Boston High School: Andover

ESPNBoston Boys Basketball All-State Team

March, 30, 2015
Mar 30
10:16
AM ET

FIRST TEAM

Guilien SmithMike Kearney for ESPNBoston.com

Guard – Guilien Smith, Sr., Catholic Memorial
The 6-foot-1 Smith was named ESPNBoston’s fifth “Mr. Basketball” earlier this week as the top player in Massachusetts, after leading the Knights to the Division 1 State Championship. He led the run-and-gun Knights in scoring (19.1 ppg) and rebounding (8.6), but elevated his game in the playoffs, averaging 23.1 per game on their run. He will continue his career next year at Dartmouth.

D1 SouthBrendan Hall for ESPN

Guard – Kellan Grady, Jr., Catholic Memorial
After a meteoric postseason for the state champion Knights, Grady is the talk of the Bay State as one of New England’s more promising juniors. He averaged 17.8 points, 5.1 assists and 4.8 rebounds, including 21.5 points for the playoffs. Grady currently holds offers from Rhode Island, Boston University, Brown and Dartmouth.

Isaiah McLeodMike Kearney for ESPN

Guard – Isaiah McLeod, Sr., Cambridge
The 6-foot-1 McLeod was one of the state’s leaders in scoring average (26.0) this season, including eight games over 30 points, to go along with 8.2 rebounds per game, as the Falcons captured their first MIAA Division 1 North title since 2007. He is one of a rare class of Bay State players to be named MVP in two different leagues over his high school career (Greater Boston League, 2013-14; Dual County League, 2014-15), and finished his career with 1,170 points. He will continue his career next year at Southern Connecticut State.

Tyree RobinsonBrendan Hall/ESPNBoston.com

Forward – Tyree Robinson, Sr., Durfee
One of the most explosive athletes to come through the MIAA landscape in years, the 6-foot-3 slasher has made his presence felt at both ends of the floor over the last two years with his seemingly endless vertical leap. This season he averaged 25.7 points, 13 rebounds, 5.5 blocks and 2.5 steals as the Hilltoppers made the second round of the Division 1 South tournament. In 40 career games with Durfee he scored 952 points, and in 2013-14 brought the Hilltoppers their first Big 3 Conference title in over two decades.

Tyonne MaloneMike Kearney/ESPNBoston.com

Forward – Tyonne Malone, Jr., Putnam
Once again, the 6-foot-3 Malone was a volcanic presence at both ends for the Beavers, who made their third straight MIAA Division 1 State Championship appearance but fell short in their quest to three-peat as state champs. Malone averaged 16.7 points per game during the regular season but was one of the most explosive players of the postseason, averaging 22.2 per game – including 29 in the state final.

***

SECOND TEAM

G – Tommy Mobley, Sr., Newton North
One of the deadliest long-range shooters in Massachusetts, the 6-foot-3 Mobley leaves North as one of its most decorated scorers in program history, winning MVP of the Bay State Conference three consecutive years and finishing with 1,607 career points -- better than his brother, Yale forward Greg Kelley, and second only to schoolboy legend Anthony Gurley, among North’s rich history of scorers. For this season he averaged 23 points per game as well as six rebounds and three assists, as the Tigers reached the Division 1 South semifinals for the third consecutive season.

G – Wabissa Bede, Jr., North Andover
The 6-foot-1 Bede who earned MVP of the Merrimack Valley Conference after finishing the season with the state’s second-best scoring average (26.8 ppg) to go along with 11.5 rebounds, 6.3 assists, 3.4 steals and 1.2 blocks. Earlier this winter he received his first Division 1 offer, from New Hampshire; to date he has also heard from VCU, Creighton, St. Bonaventure, Maine, Northeastern and Fairfield.

G – Brandon Twitty, Jr., Catholic Memorial
Another of the state’s premier marksmen, the 6-foot-2 Twitty made plenty of big shots in the Knights’ run to their first state title since 2008. On the season, he averaged 15.4 points, 4.2 rebounds and 3.2 steals per game for the state’s leader in team scoring average (86.1).

F – Devan Harris, Sr. F, Danvers
The 6-foot-5 Harris was one of the state’s most bullish on the blocks, as the Falcons went 27-0 in capturing the Division 2 State Championship, the program’s third state title in four years. On the season, Harris averaged 19.9 points and 10.3 rebounds per game.

F – Ryan Boulter, Sr. F, Mansfield
Boulter was named MVP of the Hockomock League after a dynamic senior season in which the 6-foot-6 stretch forward shot 44 percent from three-point range. He led the league in scoring average (22.6) as the Hornets reached their second Division 1 South final in three seasons.

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THIRD TEAM

G – Marcus Zegarowski, Soph., Hamilton-Wenham
The younger half-brother of reigning NBA Rookie of the Year Michael Carter-Williams, Zegarowski earned Cape Ann League MVP honors in leading the Generals to the Division 4 State Championship, their first title in school history. On the season he averaged 20.6 points and also led the team in assists and steals.

G – Ty Nichols, Sr., Putnam
Earlier this month, Nichols was named Western Mass Player of the Year by the Basketball Hall of Fame, as the Beavers reached their third straight state final but fell short of a three-peat. On the season, the 6-foot Nichols averaged 16.5 points per game.

G – Jonathan Garcia, Sr., Putnam
Long considered one of the premier on-ball defenders Massachusetts has to offer, the 6-foot-3 Garcia lived up to the billing again this winter, as the Beavers reached their third consecutive Division 1 State Final. On the season, the returning All-State selection averaged 9.5 points per game.

F – Connor Merinder, Sr., Andover
A four-year starter for legendary coach Dave Fazio, the 6-foot-5 Merinder will go down as one of the Golden Warriors’ all-time greats, averaging 15 points, 12 rebounds, three assists and three blocks per game as they won the Merrimack Valley Conference’s Large division outright. He will continue his career next season at Trinity.

F – Chris Doherty, Fr., Marlborough
One of New England’s most promising freshmen took Central Mass by storm this winter, experiencing runaway success as the Panthers reached the Division 2 State Championship, their first state final appearance in school history. The 6-foot-6 Doherty averaged a double-double (16.3 points, 13.2 rebounds) for the regular season, but turned it up in the playoffs, averaging 22.8 and 14.3.

***

BEST OF THE REST

Michael Boen, Sr. F, Mansfield
The 6-foot-4 Boen was named a Hockomock League All-Star as the Hornets reached their second Division 1 South final in three seasons. For the season he averaged 15 points, 8.5 rebounds and 6.4 assists. He will continue his career next season at Stonehill College.

Darrick Boyd, Sr. G, Chicopee
The 6-foot Boyd is the first player in our site’s history to make an All-State Team from two different schools, as he earned All-State honors last season with Springfield Cathedral. He averaged 19.6 points per game as the Pacers reached the Division 1 West semifinals.

Fru Che, Jr. F, Somerville
After a brutal start to the season, the Highlanders got hot in the second half, winning eight of their last nine games of the regular season to sneak into the Division 1 North tournament. At the forefront was the 6-foot-4 Che, who picked up a second straight Greater Boston League All-Star nod along the way.

Kareem Davis, Sr. G, St. John's Prep
This winter, the 5-foot-7 point guard led the Eagles to their first Division 1 North Final appearance since their last state championship season of 2010-11. Along the way, Davis was named a Catholic Conference All-Star for the second straight season, averaging 17 points per game.

Jakigh Dottin, Soph. G, Cambridge
One of Massachusetts’ brightest young sophomores, Dottin formed one of the region’s most feared backcourts as the Falcons captured their first Division 1 North title since 2007. A dogged on-ball defender, he averaged 13 points, five rebounds and two steals this winter.

Joey Downes, Sr. G, Sandwich
Downes was named MVP of the Atlantic Coast League as the Blue Knights posted their best record in school history, going 21-2 and reaching the semifinals of Division 2 South. He averaged 22 points per game, with 85 three-pointers made, and finished his career with 1,535 points.

Marcus Giese, Sr. C, Franklin
The 6-foot-6 Giese was a tough matchup underneath for nearly every opponent this winter, as the Panthers reached the Division 1 Central semifinals. He shot 51 percent from the field, and posted averages of 13.1 points, 8.2 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game.

