EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Sports

February 28, 2013

Cats' unified by powerhouse hoop teams

Whittier community rallies behind powerhouse hoop programs

HAVERHILL — It had to be 10 or years ago, maybe a couple more or less.

I whizzed up 110, stopped into Whittier Tech and settled in to cover a state tourney game.

The game wasn’t a quarter old, when amazement struck. A Shawsheen Tech fan — who later turned out to be an administrator at the school — was told to leave for cheering during a Whittier free throw.

It was Whittier’s superintendent who did the ejecting, promising to call security if necessary.

I didn’t have to wonder why the place was empty and student apathy was at an all-time high. It was plain to see that sports, at least basketball, was considered a hassle at Whittier.

What a difference a decade makes! Give it up for guys like athletic director Kevin Bradley and current boys coach Tom Sipsey for changing all that.

Last night, the Wildcats disposed of Amesbury, 59-21, in a Division 3 North first-round tourney game before about 500 fans.

Behind the bench, there were “whiteout” conditions, a spirited student section on their feet to support their boys.

“Maroon Man” was in place, as was the Whittier Wildcat himself.

Athletics has indeed found itself a home in Cats country.

Sipsey’s voice cracked and tears nearly welled up when he spoke of the support his 20-3 Wildcats have received in the house that Bradley rebuilt.

“I remember my first game four years ago against Lynn Tech, before about seven fans,” said Sipsey. “I asked why they only pulled out half the bleachers. I saw why, right away. Now, four years later, look at this place. The place is packed. Thing like the ‘white out’ and all the support make me as proud as I am of anything we’ve done here, even the banners.”

If you know Kevin Bradley, you know he’s the guy behind it.

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