Middlesex League basketball tipped off on Friday night for the Wilmington boys and girls basketball teams. Unlike last season, however, Wildcat fans had to make the decision of which team they’d be in the bleachers supporting.
When a Lexington girls basketball supporter threatened to file a lawsuit stating that it was a violation of Title XI to have the girls basketball team always leading off doubleheaders with 5:30 p.m. start times, Middlesex League athletics directors met just before the start of the season and decided to make a change.
For the first time since 1994-95, the league opted to change the schedule so that girls and boys basketball teams play at opposite venues, with varsity games all starting at 7 p.m. The change was announced on November 20, just weeks before the season started.
“Coming from the Cape Ann League, that’s how we always played anyway,” said Wilmington girls basketball coach Jay Keane. “As much as some other coaches didn’t like the change, for us it was just back to how we used to do it anyway.”
The decision was met with resistance from some involved parties. According to Letters to the Editor in the Wilmington Town Crier, a group of Woburn basketball players met with other student-athletes in the league in an attempt to show the Middlesex League they did not approve the change, but it was to no avail.
Opponents of the scheduling change believed that it was unfair to force fans to decide which team they will support on any given Tuesday or Friday night. But Wilmington boys basketball coach Joe Maiella said there is a benefit to coaching staffs playing in opposite locations as the girls teams.
“For me, I would much rather be able to watch our JV program play,” said Maiella. “It was more of a community event when the girls play before the boys, with more people attending the game. But I like the new set up, which is the same as when we played in Cape Ann League.”
Playing at home Friday night the Wilmington girls team was tied with Woburn into the final minutes but eventually fell, 59-47, despite 14 points from Michelle Woods and 12 points from Carli Brent. On the road in Woburn, Steve Colangelo notched 11 points and James Wilkinson chipped in 10 of his own, but the Wildcats fell, 56-34.
Keane agreed with Maiella’s sentiment and said the change will give him the opportunity to scout his own feeder program as well.
“Last year I never saw one single freshman game, and I don’t think that’s fair to those kids,” said Keane. “I could see why It was changed. My only issue was that it happened so late. We all had our schedules and a few weeks before the season it changed. It also affected the bus drivers, referees, and a lot of others. It affected a lot of people. But we just play the schedule given to us.”