David Giribaldi, Sr. G, Andover
One of the more creative scorers north of Boston, the 5-foot-10 Giribaldi was electric at times this winter for the Golden Warriors, who won the MVC outright and reached the D1 North semifinals. He finished his career averaging 15 points per game this season.

Karlens Joas, Sr. F, Malden Catholic
The Lancers have slowly risen to power the last half-decade, and Joas was at the forefront as they reached the Division 2 North quarterfinals this season. A two-time Catholic Conference All-Star selection, the 6-foot-5 Joas plans to do a post-graduate season next year at Taft (Conn.).

Jason Jones, Sr. F, Brighton
The 6-foot-6 Jones was the city of Boston’s premier rebounder this winter, averaging 15 rebounds per game to go along with 10.2 points and three blocks. The Bengals reached the Division 2 North semifinals for the fourth straight season.

Jack Loughnane, Jr. G, BC High
Loughnane was named a Catholic Conference All-Star for the second straight season for the Eagles, who just missed out on a playoff berth. For the season he averaged 18.2 points, eight assists, seven rebounds and 2.5 steals per game.

Devonte McCall, Jr. F, Amherst
The son of one of Massachusetts’ all-time schoolboy greats Zach McCall, the 6-foot-4 junior led the Hurricanes to the Division 1 West final with some explosive play above the rim. On the season, he averaged 15.2 points per game.

Peter Merry, Sr. C, Danvers
The 6-foot-10 Merry was named MVP of the Northeastern Conference as the Falcons won their third state title in four seasons. One of the stop shot swatters in the Bay State, he averaged six blocks per game – including 20 in his final four playoff games – to go with 10.1 points and 6.4 rebounds.

Frank Oftring, Jr. F, Bishop Feehan
Oftring was instrumental in the Shamrocks’ run to the Division 2 Eastern Mass Final, where they fell to state champion Danvers. The 6-foot-5 Oftring averaged 19.7 points and 10 rebounds per game as the Shamrocks won D2 South.

Miles Robinson, Sr. G, Arlington
The Spy Ponders endured their most successful season in school history, going 22-2 and reaching the Division 2 North Final, and Robinson, the Middlesex Liberty MVP, was at the forefront. He averaged 20.2 points, 12.1 rebounds, 5.7 assists and 2.9 steals, finishing his career with 1,148 points and 812 rebounds. One of the nation’s top under-18 soccer prospects, he’ll continue his career on the pitch next year at Syracuse University.

Erick Rosario, Sr. G, Lynn English
The Bulldogs were one of the fastest teams this winter, and at the forefront was the 6-foot-1 Rosario, who averaged 19.4 points, 9.8 assists and 8.2 rebounds as the Dawgs reached the Division 1 North quarterfinals. He finishes his career at English with 1,223 points, 693 assists, 609 steals and 483 rebounds.

Nate Tenaglia, Jr. G, Tewksbury
The 5-foot-7 Tenaglia was named Co-MVP of the Merrimack Valley Conference’s second division, along with teammate Alex DiRocco, as the Redmen experienced their most successful season in school history. On the season he averaged 17 points, four rebounds and six assists as they reached the Division 2 North semifinals.

***

DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Tyree Robinson, Sr. F, Durfee

With a seemingly endless vertical leap, there were few shots that the 6-foot-3 Robinson didn’t alter – and he has the averages (13 rebounds, 5.5 blocks, 2.5 steals) reflect that tenacity. When he wasn’t throwing down highlight-reel dunks to the delight of the crowds, he was wowing them with the way he deposited shots into the stands, sometimes charging in from behind the play. Even in his short tenure with Durfee (40 career games), the electricity he brought to historic Luke Urban Field House won’t soon be forgotten.

COACH OF THE YEAR
John Walsh, Danvers

What Walsh has done in just five years at the helm of the Danvers program is truly remarkable. Before his arrival, the Falcons traditionally lacked consistent success. But in his half-decade in charge, they’ve gone 104-19 with three state titles –including their first Division 2 title this season, which completed a 27-0 campaign. Walsh now has five state titles to his name (he won two as an assistant at Watertown under his cousin Steve Harrington), and has a program that is built for the long haul. Expect Danvers to remain state title contenders for years to come.

All-Defensive Team
G – Jonathan Garcia, Sr., Putnam
G – Guilien Smith, Sr., Catholic Memorial
F – Tyree Robinson, Sr., Durfee
F – Tyonne Malone, Jr., Putnam
C – Peter Merry, Sr., Danvers

All-Shooters Team
Tommy Mobley, Sr., Newton North
Kellan Grady, Jr., Catholic Memorial
Josh Lee, Sr., Arlington
Vinny Clifford, Sr., Danvers
Joey Downes, Sr., Sandwich

ESPN Boston Mr. Basketball Finalists

March, 13, 2015
Mar 13
1:22
PM ET
Today, ESPNBoston.com and its high school staff are pleased to announce the 10 finalists for its fifth annual "Mr. Basketball" award, honoring the top overall player in Massachusetts.

Who will join Pat Connaughton, Jake Layman, Malik James and Tyler Nelson among the past recipients of the prestigious Mr. Basketball award? Find out on Monday, March 23, when we name the winning recipient.

Here are the 10 finalists:

Wabissa Bede, Jr. G, North Andover
It’s been a whirlwind of a breakout junior season for the 6-foot-1 Bede, who earned MVP of the Merrimack Valley Conference over a number of heavy hitters. He finished the season with the state’s second-best scoring average (26.8 ppg) to go along with 11.5 rebounds, 6.3 assists, 3.4 steals and 1.2 blocks. Earlier this winter he received his first Division 1 offer, from New Hampshire; to date he has also heard from VCU, Creighton, St. Bonaventure, Maine, Northeastern and Fairfield.

Ryan Boulter, Sr. F, Mansfield
The 6-foot-6 Boulter leaves the Hornets program as one of its most decorated players in history, capturing Hockomock League MVP honors as he led the league in scoring (22.6 ppg). The Hornets were snakebitten by injury once again, but Boulter, one of the state’s most accurate shooters, helped guide them all the way to the Division 1 South Final for the second time in three years.

Kellan Grady, Jr. G, Catholic Memorial
Few players have had as meteoric a postseason as the 6-foot-3 Grady, who has the Knights in their first state final appearance since 2008 and their first at the Division 1 level since 1972. He's averaging 21.5 points for the playoffs, which includes an unfathomable 30-point second half against Mansfield in the D1 South Final. Grady currently holds offers from Rhode Island, Boston University, Brown and Dartmouth.

Devan Harris, Sr. F, Danvers
Last season, the 6-foot-5 power forward joined the Falcons and made an explosive contribution immediately, earning MVP honors in the Northeastern Conference. This season, the burly big man has made his presence felt once again underneath the glass at both ends, averaging 19.9 points per game this season as the Falcons are about to make their third state final appearance in four seasons.

Tyonne Malone, Jr. F, Putnam
Since arriving at Putnam a year ago, the 6-foot-3 Malone has been a volcanic presence at both ends for the Beavers, who are about to make their third straight appearance at the DCU Center where they look to become the first team to three-peat as Division 1 state champions in over three decades. On the season, Malone is averaging 16.5 points per game.

Isaiah McLeod, Sr. G, Cambridge
The 6-foot-1 McLeod came into the season regarded as one of the state’s most prolific scorers, and lived up to the billing as he led the MIAA in scoring average (27.5 ppg). Leading one of the state’s most revered backcourts, McLeod is the only finalist to have been named MVP of two different leagues over his high school career (Greater Boston League, 2013-14; Dual County League, 2014-15). Earlier this month, the Southern Connecticut State University signee led the Falcons to their first Division 1 North title since 2007.

Connor Merinder, Sr. F, Andover
A four-year starter, the 6-foot-5 Merinder was one of the most prolific big men this season in Eastern Mass., leading the Golden Warriors to the Division 1 North semifinals for the second straight year. On the season he averaged a double-double (15 points, 12 rebounds) to go along with three assists and three blocks. Next season, Merinder will continue his career at Trinity College.

Tommy Mobley, Sr. G, Newton North
One of the deadliest long-range shooters in Massachusetts, the 6-foot-3 Mobley leaves North as one of its most decorated scorers in program history, winning MVP of the Bay State Conference three consecutive years and finishing with 1,607 career points -- better than his brother, Yale forward Greg Kelley, and second only to schoolboy legend Anthony Gurley, among North’s rich history of scorers. For this season he averaged 23 points per game as well as six rebounds and three assists, as the Tigers reached the Division 1 South semifinals for the third consecutive season.

