ESPNBoston.com's State Semifinal Hoop Picks

March, 11, 2013
3/11/13
1:58
AM ET
EASTERN MASS. FINALS

Boys

D1: Mansfield (24-2) vs. Central Catholic (21-5)
Brendan Hall: Whatever the fourth-quarter lead is, you might as well double it. Both squads are terrific finishing teams. Still, it’s hard for me to go against The Illuminati. Pick: Mansfield
Chris Bradley: The way Central Catholic is playing defensively, they can’t be beaten by anybody in the state. Tyler Nelson is on another level from pretty much any guard in the state in terms of playmaking, while his backcourt mate Lucas Hammel is great on-ball defender. Pick: Central Catholic

D2: Brighton (19-6) vs. Scituate (21-3)
Hall: Last month I said that whoever came out of the D2 North tournament would be battle-tested enough to run the table. Brighton came back stronger than ever after last season’s disappointment, and they are playing as well as any right now. Malik James has been playing his way into Super Team consideration at this current clip. Pick: Brighton
Bradley: Brighton’s toughest tests of the Division 2 tournament have passed—the Bengals beat Melrose and North Andover, two of the best teams in the state. A great season by Scituate, but I can’t see any of the teams left in the Division 2 field hanging with Brighton. Pick: Brighton

D3: Danvers (22-2) vs. Martha’s Vineyard (18-5)
Hall: Save a bad weekend at the Comcast Tournament, Falcons have survived every test given to them this season. With the Vineyard, there is always the element of the great unknown. We know the Vineyarders can run, but so can the Falcons. Pick: Danvers
Bradley: What a run by the Vineyard, beating Wareham in the D3 South final. That being said, Danvers has proven that they are hands-down the best team in the state. Expect a few treys each from Nick McKenna, Nick Bates, and Vinny Clifford. Pick: Danvers

Lynnfield (16-7) vs. Bishop Connolly (18-6)
Hall: Pulling for Scott Barboza’s alma mater to get some hardware here. Pick: Connolly
Bradley: Connolly has a slew of quick, athletic guards who can score and put a lot of pressure on opposing teams defensively. I foresee Lynnfield struggling with that pressure. Pick: Bishop Connolly

Girls

D1: Braintree (24-2) vs. Central Catholic (20-5)
Hall: Defense wins championships, and the Wamps have one of the best defensive players around in Bay State Conference MVP Bridget Herlihy. Four of the Wamps’ five starters are sophomores or younger, including Herlihy, yet this is one of the tallest lineups in the state. Gonna be fun to watch this crew the next few years. Pick: Braintree.
Bradley: Make it another sweep for Central Catholic boys and girls in the state semifinals. I’m calling upset here, expect a huge game from Casey McLaughlin. Pick: Central Catholic

D2: Reading (23-0) vs. Medfield (24-2)
Hall: Would be cool to see one of the state’s finest athletes Jen Narlee bring home a state title in two sports this calendar year, but you don’t get to 48 straight wins without some role players stepping up. Rockets’ workhorse Olivia Healy will get hers, but the hero will once again be someone else. Pick: Reading
Bradley: Well, I don’t have the guts to pick against an Olivia Healy-led team. Anybody who does--feel free to raise your hand. Pick: Reading

D3: Archbishop Williams (21-5) vs. Pentucket (24-1)
Hall: Does this qualify as an upset if I go with Pentucket? Sachems have been quietly waiting in the grass all season long. Monday night, they will strike with a first-round haymaker. Pick: Pentucket
Bradley: A great run by Archbishop Williams here in the final stretch of the season. I know this has been a highly-anticipated matchup all year, but I’m going to pick what some may call the “upset” and go with Pentucket, but expect an absolute thriller Pick: Pentucket

D4: Fenway (14-7) vs. Greater New Bedford (20-4)
Hall: Tajanay Veiga-Lee was the hero last year against this same GNB squad, but I like the Bears getting their revenge Monday night. Pick: Greater New Bedford
Bradley: Fenway's girls are battle-tested and on quite a roll right now, as they've won seven games in a row. Pick: Fenway

***

CENTRAL/WEST FINALS

Boys

D1: Springfield Putnam (22-1) vs. Milford (20-3)
Hall: I love the way Putnam plays so inspired, and their whipping of Springfield Central in Saturday's D1 West Final might be the Beavers' high water mark of the season. Look for big games out of KayJuan Bynum and David Murrell. Pick: Putnam
Bradley: Putnam has more talent and more speed than Milford, but during their tournament run the Hawks have displayed the type of toughness and poise that it takes to go to the state finals. Milford doesn’t have a go-to guy, but they have a team full of kids who aren’t afraid to take the big shot-which is why they’ll beat Putnam and give Central a run for their money in the state finals. Pick: Milford

D2: St. Bernard's (19-4) vs. South Hadley (16-7)
Hall: Bernardians made it this far last year, only to meet a disappointing end. They're back again, and more determined. Pick: St. Bernard's
Bradley: The Bernardians will have a significant size advantage, as well as one of the better scorers in Division 2 in John Crawley. Count on St. Bernard’s to punch their ticket into the D2 state finals. Pick: St. Bernard's

D3: Smith Academy (21-3) vs. Littleton (24-1)
Hall:
Here's a team we missed the boat on. Smith took the D3 field by storm, and from what I understand they're a loaded bunch. I like their chances in this one. Pick: Smith Academy
Bradley: Littleton hasn't lost a game since December, thanks mainly to a high-scoring attack and exceptional play from senior guard Chris Murray. They certainly weren't the favorite in a tough D3 Central field, but they made it out alive. Pick: Littleton

Girls

D1: Holy Name (22-2) vs. Chicopee (16-7)
Hall: Junior center and Providence commit Brianna Frias is a monster on the boards, and my pick for Defensive Player of the Year. Long-time Naps coach Barry Finneron has his best shot at a state title in a while. Pick: Holy Name
Bradley: Holy Name is on quite the run and couldn’t be any higher emotionally after absolutely blowing out Wachusett in the D1 Central final. Sophomore Gigi Gunther is a future star. Pick: Holy Name

D2: Nashoba (21-2) vs. Hoosac Valley (19-5)
Hall: Going with strength of schedule in this one, and the Chieftains delivered powerhouse Tyngsborough its first-ever loss within Central Mass. to get to this stage. Pick: Nashoba
Bradley: All five of Nashoba’s starters could be considered go-to scorers, they’ve had such an even scoring attack all year. Their balance offensively is going to give Hoosac plenty of problems. Pick: Nashoba

D3: Lee (18-5) vs. University Park (23-1)
Hall: Death, taxes, and the Lee Wildcats on the DCU Center floor competing for a state title. Pick: Lee
Bradley: Lee is clicking at the right time, beating favored power Sabis in the Western Mass. Division 3 finals. Not only that, Stephanie Young has shown several times this year that she can break 20 or 25 on any given night. Pick: Lee

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