It had gained notoriety for its ability to put NBA-like scores on teams with relative ease. By all accounts, it was going to do the same to Central Catholic Monday.
That was not the case, however. The Red Raiders took away CM’s strengths, played the antithesis of the way the South champion wanted to play and came away with the 79-66 victory.
In the end, it is Central Catholic that is playing for the Division 1 State Championship on Saturday. The Raiders will face the winner of Tuesday night's other semifinal between the aforementioned Putnam and Central Mass. champion St. John's of Shrewsbury.
“Nobody predicted us to win this game,” said Central Catholic coach Rick Nault. “We’ve been talking all week about, why not us? Why not us? The kids believed that, and we’ve got one more against an extremely tough opponent.”
The game started off probably as worse as it could for Central. By the end of the first quarter, the team had surrendered 22 points and committed seven team fouls. That meant Catholic Memorial was shooting free throws for an entire quarter.
One game before the state championship, that is a significant disadvantage the team put itself in. No team wants to give the other that many scoring chances, and especially not against a team that is already as potent offensively as CM.
“That was not the tempo we wanted to play at,” said Nault. “I had said to the guys that I wanted to play in the 60’s, not in the 80’s. Twenty-two points in the first quarter, and the foul situation, was not how we wanted to go. We talked at halftime about really slowing things down and adjusting our pace, and breaking down their defense a little bit.”
Central seemed to settle down in the second quarter and get the game under control. It took the lead late in the second quarter on a sequence that saw Tyler Nelson hit his only three-pointers of the game. After missing a few early on, he hit two on back-to-back possessions within two minutes of each other to give Central a 33-28 lead.
“In the first quarter I think we came out a little antsy, but after that we knew we could stay in the game,” said Central’s Aaron Hall. “We knew it was going to be a good game the whole time so the coaches tried to relax us and get our confidence back up. At halftime, we knew what we had to do and just came out hard.”
The two teams battled back and forth trading the lead in the third. A Tyler Nelson steal and layup helped feed the team momentum going into the final quarter.
Catholic Memorial cut the Central lead to four early in the fourth when Guilien Smith (26 points, 6 rebounds) converted an and-one opportunity after getting fouled in the lane.
Central’s lead grew back up to eight after Nick Cambio (27 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists) scored back to back buckets from the low block, the second off a feed from freshman Kevin Fernandez.
Cambio made his home on the block Monday and was one of the main catalysts for Central’s victory.
“They had one big guy, Gerard Adams, in there who is a big kid,” he said. “So they put a small guy on me so it was going to be a mismatch, so we just got the ball down low.”
Out of their comfort zone: The biggest key to Central’s victory was its ability to move Catholic Memorial’s bigs off their positions and get clean looks at the basket. When CM went to its full court press, it kept Gerard Adams in the paint as its last line of defense in transition.
Central’s press break requires a guard to inbound the ball and get it to a player on the baseline. Then it likes to pass the ball up the court using the triangle passing lanes the wing players create with whoever is in the middle of the court. If all goes as planned, Central will end up two-on-one with the defense’s lone big.
This happened multiple times Monday. Central broke the CM press effectively, which often left Cambio or Aaron Hall in a two-on-one against Adams. One would wait until the moment when Adams slid over and committed to the ball handler before eventually scoring an easy basket off a dump off pass from the left block.
“I think it was a natural reaction that they had to change their position,” said Hall (18 points, 8 rebounds). “They had to come over and get the guard, and that left one of the bigs down low. I know I had a few, Nick (Cambio) had a few. I know Pat (Sullivan, 6 points) had a few down low on the break, so I guess the game plan worked.”
Quite the diversion: Everyone knows about Tyler Nelson by now. Central’s sharpshooting guard had played varsity basketball for the past four years. His game has evolved as he physically has evolved. Over the past four seasons, he has become Central’s go-to player in crunch time and Nault has even declared him as the best player he has coached during his eight years coaching at Central Catholic. He is widely respected for his ability to shoot successfully from anywhere on the court, most recently being a 15-point second half performance in the Division 1 North final Saturday.
Monday was the rare occasion when he was not counted upon to be the team’s primary scorer. Instead, he was more of a facilitator and secondary option to Cambio and Hall.
Nelson finished the game with 16 points and 10 defensive rebounds. With the team set to play for a state championship Saturday, it was the kind of game that put the rest of the state on notice that Central Catholic is more than just one player.
“He controlled the whole game because he demands so much attention,” said Nault. “He frees up other people. He controls the ball and always makes the right pass. It is a comforting feeling that we got balanced scoring, that we had a freshman in Kevin Fernandez (8 points, 7 assists) that really made some big plays creating and drawing for our bigs. Hopefully whatever team we play in the finals will understand that we’re a balanced team.”
Up next: There will be no rest for the weary. The Central Catholic coaching staff will get back to work tomorrow preparing for whoever its opponent will be Saturday. Because the team has been going seemingly nonstop with its President’s Day tournament and a regular season makeup date against Andover, Nault decided his team deserves a day off Tuesday.
