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Wednesday, January 2, 2013
10 hoop games to watch in January

By Brendan Hall

Following a wild week of Holiday tournament finishes, we've got a strong first month of 2013 to look forward to. Here are 10 games to watch for the month of January:

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BOYS

Jan. 8
Mansfield at Taunton, 6:30 p.m.

This will be a battle between the two top teams in the Hockomock League, with winner taking sole possession of first place in the Kelly-Rex Division. Taunton (5-0, 3-0) has been off to a solid start, getting quality production from Fawaz Mass, Corey Green and Shaq Davis. But Mansfield (5-1, 3-0) has endured the tougher schedule, with quality wins over BC High and Amityville (N.Y.) and a tough six-point loss to New Mission, the state’s No. 3 team in the latest ESPNBoston.com poll. Sophomore Brendan Hill has been a jack of all trades thus far for the Hornets, but Taunton had better watch out for Mansfield’s slew of shooters, led by Greg Romanko, Rocky DeAndrade, Ryan Boulter and Michael Boen.

Jan. 18
Lowell at Central Catholic, 7 p.m.

Let the hype begin now. If all goes as planned, we could have our first No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup of the season when the top-ranked Raiders head to Lowell for the first of two meetings between the MVC Large foes. Both teams are riding high momentum, with Central taking St. Anthony (N.J.) to the wire and Lowell pounding New Bedford by 54 two weeks ago. Both are also riding momentum from holiday tournament championships –- Central the Greater Lawrence Christmas Tournament, Lowell the IAABO/Lowell Spinners Tournament. Much will be made of how Lowell’s Drew Healy matches up in the frontcourt with Central big man Doug Gemmell, but the other key matchup will be at point guard, where Central’s Tyler Nelson will square off with Lowell sophomore Kareem Davis.

Jan. 18
Worcester South at Doherty, 7 p.m.

The City of Worcester’s top two teams go at it for a second time this season after a wild finish to the first installment last weekend in the Inter-High tournament, a 58-56 South win sealed in the final seconds by Rod Milton free throws. Doherty is off to a deceiving 1-4 start, with three losses to teams currently ranked in ESPNBoston.com’s statewide poll, and features two talented seniors in guard Jamal Mustapha and wing Antonio Jones. On the other side, South is 5-0 with Milton leading the charge, but keep an eye on two others –- senior sharpshooter Kasheen Cunningham, and sophomore forward Khalil Bryan.

Jan. 20
New Hampton (N.H.) vs. Huntington Prep (W. Va.), 5 p.m.
Hoophall Classic (Springfield, Mass.)

Monday’s slate of the famed tournament on the Springfield College campus is loaded as usual -– the triple-billing of Lone Peak (Utah) vs. Archbishop Mitty (Calif.), Oak Hill (Va.) vs. Simeon (Ill.), and Montverde Academy (Fla.) vs. Findlay Prep (Nev.) should alone be more than worth the price of admission. But Sunday’s lineup of prep school showdowns should be an enticing bill as well, capped by the late-afternoon battle between the Huskies and Huntington. Of particular interest is the matchup between two of the nation’s best forwards: Haverhill native Noah Vonleh of New Hampton, an Indiana signee and the nation’s No. 8 overall senior, versus Huntington’s Andrew Wiggins, the No. 1 player in the Class of 2013. For an idea of just how good Wiggins is, get a load of this highlight clip:

Jan. 26
Dorchester vs. East Side (N.J.), 5 p.m.
at Emmanuel College

Dorchester has been one of the state’s most pleasant surprises, shooting into ESPNBoston.com’s statewide poll following a 20-point beatdown of Madison Park. But they have yet to see a test quite like this Newark, N.J. squad, regarded as one of the top teams in Northern New Jersey. Good news for the Bears is 6-foot-7 junior center D’Bryant Coraprez is expected to return from suspension soon, which should shore up a frontcourt that’s gotten monster nights out of guys like Dakari Hannahwornum. But the Red Raiders are a promising bunch, led by Division 1 prospects William Joyce, Ishmael Sanogo and Abdul Lewis.

Jan. 31
Brighton at New Mission, 6 p.m.

Revenge is a dish best served cold, and you best believe the Titans are out for vengeance when the two teams meet for the second time. Brighton took the first meeting late last month, 67-59, in front of a hostile crowd as tensions flared. This will be the sixth meeting between the fierce Boston City League rivals since December 2010; the Titans last beat Brighton in the Division 2 North Final in 2011. Can Malik James, Nick Simpson, Daivon Edwards and Prince Unaegbu sweep the series for the second straight year? Or does the Titans’ feared lineup of Nate Anderson, Isshiah Coleman, Juwan Gooding and Fred “Bam” Rivers have something in store?

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GIRLS

Jan. 11
Billerica at Central Catholic, 7 p.m.

It’s a month of heavyweight bouts in the MVC Large, and this might be the most physical of them all. Billerica has been playing stifling defense so far, led by UMass-Lowell signee Brittany Lomanno. On the other end, Stonehill signee Casey McLaughlin has owned the post for Central, but the Raiders have a bit of sour taste in their mouths following the last-second upset by North Andover last Sunday. Something’s got to give.

Jan. 12
Archbishop Williams vs. St. Mary’s (Lynn), 6 p.m.
at Emmanuel College

The first of two bouts between the Catholic Central League’s best squads, both teams will likely head into this matchup with Top 5 rankings in ESPNBoston.com’s poll (Archies currently sits at No. 3, St. Mary’s No. 4). St. Mary’s backcourt of juniors Sharell Sanders and Brianna Rudolph have been a galvanizing force so far, but you wonder if it will be enough to overcome the Bishops and Sara Ryan, along with their loaded backcourt of Alana Gilmer, Jaylen Williams and Leah Spencer.

Jan. 17
Sabis vs. St. Mary’s (Lynn), 8:30 p.m.
Hoophall Classic (Springfield, Mass.)

In a potential Division 3 state championship preview, St. Mary’s travels out to Springfield College’s Blake Arena to try and slow down Western Mass.’s most explosive offense, the 2012 D3 runner-up Lady Bulldogs. Sabis is averaging nearly 62 points, 51 boards and 21 steals per game, and is led by senior Jazmine Collins (19.9 points, 8.0 rebounds, 5.9 steals, 3.4 assists).

Jan. 18
Braintree vs. Springfield (Ore.), 6 p.m.
Hoophall Classic (Springfield, Mass.)

The No. 1 Wamps have been off to a dominant run, allowing just over 21 points per game behind the wizardry of super sophomores Molly Reagan, Ashley Russell and Bridget Herlihy. But they’ve never seen a player quite like Springfield (Ore.) senior Mercedes Russell, a Tennessee signee who is ranked by ESPN as the nation’s No. 1 Class of 2013 prospect. Russell has drawn comparisons to Candace Parker, and it’s easy to see why. Check out this highlight reel: