy a pair of winning seasons (2015 & 2016), while improving the defense every year.

A Division I safety and tailback, Mulrooney competed for both Boston College and Stony Brook – he concluded his career as Seawolves’ leading tackler in 2011, while earning Big South Defensive Newcomer of the Year.

Mulrooney hails from Waterbury, Connecticut and competed for Holy Cross High School where he earned a pair of all-state accolades, while guiding his squad to two state titles.

Said Mulrooney, “I am an enthusiastic, dedicated, hardworking coach, who strives to develop student-athletes to reach their maximum potential.”