The same can not be said for his coaching staff. He and his assistants will head to the DCU Center in Springfield to scout the Putnam vs. St. John’s game tomorrow night. The players and coaching staff will get back on the court Wednesday to begin its preparations for Saturday night.
LOWELL, Mass. – After accepting the Division 2 North champions trophy, Beverly's Connor Irving, still in his full gear, sprinted to the Panther locker room with an ear-to-ear grin.
“We're going to the Garden,” Irving screamed as he beat all of his teammates to the locker room.
It was that kind of night as Irving netted four goals, and added an assist, to drive Beverly to a 9-1 thrashing of Tewksbury at Tsongas Center.
Tewksbury scored first on a goal by Jack Cash, but the Panthers tied the game 58 seconds later and it was all orange and black from there. Irving's first goal came with three seconds left in the period. Linemate Jesse Maclaughlin launched the puck into the air before it was batted down by Ryan Santo right onto Irving's stick.
Irving split the Tewksbury defense and finessed the puck home to put Beverly ahead 3-1 after one.
“Connor senses when these guys are going to throw it out,” Beverly head coach Bob Gilligan said. “He's got good instincts. His transition game is so quick; you can see how well he skates. His edges are as good as anybody's.”
Irving's goal ignited Beverly. The Panthers erupted in the second period for five goals, including Irving's fourth, a short-handed goal, with 21 seconds left.
“These kids were working hard and fore-checking hard,” Gilligan said. “You could see in the second period, that first two shifts set the tone. They got tired; they got real tired. We kept pressuring them like that. The kids played smart; we didn't get caught down low. We got some skilled players,[and] when they get some open ice you see what they can do.”
Beverly's offense is well-established, but it was the Panther defense that locked the game down. Beverly held Tewksbury to 13 total shots and none in the second period. Tewksbury was held under three goals for the first time since Jan. 15.
Nick Albano had a goal and an assist from the blue line, but all three pairs stuffed Tewksbury from the opening draw.
“Jack [Morency] and Sean [Munzing] have been playing together for four years now,” Irving said. “Nick's unbelievable back on D. He's been playing some unreal games. Matt Hamor is a stalwart back there. I think it's just the chemistry. We've kept the same pairs for a long time and they work good together. They shut it down.”
Santo chipped in numerous times. The senior assisted on four goals, including the primary assist on three of Irving's goals. Santo said he didn't expect his point output to be so high.
“I know if I get the puck to Connor he's going to do something good with it,” Santo said. “Moving the puck, cycling, working hard on the forecheck, I didn't expect it either. I'm just trying to play my best.”
GETTING OVER THE HUMP: After two years of early exits from the tournament, last night's win propelled Beverly to the state final and a date with Medfield on Sunday.
Last year, the Panthers were bounced out by rival Danvers in the opening round on a goal with 11 seconds left. Gilligan said that game still tastes sour in his mouth.
“Danvers was a test; that was a thorn in our side,” Gilligan said. “These kids sat on that; they still didn't digest that. I didn't. I told them we've got to keep going. The Northeastern Conference is our main goal, and after that we've got to chip away at each game.”
The Panthers beat Danvers, 2-1, in a shootout in the North quarterfinal and have outscored their last two foes, Tewksbury and Lincoln-Sudbury, by a combined 14-2. Unlike Danvers, Beverly hadn't played L-S, Tewksbury, and now Medfield before the state tournament.
“I wasn't hoping for Medfield, but if you know a team and you think you can beat them, we thought we could beat Danvers,” Irving said. “I like having a team that we haven't played yet. I think we come out a lot harder when we don't know what we're going to get and we only hear what we're going to get.”
Irving starred on the last two Beverly teams alongside his cousin Andrew, and he said to make to Causeway Street was like a dream.
“We were so far but so close the past two years, lost in overtime as a sophomore, lost to Danvers with 11 seconds left [last year],” Irving said. “It seemed like anything we did just wasn't good enough. This year we're getting the bounces so far
“Any way we can score to win; that's all we really want right now. I've had 58 points in a season and lose in the first round. Just to be here is the best feeling.”
A teary-eyed Hogan, who coached the Lady Bulldogs for nine years following a nine year stint at Lynn Tech, explained his reasoning for resigning from his position:
“Today was my last game coaching at Lynn English and I went out with these seniors, a real special moment. I’m resigning from my position,” Hogan announced. “I’m gonna try something different, a new environment, just something different...I’m definitely going to coach somewhere else.”
Hogan announced privately to his team following their win over Billerica in early March that he would be stepping down at the end of the state tournament. He said he will also be stepping down from his position as assistant football coach at English.
“I told them after the Billerica game, so my kids were well-informed," he said. "They knew three weeks ago…I told the seniors that when we leave the court, whether it was at the DCU Center, that we’d be leaving it together.”
In reflecting on his time at English, Hogan talked about first turning the program around upon being hired as head coach. The Lady Bulldogs, who went just 4-16 the year before Hogan was hired, turned things around the following year by winning 12 games and going to the state tournament. Hogan continued to build his program from there, as English went undefeated during the 2013-14 regular season, finishing the year at 25-1.
For all the wins on the court though, Hogan said that one of his proudest achievements in his time coaching at English was seeing 25 of his former players graduate from college.
“I’ll miss these kids, they’re just unbelievable," Hogan said. "Twenty-five girls graduated from college in nine years from this program. It’s the kids. At my house the other day after we beat Central Catholic I had 12 former players at my house.
"A lot of the kids had never won, they had never made the state tournament before we got there."
Hogan’s son, Fred Jr., is a senior at English and was a star on the Bulldogs’ boys basketball team. An ESPN Boston All-State selection as a junior, Hogan, Jr. went on to score one-thousand points for the Bulldogs and led them to a 31-13 record in his final two years at English under Coach Mike Carr. Hogan said he hopes to explore other opportunities as a coach, one that mixes well with his hopes of being able to watch his son play college basketball.
“I’m not gonna’ say it’s all that, but that has something to do with it,' he said. "I’m a coach, I love coaching basketball, I love coaching Lynn kids. I’m gonna’ be coaching somewhere, it’s in my blood. I’m definitely going to be doing something somewhere.”
Using a blend of athleticism, quickness and a non-stop motor, Williams torched Connolly for 22 points, four assists and four rebounds to pace the offensive attack for the Anchormen (23-1), despite giving up six inches to the defender covering him all night.
“He’s fearless,” said St. Clement coach Leo Boucher. “We’re talking about a kid that never played football in his life and came to St. Clement and rushed for 800 yards and nine touchdowns. Just an incredible athlete whose aggressive and doesn’t know he’s 5-6. He has no idea he’s 5-6.”
Added Williams: “My whole life, I’ve been shorter than everybody else so I just kind of adapted. Some people say I’m just too short to play against big guys, and I want to prove them wrong every time out there. A lot of teams see me as a mismatch at 5-6, but if I go out there and player harder than the person in front of me, there’s going to be good results."
Williams was primed for proving people shouldn’t overlook his height after game previews leading up to the game. No one on Connolly proclaimed they hoped to exploit that mismatch – in fact, what told the guard that he needed to prove people wrong again had nothing to do with what was said about him. It was based on what wasn’t said.
“We read the Fall River papers talking about how Eamonn (Joyce) was a real good player down near the baseline, then they want on to elaborate and say if you stop Khaneil Bruce, you stop St. Clement,” said Boucher. “That’s exactly what we wanted to see, because we knew Brandon had a game in him like this.”
Not only did the diminutive point guard spark the offense, but he also was a driving force of a defense that caused fits throughout for Bishop Connolly. The Anchormen, using a 2-3 zone throughout, never allowed Connolly’s offense to find any rhythm, limiting star player Dylan Holland to just 10 points in the win.
“We work hard on defense,” Williams said. “We wanted to take them off their game, make them uncomfortable and pressure them a little bit. We wanted to deny Holland the ball because he had a huge game last game, so we knew if we could slow him down we could play our game.”
St. Clement was certainly able to play its game most of the contest, using the stingy defensive effort to set up huge runs in both the second and fourth quarters (and overcoming a sluggish five point third quarter) to guarantee the Anchormen reached the first state final in school history.
Early on Joyce was a driving force to help stretch the lead for St. Clement, registering eight points, five rebounds and three blocks before the half en route to a double. He finished with 11 points, 11 rebounds and five blocks in the win. Bruce paired with him to lead an effective front court, finishing with nine points and eight rebounds in the win.
Opening loss anchors St. Clement: On the first night competition back in December, St. Clement fell to East Boston. They’ve benefited from that game ever since. Three months later, it’s still their only loss of the season and they’ve rattled of 23 straight wins following that defeat.
“The East Boston, I made a lot of mistakes,” said Boucher. “I think I lost that game. I would put it on myself and I told these kids that I lost that game with my decisions. We should’ve come out of man-to-man earlier, and we haven’t played man-to-man since.”
Maybe it was coaching decisions, but Boucher’s players weren’t OK with the way loss sat with them.
“After we lost that first game, we really didn’t like it. Our mood in the locker room was very down. We don’t want that to happen again so that’s why we keep a chip on our shoulder that we’re not going to lose again.”
Their lack of aggressiveness on defense didn’t allow the Titans to get easy transition baskets and allowing six offensive rebounds led to easy hoops for Greater New Bedford, giving them a five-point half time lead.
Things changed immediately in the second half as the Titans went on a 12-3 run to open the third quarter and ran away with a convincing 72-62 win over Greater New Bedford to send them to the D4 state championship next weekend.
