In a tournament featuring four of the best high school basketball teams in Massachusetts and a cast of elite players, Revereâ€™s Nick Martinez and Malden Catholic High School were the best of the best.
A 6-foot-2-inch senior guard and captain for the defending Division 2 state champion MC contingent, Martinez scored 22 points as the Lancers defeated St. Maryâ€™s, 71-64, in overtime to claim the championship in the Spartan Classic.
St. Maryâ€™s All-Scholastic guard David Brown Jr. had connected on a double-pump, three-pointer off the glass at the buzzer to send the game into overtime.
But Martinez and his teammates regrouped and prevailed by outscoring St. Maryâ€™s by a 13-6 margin in the four-minute extra session.
â€œThey [St. Maryâ€™s] had some momentum, but we have a bunch of great players on our team, and we kept our cool, and we scored the first bucket in overtime, and I feel that gave us the momentum back,â€ said Martinez.
Martinez was selected the tournamentâ€™s Most Valuable Player following the championship game that was played before a capacity crowd at the Tony Conigliaro Gymnasium in Lynn.
Martinez was also sensational in the semifinals, leading all scorers with 21 points as Malden Catholic defeated Lynn English, 57-50, dealing the GBL champion Bulldogs their first loss of the season.
Malden Catholic (17-2) enters the MIAA Tournament next week as the No. 1 seed in Division 2.
Credits His Mother, Elena, for Her Childhood Basketball Instruction
Nick Martinez said he remembers playing basketball in the driveway across the street from the Paul Revere School on Revere Street and later Butler Street under the watchful eye of his mother, Elena Palumbo Martinez.
Elena Palumbo is one of the greatest athletes in the history of Stoneham High School. She was a seven-time Middlesex League All-Star in field hockey, basketball, and softball. She scored 970 career points in basketball and is an inductee in the Stoneham High Hall of Fame.
â€œMy mom taught me how to play basketball,â€ recalled Nick, who began playing hoops when he was three years old. â€œSheâ€™s been a great inspiration in my life and is at all of my games. Every chance I got to play basketball as a kid, I played – at Hill Park, the Rec leagues, Revere travel teams, and the Revere Police Activities League.
Nickâ€™s father, Wilfredo Martinez, was also an athlete of note, having competed in soccer at a high level in El Salvador.
Excelling for Revere Travel and at Immaculate Conception
Nick Martinez first gained notice for his basketball talents at Immaculate Conception School, helping to lead his team to a state championship.
Martinez also showed his rising basketball potential on the Revere travel team coached by Mike Dâ€™Itria. Interestingly, one of Nickâ€™s teammates was Anthony Dâ€™Itria, now a 6-foot senior guard at St. Maryâ€™s High School. Martinez and Dâ€™Itria matched up in Mondayâ€™s Spartan Classic final. â€œAnthonyâ€™s a really good shooter and really athletic â€“ heâ€™s really good at track, too,â€ said Martinez.
Nick also enjoyed playing basketball with another of his Revere travel teammates, Domenic Boudreau, who is now a three-sport standout at Revere High School
â€œThat was our trio â€“ Anthony, Dom and I,â€ recalled Nick. â€œWe had a lot of fun playing basketball together, and I learned so much about teamwork and sportsmanship from Mr. Dâ€™Itria (Anthonyâ€™s father, Mike, who is currently an assistant basketball coach at St. Maryâ€™s).â€
A Breakout Senior Season at MC
After being a reserve on the varsity as a sophomore, Nick Martinez became a starter and major contributor to Malden Catholicâ€™s state championship in the 2021-22 season.
â€œFrom sophomore to junior year, I went from not playing many minutes to becoming a two-year starter,â€ said Nick proudly.
This season, Martinez has emerged as one of the most dynamic players in the highly competitive Catholic Conference. Known as a prolific catch-and-shooter 3-point artist who can attack the basket as well, Martinez is averaging 21 points per game.
MC head coach John Walsh, a 1997 graduate of the school, said Martinez will be a strong candidate for Catholic Conference MVP honors.
â€œNick is obviously a great player and comes from a great family,â€ said Walsh. â€œHeâ€™s such a good kid and his parents have done a terrific job raising their children. Heâ€™s also an excellent student and a terrific leader. Weâ€™re proud to have him as a student at Malden Catholic.â€
Also a top-15-in-the-state 400-meter hurdler and high jumper, Martinez is hoping to use those leaping skills to record his first official dunk.
â€œIâ€™ve dunked in practice and in the warm-up lines, but not in a game yet,â€ said Martinez.
Nick said he is excited about the opportunity to lead Malden Catholic to a back-to-back state championship.
â€œIâ€™m super excited about the State Tournament,â€ said Nick. â€œWe want to win another title for our school. I think we have the best coach in the state.â€
An honor roll student, Nick said he has been in correspondence with Assumption College, Endicott College, and Salem State University, with a goal of continuing his basketball career.