While basketball in the traditional strongholds around Philadelphia was in a period of instability and adjustment, the professional game was blossoming in Massachusetts. The New England League (last year’s Massachusetts League) and the newly re-organized Massachusetts Central League drew over 225,000 paid admissions during the 1902-03 season. The main threat to the rising popularity of pro basketball in Massachusetts remained the bitter warfare between the two leagues. The Massachusetts Central League, which had prematurely halted its season in January of 1902, was back with four strong independent teams (Springfield, Holyoke, Ware and Westfield) recruited to battle holdover squads in Millbury, Webster and Worcester.
The New England League returned with the South Framingham, Maynard, Lowell Burkes and Lowell PAC squads, while the talented Cambridge club transferred to Marlboro. Additions included a new team in Hudson and two teams in New Hampshire, Manchester and Nashua. Marlboro, featuring center Bill Sheridan, won 16 of 17 games to win the first-half title of the New England League. Intoxicated with their success, the club agreed at midseason to also represent the town of Chicopee in the Massachusetts Central League. They briefly performed in both leagues until the Massachusetts Central League officials ruled that a team could only be represented in one league at a time. Because they found it to be more lucrative, the Sheridan-led squad withdrew from the New England League and agreed to exclusively represent Chicopee for the remainder of the season. The Massachusetts Central League proved to be much faster competition for Sheridan’s squad and they finished in the middle of the pack. Springfield, behind the scoring of the speedy Martens brothers, Charlie and Henry, dashed off to an early lead in the standings. In mid-January, fabled center Toby Mathews signed on with the team to solidify the club’s grip on the Central Massachusetts League title.