| The Patriot Ledger
When the Hingham High girls basketball team went on a run as the first basketball team in school history to reach a sectional final, the Harborwomen had a cardinal rule.
Get there before the other team arrived.
“We were leaving like two hours before the games just to be the first team there because we found that when we got there before the other team, we won,” said Eugene Buczynski, who was the coach of that team. “So we were leaving two, two-and-a-half hours before games and (the players) were all into it, too. They were (chanting), ‘Coach, earlier, earlier.’”
That season ended, triumphantly and tragically, with a 34-33 loss to Oliver Ames in the Division 2 South Sectional final.
It’s better to leave too early than too late. Following eight seasons at the helm of Hingham basketball, Buczynski is following that motto and is stepping down to catch his breath.
“I needed a break and I feel like I’ve done my best up to this point,” said Buczynski. “If you’re going to take a break, I felt last year would have been a good time to do it. (But) coming into COVID, it didn’t seem like the right time to step down.
“I am proud of where the program is when I’m leaving. … This team should be in competition to win a league championship next year and make a long run in the state tournament, there’s no reason they can’t do it. Knowing I don’t have the energy to do it again, let someone else (coach) and give the girls the best opportunity to get there.”
Buczynski took over a Hingham team that struggled to consistently make the tournament and hadn’t gotten past the first round since 2007. After missing the tournament during his first season, the Harborwomen made six consecutive trips to Massachusetts March Madness while reaching the sectional final three times (2016, 2019, 2020). Buczynski compiled a 109-57 record including three Patriot League Keenan Division titles.
There were plenty of talented players that Buczynski helped develop. The Blasetti family (Sydney, Haley, Ryley and Perry) have all been program cornerstones.
Sydney and Haley Blasetti were the leaders of that 2016 team. Haley is currently on the Siena women’s basketball team. Abby Landry was another key cog on that Hingham squad; she’s currently playing her senior season on the Duke women’s lacrosse team.
When Haley Blasetti missed her senior season at Hingham due to a knee injury, Ryley Blasetti and classmate Grace Bennis stepped up as sophomores. Bennis became the first player in girls history to score 1,000 points, and that duo led Hingham to consecutive sectional finals.
Perry Blasetti, who just finished her junior season, is now one of the program cornerstones, along with classmate Caroline Connelly.
“I really think it’s the players I had,” Buczynski said of his success. “Coaching is important, but you have to have good players and if you go through the list of rosters, I’ve had good players and players that not only were good, but they believed in what we were doing and that’s the perfect combination.”
Even during his lone losing season at Hingham, Buczynski saw the potential the program had. In 2014, the Harborwomen finished 6-14, but the record didn’t tell the full story.
“When you’re doing everything right, it eventually catches fire,” said Buczynski. “I felt like that first year we were so close, we just didn’t know how to win yet. That was a fun year because the building blocks were being placed correctly and the foundation was being built.”
In 2015, Hingham made a loud return to the tournament. As a No. 10 seed, the Harborwomen knocked off No. 7 Norwood, 53-50, in the first round and fell just short of upsetting an undefeated Falmouth team, 53-48.
In 2016, Hingham hosted its first tournament game since 2009 (a preliminary-round win over Community Academy). After making his coaching debut in 2013 in front of a sparse crowd of 35 fans at tip, a packed house saw the Harborwomen defeat Plymouth North, 55-26.
“My proudest moment was our first (home) tournament game. I was told by our athletic director (Margaret Conaty) we had a sellout,” said Buczynski.
In those three sectional final losses, the Harborwomen were tantalizingly close to making the coveted trip to TD Garden for the state semifinals. Losses to OA, Pembroke and Foxboro in the finals came by a combined 13 points.
“When your goals start to become Boston Garden or bust, it’s an awesome goal, but then you’re three points away from it and you don’t get there, it’s still a good year but it doesn’t feel like it,” said Buczynski. “That’s why we as coaches we try to not set those kind of goals, destination goals. You try to set workable goals, goals that you can attain and that you can control.
“Exhaustion. It’s tiresome (always wondering), ‘What do you do to get better?’ You just rack your brain and next thing you know you lose your summer, you lose your fall and the season is upon you and you haven’t really taken a deep breath because all you’ve done is think about how to rectify that loss.”
Buczynski said he expects to coach again; he just needed a reset and some time away.
“In 2014 if you told our kids the goal was to go to the Garden they would laugh,” said Buczynski. “And now you say it to a Hingham girls team and they’re going to look at you and say, ‘Yep, let’s do it. Let’s go.’ To get to the point where those goals aren’t dreams anymore and they can become reality, it’s pretty awesome.”
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