“I think we got off to a really slow first half,” New Mission coach Brianna Forde said. “We are a fairly slow team in terms of how we start, we definitely aren’t a first quarter team. I think just coming out and being aggressive and really tenacious on defense I thought changed the pace of the game for us. We needed to do a better job of guarding their big’s and getting our transition game going. Once we started to do those things we saw a lot to open up for us.”
Things certainly opened up for them as they outscored the Lady Bears 40-25 in the second half, primarily because of their aggressive defense leading to lay-ups in transition. In total, New Mission forced 24 turnovers, leading to 30 points.
“We kind of expected that in the second half, that’s what we talked about – they would probably pressure of man-to-man, full court and we got double teamed and threw the ball away quite a bit,” New Bedford coach David Harrison said.
The Lady Bears controlled the play in the first half, primarily in the paint as junior forward Nakira Examond had 18 points and nine rebounds, which allowed Greater New Bedford to build their five-point halftime lead. Even though she still had a monster game, finishing with a game-high 27 points and 17 rebounds, New Mission did a better job controlling the glass in the second half.
Sophomore Iris Rivera also had a tremendous game for Greater New Bedford in a losing effort posting 16 points and 15 rebounds.
New Mission was paced by their stars, seniors De’Andra Humphires and Jaszala Laracuente, who had 24 and 20 points respectively.
With the Titans leading 59-51 in the final quarter, Humphries picked up her fifth foul, forcing her from the game, which could have came back to haunt New Mission as she was their leading point scorer.
“I was nervous because the game was so close,” she said. “It was a little bit depressing, but I got back into it.”
New Mission didn’t panic and never allowed the Lady Bears to get any closer than seven points the rest of the way primarily because of their free throw shooting as they shot 9-of-14 (64 percent) in the final eight minutes.
“That is what we prepare for,” Forde said. “Those role players that we have that may not be starters, every minute counts. Their contributions never change, from their efforts on the floor and in the classroom, it’s a team effort.”
For the first time there will be a D4 state final between an East and Central/West champion, which will take place next weekend.
BRIGHT FUTURE FOR LADY BEARS
For Greater New Bedford, this was their third trip to the Garden in as many years, falling to Fenway the previous two times, ending pretty much the same way with the City League’s teams aggressiveness eventually getting to them.
“It seemed like the same scenario as the past two years, we couldn’t handle the pressure when we got double teamed and we turned the ball over,” Harrison said.
Fortunately for the Lady Bears they will return four starters next season and will be as hungry as ever to make it a fourth straight trip to the Garden and this time come away with a win.
“We have four starters. I thought we were going to get them today,” said Harrison “We’re closing the gap. I know these kids, like I said we’re one year away from a couple of things. If we keep going the way we are going I expect big things next year.”
STATE FINAL AHEAD
Looking ahead to this weekend’s state championship, the Titans will take on either Millis or Quaboag. They know they will need to clean a few things up between now and then as getting off to a sluggish start could hurt them.
“Run, run and run,” Laracuente said. “We need to play our game and work hard throughout the game. First quarter, put them away in the first quarter and play hard. Defense wins games.”
New Mission reached Monday’s EMass final by upsetting No. 1 Fenway last Friday night, 43-36.
Here are the details:
In response to weather concerns, a revised schedule has been finalized. All games originally scheduled for Wednesday at the Mass Mutual Center have been postponed. This decision also impacts other initial plans. All West/Central games will now be played on Tuesday.
Tuesday, March 11
DIVISION 1: GIRLS’/BOYS’ at Mass Mutual Center (5:45/7:30 p.m.)
DIVISION 2: GIRLS’BOYS’ at Central High School, Springfield (6:00/7:45 p.m.)
DIVISION 3: GIRLS’/BOYS’ at Mass Mutual Center (2:15/4 p.m.)
DIVISION 4: GIRLS’/BOYS’ at Clark University (6:00/7:45 p.m.)
With the inclement weather in the forecast for Wednesday, the two games at the Tsongas Center have been moved to Thursday, with both games maintained their previous time slot.
Here's the schedule for Thursday:
No. 2 Malden Catholic vs. No. 3 Springfield Cathedral, 6 p.m.
No. 1 BC High vs. No. 4 Austin Prep, 8 p.m.
Here is tonight's schedule:
D4 Girls: New Mission 72, Greater New Bedford 62
D4 Boys: St. Clement 56, Bishop Connolly 44
D1 Girls: Braintree 59, Lynn English 41
D1 Boys: Central Catholic 79, Catholic Memorial 66
At TD Garden, Boston
D4 Girls: New Mission vs. Greater New Bedford, 2:15 p.m.
Brendan Hall: Fenway was cruising right along to a three-peat as Division 4 state champs until city rival New Mission threw a wrench in those plans. Momentum is on the side of Jazsala Laracuente, Deandra Humphries and company. Pick: New Mission
Chris Bradley: New Mission beating Boston City League rival Fenway in the D4 North championship game was as impressive as any win we've seen during this postseason. I'll take the Lady Titans in a double-digit victory.