Tyree Robinson, Sr. F, Durfee
One of the most explosive athletes to come through the MIAA landscape in years, the 6-foot-3 slasher has made his presence felt at both ends of the floor over the last two years with his seemingly endless vertical leap. This season he averaged 25.7 points, 13 rebounds, 5.5 blocks and 2.5 steals as the Hilltoppers made the second round of the Division 1 South tournament. In 40 career games with Durfee he scored 952 points and brought the Hilltoppers their first Big 3 Conference title in over two decades.

Guilien Smith, Sr. G, Catholic Memorial
The Knights had a number of games in which Smith sat in the second half, but he still managed an impressive stat line -- 19.1 points, 8.6 rebounds and 3.4 assists, earning MVP of the Catholic Conference along the way. Thanks to a number of big postseason performances, including a 32-point effort in the Knights’ South semifinal win over Newton North, the Knights are making their first state championship appearance since 2008 this weekend. Smith will continue his career next year at Dartmouth.

D1 North: Arlington Catholic 3, Andover 0

March, 6, 2015
Mar 6
1:48
AM ET
NORTH BILLERICA, Mass. – It was complete a victory as possible.

Arlington Catholic ran up a 31-11 shots advantage and did not surrender an odd-man rush all game, as the Cougars rolled past Andover 3-0 in the second Division 1 North semifinal at Chelmsford Forum.

“When speed is working to your advantage you're tough to stop,” Arlington Catholic coach Dan Shine said. “We're tough to stop when everyone's playing on all four cylinders. I think we're as fast as anybody. I don't care what division you're in. We're playing our best hockey right now.”

The Cougars set the tone from the opening faceoff by consistently pushing forward. The breakthrough finally came when Ryan Smith scooped the puck off a faceoff and fired it home just under 10 minutes into the game.

Arlington Catholic dropped the dagger in the second period when, on the club's first rush of the period, Ryan Spagnoli put a shot home to double the lead. Smith added a second goal a minute into the third period to put a stamp on the win for the Cougars.

“We came together after the season and realized we weren't going to be in the Super 8,” Smith said. “We just said this is our next goal and winning the D1 is as important. Coach Shine talked about it, and we knew it would be a great accomplishment if we could keep on winning.”

MR. CENTURY: Not only were Smith's two goals keys to getting Arlington Catholic to it's first North final since 2010, but they also pushed him to 100 points for his career.

“That's pretty darn good these days,” Shine said. “He's our go-to guy on that line. The other two guys support him and get him the puck. That' our most productive line at the moment. All three lines are contributing, I think, terrifically for us over the last couple of weeks.”

Smith said he knew that the milestone was in reach going into last night's game, but he wanted to advance to Tsongas Center more than anything.

“I tried not letting it get to my head, because the win was more important,” Smith said. “But deep down it meant a lot. I was so excited.”

BATTLE FOR BURNS: Arlington and Arlington Catholic are separated by six-tenths of a mile on Massachusetts Avenue. Both schools play their hockey at Ed Burns Arena. On Monday night in Lowell they'll battle for a North title and the right to play at TD Garden for a shot at the state championship.

“It should be a lot of fun,” Shine said. “They're a good team, well-coached. We got a lot of relationships back and forth. I think everybody's looking forward to it.”

Smith has been around the rivalry a long time and is excited to play in a game with such high stakes.

“I'm from Arlington so it's a big thing,” Smith said. “I've got a lot of friends on that team so it'd be the best to beat them and get to the Garden.”

The game will be the first time the two schools have played on the ice since Arlington beat Arlington Catholic 4-3 in the 1998 Super 8 tournament.

D1 North: Andover 4, Medford 0

March, 1, 2015
Mar 1
7:28
AM ET
WOBURN, Mass. – Two weeks ago Andover sophomore Jeff Hunt was playing junior varsity hockey.

On Saturday night, in relief of the injured Brian Sargent, Hunt looked like a seasoned veteran, notching two goals and dishing an assist to lead Andover to a 4-0 win over Medford in a Division 1 North quarterfinal.

