March madness is not only for the college kids. Nope. District play started this week with three of the eight local basketball teams still in action.

Ayer-Shirley's boys' and girls' basketball programs both advanced to the playoffs, and Bromfield's Lady Trojans earned a first round bye.

High school hockey announced their brackets last Saturday, and the Groton-Dunstable Crusaders hockey team locked up a first round bye in the Division three state playoffs. Drama -- it is what making the playoffs is all about. The North Middlesex Patriots hockey team was out of the playoff picture for most of the season, but they really turned it on as the year pressed forward.

The Pats came into the playoffs having recorded a draw or win in their last 11 games, due in large part by the outstanding play from junior goaltender Ryan Twomey and the team's defensemen. The Patriots needed a tie in their final game with Oakmont last Friday afternoon, and a tie is what they received.

No matter what the seed, the playoffs offer the seniors one last shot at greatness, one last dribble, one last body check, and one last hoorah with their closest friends. The Groton-Dunstable girls' basketball team succumbed to the wrath of the cruel nature of playoff basketball.

The Lady Crusaders missed out on a trip to the postseason with a demoralizing loss to St. Bernard's at home two weeks ago.


G-D's Rachel McCarron enjoyed a special moment during the game with the Bernardians when she netted her 1,000th point in front of the Groton-Dunstable faithful. McCarron is bound for UMass Lowell, where she will compete on the River Hawks' basketball team.

Bromfield's Montana Burke also joined the 1,000-point club when the Lady Trojans visited the brand new Tahanto gymnasium. Burke netted the milestone points with back-to-back three-point bombs, and she was honored prior to the team's February home game with Maynard.

North Middlesex's basketball teams narrowly missed out on a shot at the playoffs, missing a spot in the bracket by one win. The boys' basketball team needed to pick up a win over Leominster on the road to qualify for the district playoffs, but the Patriots were unable to live up to the challenge.

The Lady Patriots lost a one-point nail biter to Oakmont on senior night, and had one more chance to make good on their post-season push on the road at Gardner, but their effort was all for naught.

Making the postseason is an accomplishment in and of itself, but being in contention for a berth late in the season is a worthy accomplishment. North Middlesex lost their athletic director in the middle of January to the National Football League's Philadelphia Eagles, where he will serve as the defensive quality control coach.

Dawson is a Pepperell native who went through the North Middlesex Regional school system, starred in football, and went on to play as a defensive end at UMass-Amherst. Dawson will be heavily missed by the student athletes, and faculty at the high school for the leadership he provided to all the students.

Throughout the winter sports season, we have seen many special moments. Groton-Dunstable hockey inherited a new coach, and a new division at the start of the season. The Crusaders exuded confidence in their Roy Conference opener at the Wallace Civic Center, which ended in a 7-0 win over Fitchburg.

Groton-Dunstable dispatched then No. 1 in the state Westfield 1-0 at home, and proved to many in the surrounding communities that this team is legitimate.

The Crusaders put on military night last week, honoring those who are currently or who have served. Groton-Dunstable donned camouflage sweaters with a waving American flag across the waist as a tribute.

Since the start of the fall sports season, there have been many spilled coffees due to flying pucks barreling towards me, many chicken scribbles, and most importantly, great memories watching the emotions exhibited by the players each and every night they step onto the hardwood, no matter what the outcome. The Bromfield boys' basketball team had an off year from their district playoff appearance a year ago, but they still showed up every single night and gave it their all.

To all of the graduating senior hoopsters and icemen, thank you for representing your communities with class and dignity.

For those still competing, I look forward to sitting on the front lines with my clipboard and coffee in hand. Stop by, say hello, shoot the breeze, and share a cup of joe with your local scribe. Here's to looking forward to a successful postseason, and the upcoming spring sports slate.

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