Pick New Mission
D4 Boys: St. Clement vs. Bishop Connolly, 4 p.m.
Hall: Lots of athleticism here in Medford, and that's a very talented St. Mary's team the Anchormen knocked off to get here. Look for big nights from Emaru Pena and Khaneil Bruce. Pick: St. Clement
Bradley: Connolly has plenty of experience winning on the TD Garden floor, especially after last year's Division 4 championship-winning performance. St. Clement is athletic and talented, but look for Bishop Connolly to take this game in a close one.
Pick: Bishop Connolly
D1 Girls: Lynn English vs. Braintree, 5:45 p.m.
Hall: Braintree has thwarted terrific guard-oriented lineups throughout these playoffs, but they've yet to face a backcourt as talented as English's. Still, the Bulldogs are going to have to navigate a "Land of the Trees" going inside against the Wamps' superb (and vertically blessed) lineup. Pick: Braintree
Bradley: The Lady Bulldogs' undefeated run has been extremely impressive, but they run into a giant in Braintree in the Eastern Mass. final -- the Wamps haven't had anything less than double-digit victories since Jan. 24.
D1 Boys: Central Catholic vs. Catholic Memorial, 7:30 p.m.
Hall: This could be the best matchup of the night. Hold CM in the 50's, and you win. By the way, that hasn't happened yet. Pick: Catholic Memorial, in OT
Bradley: Tyler Nelson and co. had quite a run through the loaded Division 1 North tournament, but CM's depth at guard will be the difference in this one. Look for the Knights to come out on top in what should be a very fast-paced game.
Pick: Catholic Memorial
TUESDAY, MARCH 11
At TD Garden, Boston
D3 Girls: St. Mary’s (Lynn) vs. Archbishop Williams, 2:15 p.m.
Hall: This is completely different Archies squad from the one I saw get squashed by Mater Dei (Calif.) back in January. Talent eventually rises to the top, and this was a preseason Top 5 selection in our state poll. Pick: Archbishop Williams
Bradley: It's only right that this game comes down to two Catholic Central Large archrivals. It's been an impressive season for St. Mary's, but look for Archbishop Williams to pull away down the stretch in this one -– the Bishops have been playing their best ball of the season in the playoffs.
Pick: Archbishop Williams
D3 Boys: Watertown vs. Cardinal Spellman, 4 p.m.
Hall: After Thursday's comeback against Martha's Vineyard, the Cardinals feel like a team of destiny. Pick: Cardinal Spellman
Bradley: Spellman will certainly be battle tested heading into Monday's showdown with Watertown after beating Wareham, Martha's Vineyard and Westport to take the D3 South title. Expect a big game from Spellman senior Ryan Roach.
Pick: Cardinal Spellman
D2 Girls: Arlington Catholic vs. Duxbury, 5:45 p.m.
Hall: The leap that 6-foot-4 junior center Molly Quilty has made over the last calendar year has paid dividends for Duxbury this season, and she's just scratching the surface. Just like in the D1 EMass Final, size will play a factor here. Pick: Duxbury
Bradley: Duxbury has to stand as the favorite in this one, especially considering their impressive 24-0 record. Look for the Patriot League and Division 2 South champs to punch their ticket to the DCU Center.
D2 Boys: New Mission vs. Milton, 7:30 p.m.
Hall: Lots of storylines to write about with this game, but the biggest story will be under the hoop, where Mission's Asante Sandiford and Bam Rivers are bulldozing their way into All-State contention. Pick: New Mission
Bradley: It will be a reunion of sorts when former Milton guard Juwan Gooding faces his former school in the D2 semifinal, but this year's Titans squad is one of coach Cory McCarthy's deepest in recent memory. New Mission forwards Bam Rivers and Asante Sandiford are likely to set the tone in this one.
Pick: New Mission
At MassMutual Center, Springfield
D4 Girls: Millis vs. Quaboag, 2:15 p.m.
Hall: For years, Quaboag was a juggernaut in D3 Central, annually reaching the state semifinal or final. The glory days are still here. Pick: Quaboag
D4 Boys: Hopedale vs. Quaboag, 4 p.m.
Hall: There is no stopping Quaboag's Jake Wisniewski this postseason. One of the hidden gems in Massachusetts. Pick: Quaboag
D1 Girls: Westford vs. Springfield Central, 5:45 p.m.
Hall: An excellent frontcourt battle here, with Westford's Sam Hyslip and Central's Kendra Hicks and Janae Bunn, but the Golden Eagles have the advantage. Pick: Springfield Central
D1 Boys: Putnam vs. St. John’s, 7:30 p.m.
Hall: Last time St. John's played at the MassMutual Center, two years ago, they nearly knocked off eventual state champ Springfield Central. This Putnam squad, holding the No. 1 spot in our statewide poll since the preseason, is more talented than those Golden Eagles. But as long as Bob Foley is on the St. John's sidelines, the Pioneers will make a game of this. Pick: Putnam
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 12
At MassMutual Center, Springfield
D3 Girls: Bellingham vs. Hoosac Valley, 2:15 p.m.