The win was Andover's first tournament win since a first-round win over Lexington in 2009.

Hunt's goals came two minutes apart late in the third period to ice the game.

“It's just a lot of preparation,” Hunt said. “You always prepare that you're moment's going to come on varsity. The opportunity came; I'm just ready to take it.”

The Warriors broke through early when Conor Silk took a perfect feed from Zach Walker and tapped in a goal from the top of the crease 5:34 into the game. The teams traded big hit after bit hit from the rest of the period, and much of the second, before Andover's depth took over.

The Warriors were able to set up shop offensively late in the second and get the Medford defense scrambling all around. Michael Biddle capped the frenetic sequence late in the period to put Andover up 2-0. It was all Andover from there as the Warriors held Medford to only one scoring chance the rest of the game.

“I thought tonight that all our lines wore Medford down,” Andover coach Chris Kuchar said. “We knew obviously they're here for a reason, but we rolled four lines tonight. Our goal was to get the puck as deep as we could, work behind the goal line, and let our depth sort of take over. Every line worked hard. They played outstanding hockey.”

Despite seeing his team worn down, Medford coach Shawn Bates said he was proud of the club's success this season.

“To me it looked like we didn't have our legs,” he said. “Against Matignon we came out guns blazing. It seemed like we were a little bit flat out there, and as the game progressed it looked like we got more tired out there. It just wasn't our night.

“If you get better from day one to the last day then I feel like I accomplished something, and I feel that's happened.”

TURNING THE CORNER: Andover's most recent hockey history has not been a picture of success. This year's senior class has been to the state tournament twice during their time in blue and gold, and both times they were sent packing due to shutouts by Wakefield in their first game.

Kuchar, in his first year at the helm, has turned the program around and has it in its first Division 1 North semifinal in decades.

“From day one this group has really worked hard for me,” Kuchar said. “They've bought into the systems. We don't have many superstars. We just have a lot of kids that work hard, and I'm proud to be a coach of kids that work hard.”

Much of the success can be attributed to a refreshed change in attitude. Silk and Hunt said that morale among the team was in the pits last year but it's been different this year.

“We just want it more,” Silk said. “We've come together as a team. Last year we kind of hit rock bottom, and that wasn't really that fun. As a team we decided it'd be more fun if we worked harder and started winning games.”

“It's feeling pretty great,” Hunt said. “Last year there was a lot of animosity on the team. No one really got along, but everything's jelling now and it's going great.”

Comcast: No. 13 Franklin 66, No. 17 Andover 60

February, 17, 2015
Feb 17
12:23
AM ET
WOBURN, Mass. -- The saying “When it rains it pours,” may be cliche. But in Monday’s Comcast/Arbella Classic, that was exactly the case for Franklin’s Markus Bohmiller, who knocked down seven 3-pointers to help lift the Panthers over No. 17 Andover 66-60.

“I was feeling good today,” said Bohmiller. “But all the credit goes to my teammates. The screens and all the motion offenses is what gets me open and I was just knocking down the shots.”

It didn’t take Bohmiller long to get comfortable as he buried six of his seven treys in the first half. The senior guard went 7 of 10 from behind the arc and finished with a game-high 28 points.

“Bohmiller has really been lighting it up lately,” said Franklin coach C.J. Neely. “The last three weeks he’s had multiple twenty-point games and he’s kind of been feeling it. Anytime we see him there [open] he’s got the green light.”

The Panthers jumped out to a 35-23 lead in the first half, but slowly began to see their lead whittle away. Andover’s Connor Merinder scored 16 of a team high 22 points in the second half and knocked down two critical free throws to cut the lead down to two with 29.2 seconds remaining. But time wasn’t on their side, as Franklin converted four free throws on their last two possessions to close things out.

While Bohmiller opened eyes on the perimeter, the Panther’s Marcus Giese was causing havoc down low on both ends of the court. The senior dropped 15 points and grabbed nine rebounds while also being asked to guard Merinder.

“He’s got good size and you utilize him in that way and not many teams get to do that going up against Merinder who’s one of the better big men in the state,” explained Neely. “He struggled a bit in the first half with those soft touch ones inside and he was getting frustrated with himself and I’m like, you’re remembering all the bad stuff. You have to remember the and ones, remember the big moves you’ve made.”

