BILLERICA – Back in May of 2013, then Wilmington High School girls' basketball coach Jay Keane resigned after eight tremendous seasons, saying that his promotion to captain of the Somerville Fire Department would take away his commitment to the team.
During his eight years – which came after two-plus decades involved in the WHS Boys program between a volunteer coach and two different stints as the freshmen coach – Keane became what's believed to be the all-time winningest coach in program history. He finished with a record of 120-60, which included eight state tournament appearances, a 12-8 post-season record, one league title, one trip to the sectional final and three trips to the sectional final.
Some of the highlights included a 17-win season in 2005-’06 and then a 20-win season (a program record) the following season, which included knocking off the No. 1 seed Winthrop Vikings before losing to perennial state contender Pentucket Sachems by three points in the sectional final at the Tsongas Arena.
During his time, he coached a handful of the all-time greatest players to wear a Wildcat uniform whether it was Hall of Famer Ashley Vitale, Amy Fahey, Emily Crannell, Michelle Woods, twins Carli and Christi Brent as well as his daughter Amanda. Vitale, Fahey and Woods went on to have incredible collegiate careers.
During that time that he was away from the bench, Keane was itching to get back in the game and he quickly found a new home in Malden Catholic. Before the 2018 school season, the school announced it was going co-ed and would be accepting female students, and it didn't take long after that before Keane was named the program's first ever coach.
Last year the Lancers were a JV program before making the jump to varsity this season. With a team of all sophomores and freshmen, the Lancers are out to a 5-2 start playing as an Independent team, which included a 54-40 victory over Shawsheen Tech last Thursday night, which was followed by wins over Cristo Rey and Gloucester.
"I wanted to get back into coaching and here I get to start my own program and mold it into how I want it," he said after the win over the Rams. "They hired me a year before the school opened (up for females) and last year we played a subvarsity schedule and this year we made the jump (to varsity)."
The program's first ever varsity game was a 42-29 loss to Ipswich, before beating St. Joe's Prep, 35-34. The Lancers then played in the Winchester Christmas Tournament, beating the host team 51-48 before falling to Boston Latin, 50-39 in the finals.
"We’re now (5-2) which is great, and these girls are getting better every single day, they really are. We have a lot of really super smart kids, all honor roll students," said Keane.
Malden Catholic is a Division 4 team, so should the Lancers get five more wins, the team will qualify for the post-season.
The Lancers have 15 games left including two each with Ursuline Academy, KIPP Academy, East Boston and Austin Prep and one each with Somerville, Medford, St. Joe’s Prep and rematches with Gloucester, Cristo Rey, Ipswich and then Shawsheen on February 3rd.