Hall: Another good frontcourt battle here, give me the Blackhawks, who saw the benefits of playing a brutal Tri-Valley League schedule pay off in Central Mass. district play. Pick: Bellingham
D3 Boys: Tyngsborough vs. Sabis, 4 p.m.
Hall: Nelson Zayas has come alive these playoffs, proving doubters wrong. Look for the Bulldogs to continue their good momentum here.
D2 Girls: Nashoba vs. Longmeadow, 5:45 p.m.
Hall: Not that they're a Cinderella by any stretch, but it's hard to pick against the Nashoba Chieftains after scoring one of the weekend's biggest upsets, knocking off proverbial favorite and defending state champ Medfield. Pick: Nashoba
D2 Boys: Concord-Carlisle vs. Longmeadow, 7:30 p.m.
Hall: Longmeadow hasn't lost since Dec. 18, some 18 games ago. They aren't about to lose now. Pick: Longmeadow
Milton's Anthony Smith greets the crowd after winning D2 South title pic.twitter.com/3fGhWTzvw0— Brendan C. Hall (@BHallESPN) March 8, 2014
Red Sea that turned out for the games tonight pic.twitter.com/KEg2lSganC— The Red Sea (@CCHS_RedSea) March 9, 2014
Beach Day here in Wamp Nation pic.twitter.com/18hAzqZxAy— Brendan C. Hall (@BHallESPN) March 8, 2014
Cardinal Crazies brought the energy tonight pic.twitter.com/AjoplpbEIT— Brendan C. Hall (@BHallESPN) March 8, 2014
They asked me to take a picture. I obliged pic.twitter.com/rCpv5UxtnK— Brendan C. Hall (@BHallESPN) March 9, 2014
Archies celebrating its D3 South title win pic.twitter.com/QC9A11b0XI— Brendan C. Hall (@BHallESPN) March 9, 2014
Huge, huge North Quincy contingent tonight pic.twitter.com/WLAxgEdUfn— Brendan C. Hall (@BHallESPN) March 9, 2014
More NQ fans pic.twitter.com/vhuN15vXVR— Brendan C. Hall (@BHallESPN) March 9, 2014
More Knights throwing up whatever those fingers are pic.twitter.com/b4mChrKuHJ— Brendan C. Hall (@BHallESPN) March 9, 2014
"The game will give you peace if you believe" pic.twitter.com/f8wAyfPqZ1— NMHS ATHLETICS (@NMHS_TITANS) March 8, 2014
About to dump a bunch of photos. Bear with me. We'll start with Coyle fans pic.twitter.com/QDGueNghJo— Brendan C. Hall (@BHallESPN) March 9, 2014
As a reminder, readers are encouraged to submit their top performances via email (email@example.com) or tweeting at ESPN Boston High Schools editor Brendan C. Hall (@BHallESPN). Deadline for all submissions each night is midnight.
1. Anthony Green, Sr. C, North Quincy
Nearly came away with a triple-double in the Red Raiders' 65-58 loss to Catholic Memorial in the D1 South Final, registering 15 points, 10 rebounds and nine blocks.
2. Tyler Nelson, Sr. G, Central Catholic
Exploded for five 3-pointers in the second half, part of a 20-point total, and added five rebounds in the Raiders' 59-53 win over Andover for the D1 North title.
3. Taylor Wornum, Jr. F, Archbishop Williams
Owned the post with 18 points and 15 rebounds in the Bishops' D3 South Final victory over Coyle-Cassidy.
4. Jennifer Gale, Sr. G, Hoosac Valley
Scored 28 points in the Hurricanes' D3 West Final victory over Sabis.
5. Bam Rivers, Sr. F, New Mission
Filled up the stat sheet in the Titans' D2 North Final win over Danvers, with seven points, 10 rebounds, five blocks and three steals.
6. Devan Harris, Jr. F, Danvers
The 6-foot-4 post asserted himself in the Falcons' loss to New Mission, going for 27 points and 11 rebounds.
7. Emily Rosse, Jr. F, Hoosac Valley
Recorded a double-double in the win over Sabis, with 17 points and 14 rebounds.
8. Catherine Stinson, Sr. G, Lynn English
Led the Bulldogs with 22 points as they secured the Division 1 North title.
9. Nelson Zayas, Sr. G, Sabis
Scored 24 points as the Bulldogs won the D3 West title, their third sectional title in five seasons.
10. Kristen Swain, Jr. F, Bellingham
Recorded a double-double, with 16 points and 10 rebounds, as the Blackhawks won the D3 Central title.
BUZZARDS BAY, Mass. – It seemed like an add-on to a rout, but Kyle Leslie’s early third-period goal — the Braintree forward’s second of the game — was an important one.