Franklin will be back in action tomorrow night to take on Newton North in the Boys D1 Championship. The action will tip-off starting at 6 p.m. at Newton North.

Defensive mindset: Heading into the fourth quarter, Andover was held to just 38 points. With great effort and execution, the secret to the defensive success for the Panthers had a direct correlation to the mentality in which coach Neely has instilled upon his players.

“[Coach] was just telling us to play our game,” explained Bohmiller. “We’re a defense-focused team and we were playing lockdown defense in the first and [Andover] wasn’t getting any easy looks and we went back to it and it showed at the end.”

“It’s the mental focus stuff. We came into the game saying if we do what we do on defense we can stop them and I thought through three quarters to give up 38 points to a team like that we were really excited about. The 22 points on us in the fourth is a bit embarrassing but towards the end it was about mentality checking into the small details on the defensive end and we’ll be fine by challenge them to take shots that are difficult.

1,000 point club: With just under seven minutes to go in the second quarter, Andover’s David Giribaldi pulled up from behind the arc and drilled a three to add his name to the school’s 1000 point club. Giribaldi has been a four-year member of the varsity team and was named the Most Valuable Player in the Merrimack Valley Conference a season ago.

After Friday night’s senior night win against Central Catholic, Andover coach Dave Fazio made it clear how competitive Giribaldi has been for his team: “[Giribaldi has] been playing injured but he’s been playing with just heart and guts. I don’t think people understand how hurt he is and for him to keep grinding every single night trying to give [his team] a lift. He doesn’t say a word and comes to work each day.”

Recap: No. 17 Andover 62, Central Catholic 55

February, 14, 2015
Feb 14
12:18
AM ET
ANDOVER, Mass. -- After his team’s victory over North Andover last Friday night clinched the Merrimack Valley Conference Large title, Andover coach Dave Fazio said his players had the last few games of the season to determine if they were going to share it with anybody else.

With Friday’s 62-55 victory over Central Catholic, the No. 17 Golden Warriors decided the title was all theirs. As the game clock struck zero, students rushed the court to celebrate the school’s first outright league title since 2006.

“The programs have just battled,” said Fazio. “We’ve battled night in and night out for the 26 years that I’ve been at Andover. There’s a lot of lows when you play them. They’re responsible for a lot of season-ending games. When you beat a team like that, with a coach like they have, and the tenacity that they play with, anytime you beat them it’s a great feeling.”

It played out the way most Andover-Central Catholic games play out: tightly contested until one sudden momentum swing allows one team to pull head. The two teams were neck-and-neck until midway through the second quarter. Central went on an 11-3 run to go into the half ahead by 7.

Central did a commendable job on Andover’s Connor Merinder in the first half, holding the senior to 7 points. Coming out of the break, he asserted himself in the post almost immediately. The guards fed him the ball and he was able to combine his physicality with a series of moves to get close looks at the basket or open baseline jumpers for points. He was a big catalyst in his team’s 12-4 run in the first four minutes of the third that gave the team the lead back. He ended the game with 16 points, 4 rebound, and 4 blocks.

“The biggest thing we had to work on this game was to share the ball more,” said Merinder. “It’s almost like we came out and shared the ball a little too much. So at halftime we said you know, it’s okay to be selfish and take those shots, so we had to have somebody step up. I wanted to fill that roll and I tried to step up.”

Perhaps the quietest performance of the game belonged to Andover sophomore EJ Perry. He had 18 points and 7 rebounds, including a perfect 10-of-10 from the free throw line, but he continually drew the scorn of Fazio for his 5 turnovers and 3 fouls. On a night where the game was never out of reach and each point mattered immensely, it says a lot about the player and the team that they were able to battle through rough patches to still walk out of the gymnasium victorious, especially with the state tournament approaching.

J-Rod making his mark: In the last two games, Andover’s Jonathan Rodriguez has emerged as a strong shooting threat for the team’s offense. He scored 19 points Friday night, with 15 of those coming from beyond three-point line. At 6-foot-3, the junior represents an intriguing mismatch for opposing defenses. His height is that of a post player, especially at the high school level, but he is willing and able to knock down jump shots when he has to.

