It was the perfect (and fitting) ending for the Spellmans
Fittingly, their last official act as a high school sports family came with the youngest sibling picking up his championship medal. And with that, Liam Spellman, the conscience of Waterford High, flashed four fingers last Friday night, representing his fourth state championship team.
For years now, sports in this corner of the world have been awash in Spellmans. The dad, Dan, is the former basketball coach at East Lyme High, three times the author of the conference tournament title. (He can also tell you the favorite in the fifth at Santa Anita.) The mom, Denise, is the former coach of the 2007 Waterford Little League softball team that made the World Series.
The sisters: Megan is the former Day Player of the Year in softball; Shea played two sports at Waterford, including on a state championship soccer team. And Kelly? She only works for the Rachael Ray Show now.
Which brings us to Liam, the youngest, who finished his high school career as a four-time champion Lancer — two basketball and two baseball titles — graduating among the most successful and decorated athletes in the estimable history of the school.
Spellmans, Spellmans, everywhere. The kids leave with a combined eight state championships. A legacy heretofore only known to the Walkers, who are our first family of sports. High praise.
Liam Spellman's graduation shouldn't pass without some fanfare for the kid who never sought any hosannas, but whose unselfishness brought them to the whole school. Straight up: The most team-first kid I've encountered here in almost 30 years now at America's Most Underrated Media Organization.
As one Waterford fan said before a state tournament game, despite all the pregame angst flowing throughout the stands: "It's OK. We have Liam."
Liam Spellman is headed to Ithaca to play basketball next year. Note to the Ithacas: Nice pickup. Your offense will run better instantly, because now you have a kid who will be the conduit by habit, not reaction. There were many reasons his Lancers went 26-1 and won another state championship this past season. But the biggest one is this: Liam Spellman did a million little things that sustain the timeless idea that you never know what can be accomplished when nobody cares who gets the credit.
He passed more than he shot. Got every rebound. Always where he needed to be. No reason to ever yell at him.
Liam's final act as a high school kid so perfectly represented what the family stands for. You show up and do it the right way. And the two things you value most are winning and winning, not playing time and how many shots you get.
Liam's departure also means that come winter, the bleachers at the Francis X. Sweeney Fieldhouse will be quieter. Dan Spellman was quite the narrator during games this year, using his coaching background to issue a few helpful hints here and there. Often at impressive octaves. The highlight of the year: In the state quarterfinals, eventual Day Player of the Year JJ Brennan chose not to make a wide-open layup in a six-point game, instead choosing to throw a lob to a teammate for a dunk.
Spellman was all but ready to exit the bleachers, run on to the floor and strangle Brennan. One of the great tirades ever. And more evidence that Dan, once he's done watching his son play college basketball, should return to coaching. Too much to offer. Same with Denise, whose poise while coaching the Little Leaguers more than a decade ago now was among the biggest reasons the moment never overwhelmed them.
The Spellmans began playing and coaching sports around here many years ago. They leave a trail of honors and championships that belong on the proverbial Rushmore thing. They will be missed. But there's no denying that the final game for the final Spellman wasn't merely a happy ending. The fitting one, too.
This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro.
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