But, at the time, its significance wasn’t lost on Wamps head coach Dave Fasano either.
“Looking back on it, I had said that’s probably the one that’s going to get us over the hump.”
Braintree carried a 4-1 lead into the third period of Sunday’s Division 1 South sectional championship game against Barnstable at Gallo Ice Arena.
That’s when Leslie tipped in his second of the game, collecting a loose puck played from the point by defenseman Kevin Howard. After a furious comeback of three straight goals, including two on the power play, the Red Raiders made for a dramatic finish, but fell short in a 5-4 final.
The Wamps advance to their first state Division 1 final, after having played in three sectional championship games in the last decade. They will face the winner of Monday’s North final between Reading and Wilmington.
Braintree (16-5-3) sought to push the issue, playing an aggressive forecheck throughout. It yielded immediate benefits, as the Wamps ran out to a 2-0 lead by the 7:43 mark of the first on goals by Gino LaRossa and Brian Gallagher. Leslie (2 G, 1 A) potted his first goal of the game before the period was out, with a helper from Gallagher, and Braintree took a 3-0 lead to the room.
The Red Raiders (15-6-3) broke up Nick Anson’s shutout bid at 1:32 of the second on a Cody Pasic (1 G, 1 A) wrist shot. However, the Wamps reestablished their three-goal cushion at 8:11 on a Nick Ward goal, with Gallagher (1G, 2A) on the primary assist.
“The thing we talked about after the third period was that we couldn’t go into a shell,” Fasano said. “Barnstable, all year long and if you saw the last three tournament games they’ve played … they don’t quit. They’re going to come at us, but we can’t go into a shell.
“Even when we were up three, we knew that Barnstable was going to throw everything at us because they’ve never quit all year long.”
Braintree seemed to put the game out of reach 32 seconds into the third. Howard lobbed a wrister over the diving shot-blocking attempt of a Barnstable forward. With the puck in the slot, Leslie adjusted and beat Red Raiders back up goaltender Jake Kaczynski short side.
Then the Red Raiders came alive. Mike McDonough set off a chain reaction of three straight Barnstable goals at 2:48, before scoring back-to-back power-play goals 11:21 and 12:24. Chris Fowler’s slapper got the Red Raiders within two, before setting up Cam Curtin’s tally on the man-advantage with the goaltender pulled.
“I thought we played extremely well for two periods, but our start killed us," Red Raiders head coach Scott Nickerson said. "We just ran out of time. They did a lot of things well against us. It would have been a remarkable comeback had we finished it off.”
Tough call: Nickerson elected to pull senior starting goaltender Kevin Huska to start the second period, after allowing three first-period goals, in favor of Kaczynski, a junior.
“Kevin Huska’s been our backbone for two years,” Nickerson said. “At that point, I felt like after giving up three, it was time to make a change. It’s a tough decision to pull a senior in his last game. But it was something we had to do.”
The move seemed to give Barnstable an immediate boost. After Pasic’s goal, on the other end of the sheet, Kaczynski kicked out a Gallagher shot from point blank range.
The incumbent to take Huska’s spot next season, Kaczynski battled to keep the Red Raiders in the game, which was also a swan song for one of the state’s more talented netminders in the last two years.
“To his credit, I’ve never been around who’s so positive and so uplifting after he comes out,” Nickerson said of Huska. “When Kaczynski made that save, you could hear Kevin pounding on the boards with his hand, trying to keep everybody going.”
Net gain?: Aside from having to refocus after its play-in game loss to Catholic Memorial, Braintree also had to face the South sectional tournament without the services of one of its top defensemen, junior Sean Casey, who was injured in the preliminary round game.
With that, Fasano has shortened his bench to five defenseman.
But even down a man, and an attempted third-period comeback aside, the Wamps defensive corps has been a major driving force behind their Garden push.
“That was a huge loss, he’s so good,” senior captain Joe Harrington said of Casey. “But our defenseman, no discredit to our forwards, we’ve been great defensively all year. John Elworthy’s really stepped in, Erik MacDonald’s given us good minutes, and [James] Flaherty and Howard have been doing it for a few years now. We just know it’s another day at the office for us.”
The goal sends AC back to the Garden to play Duxbury in the girls Division 2 final after a thrilling 2-1 victory in Sunday’s state semifinal.
“Getting to the final game regardless of the year you are going to go through some games that are going to be hard fought wins,” said Arlington Catholic coach Maggie Taverna. “If a kid is going to score a goal to win a game, it is probably going to be Rossini.”
If this sounds familiar, it is, because Rossini did the exact same thing last year against Westford Academy in the semi-final game.
Last year, AC went on to lose the finals to St. Mary’s, but hopes things will be different this year.
“With the experience of being there once it may not be so overwhelming,” Taverna said. “It was a good game back and forth last year but this year hopefully we will be a little more prepared because we have more veterans.”
Rossini’s heroics came when Piracini picked up a puck in the left wing corner and found Rossini heading to the net. She corralled the puck on her forehand and shifted to her backhand before finishing off the play.
“I am just glad it happened. I am so glad we won,” said Rossini. “We knew Caty [Flagg] was an unbelievable goalie, but we knew we had to go at her and there had to be a break sometime.”
AP relied heavily on its sophomore goalie, who almost stole the game, making 37 saves on the night.
“We knew Caty (Flagg) was going to be solid and she put on a great performance tonight,” said Austin Prep coach Stephanie Wood. “I think she really rises to these occasions and has been really solid for us the entire postseason. I think that is a good sign for the future for us.”
Despite being outshout, 12-6, in the opening period, AP thought it had the game’s first goal when Jaimee Cooke’s wrist shot broke off of AC goalie Katherine Crane and in but the net was ruled off the moorings and the game remained scoreless.
After a quiet second period, Austin broke the ice 3:11 into the third period on a power play when junior Maddy Ricci wrapped one in at the left post off of Crane’s blocker. After being shut out in their previous two meetings, it was the first goal AP scored in more than 123 minutes of play against AC.
From there, the ice tilted in Arlington’s favor with Flagg continuing to stand on her head making 18 third-period saves.
“She is unbelievable,” said Taverna of Flagg. “At the beginning of the year we went and watched her but since about February 1 on she has been an unbelievable goaltender. She is going to be great for them in the future.”
At 8:53 of the third period, AC finally broke through on Flagg when senior Duggan Delano stole a puck along the right wing boards, skated through the face-off circle, and wristed one off of Flagg, short side to tie the game 1-1.
The Indians (17-7-0), who to a man have dyed their hair some variety of peroxide blonde, lit up the scoreboard at the Gallo Ice Arena today to reach the Division 3 state semifinals.
Hanover put the game away with three goals in the third period, pulling away from Bishop Stang to earn a 6-2 victory over the Spartans (15-9-1). They will meet Wayland in the EMass final on Wednesday evening back at Gallo.
Hanover took a slim one-goal lead into the third against a team that seemed to be on the comeback trail after a nice second period effort had allowed the Spartans to tighten things up. At crunch time, it was the Indians that responded with an unassisted goal by Pat Nevins, who had a pair of goals and a helper in the game, turning the tide in Hanover’s favor for good. Nevins picked up a loose puck in the offensive zone, near the top of the right circle, and let it rip to the upper far corner. The puck beat the glove of Jesse Pavao (29 saves) to make it a 4-2 game at the 4:35 mark.
Landon Hasenfuss scored on a breakaway up the right wing at 12:09 to ice the victory. He flew up the right wing and picked the far side to make it a three-goal game. Colin Mahoney banked an empty-netter in off the left wing wall from inside the defensive zone with 12 seconds left.
Hanover head coach Jonny Abban said his team finished the game the way it wanted to, and said that his team has plans to complete the season the same way.
“This is something we’ve talked about since the beginning of the year, finishing strong, and they’re not done yet,” Abban said. “They hear some of the older kids talking, they won a state championship in 2007 for Coach [Jim] Sylvia, and it’s been a great effort by the team, backed by community. It’s a great feeling.”
Hanover had some great feelings right from the start. The high-powered Indians offense got on the board first, just 5:04 into the game on a goal by Matt McDougall. One of the Indians’ four captains, McDougall finished off a hard work shift by his club by chipping a loose puck up and over a prone Pavao, who just missed getting a piece of it with a wave of his glove.
Hanover increased their lead to 2-0 about five minutes later on a goal by Mitch Beard at 9:52. The forward with the long flowing bleach blonde locks camped on the far post and tipped in a super cross by Mike Proctor off the right wing wall. McDougall also picked up an assist on the play.
Stang scored at 5:54 of the second period to cut the lead in half, but Hanover wasted no time getting the lead back to two. The Spartans’ Chace Correia tucked one through the five hole on a breakaway, with a nifty move.
However, before the goal was announced over the public address system, Hanover got it back. A slap shot from high in the zone, off a draw, by Matt Beard was deflected by Pavao by Nevins to make it 3-1.
Stang cut it back to a single goal at 8:20 of the second. That came off the stick of Kade Kaminski, who trickled one by Noah Clapp on a shot from the slot.
Down just one, heading to the last period, the Spartans had put themselves in a good position, head coach Ken Gouveia said, but it was Hanover that carried the play in the third.
“The next goal was the big one, and they got it. It was tough. We were down a defenseman tonight, so we only had four D. I thought our defensemen did a great job, being down to four, but it took away from the way that we wanted to play a lot. We couldn’t be as aggressive and pinch, with just four, so we had to be more conservative and that hurt.”
Hanover made the most of its opportunities. Five different players lit the lamp in the game, and nine put their names on the scoresheet.
“We’ve spread it around pretty well this year,” Abban said. “We had four or five guys with 30 points. It’s a great group effort every game that we show up.”