When he is on the floor with Connor Merinder, they present a tough outside-in option. If the defense chooses to step out and challenge Rodriguez’s shot, that leaves Merinder one-on-one in the post. Conversely, if the ball is dumped into the post, the defense can collapse on Merinder, but that leaves Rodriguez open in the corner for three.

“At halftime Faze took him aside and said ‘Man, just be confident and take your shot. No matter what you’re going to make it,’ and that’s what he did," said Merinder.

After going through rough patches on and off the court earlier in the season, Rodriguez is hitting a stride just at the right time. He be an intriguing third or fourth option for Andover as it looks to make a deep run in the upcoming state tournament.

“He had a death in the family midway through and had to leave and go back to the Dominican Republic, then he was sick and missed two games, so we have not had the flow that we want to have,” said Fazio. “Obviously family is the most important thing, but it’s hard to get that flow and hard to get that rotation. He’s another kid you talk about in terms of growth and development.”

Rodriguez made his biggest impact in the fourth quarter. Midway through the frame, he beat his man off the dribble for an easy two, then drained a corner three on the next Andover possession to bring the lead up to 7 points. Two minutes later, Central had cut the lead back down to four. It put on a full-court press to try and pressure Andover’s guards into turnovers. The Golden Warriors broke the press and pushed the ball up the floor quickly. Rodriguez again drained a three from the right corner off a successful drive-and-dish. The lead was back to 7 points and his team went on to victory.

Take it from Tanahj: During a timeout with three minutes to go in the game and his team up by four, Fazio made the decision that win or lose, Tanahj Pettway was not going to beat them. The freshman guard had 24 points in the game. His production came from multiple spots on the floor, including behind the three-point line, on drives to the hoop, and at the free throw line.

To keep the ball out of his hands, Fazio instructed his players to faceguard Pettway and deny the ball entirely. Defenders played with their back to the play and focused entirely on Pettway’s movements. The last three minutes turned into a four-on-four game.

“He’s just fearless. He reminds me of (David) Giribaldi in a lot of ways,” said Fazio. “He’s a volume scorer. He shoots with so much confidence. It’s like anything else, those are the guys you don’t want to beat you. Tyler Nelson beat us last year, I still can’t get over it, how we could let him beat us. I don’t care if he’s 75 feet away from the basket, that kid can’t beat you. The best players on the other team, you can’t let those guys get you. So games like tonight, when he’s got it going, I just don’t want him to touch the ball. So the last three minutes we just faced him with no help.”

The strategy worked. Aside from a tip-in before the buzzer, Andover held Central to two points in the final three minutes of the game. With the playoffs mere games away, this will not be the final time opponents try to eliminate Central’s young but prolific guard. In order for the Raiders to make noise in the postseason, it will need its other guards to step up and produce in crucial moments.

“I think we have a lot of guys, especially at the guard position, that can score,” said Central Catholic coach Rick Nault. “We didn’t do it tonight, but if you looked at our scoring this year, one night AJ Pettway (4 points) will get 20, the next night Alex Santos (5 points) will get 15, George Grillakis (6 points, 5 rebounds) will get 16. So we have a lot of guys that can score. I think we’re a very, very balanced team. We just didn’t have another guy step up tonight.”

Recap: No. 17 Andover 49, North Andover 46

February, 7, 2015
Feb 7
12:07
AM ET
NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. -- It wasn't the prettiest basketball, nor were there a lot of points scored. It was the kind of knock-down, drag-out duel you would expect from an Andover vs. North Andover game. So it was only fitting it was a one-point game with just over one minute remaining in Friday’s game.

No. 17 Andover hadn't trailed at all in the game until North Andover’s Wabissa Bede was fouled driving to the basket. His layup rolled into the hoop, giving his team the one-point lead.

Andover’s EJ Perry (8 points, 5 rebounds) was fouled and went to the free throw line. The three-sport varsity athlete is only a sophomore but he has shown an ability to make important baskets in pressure situations. This time was no different, as both free throws dropped in the net to give the Golden Warriors the lead back.

North’s next shot missed and an Andover player came down with the rebound. Again, Perry found himself with the basketball in his hands in a big moment. After working the ball around the floor, Perry decided he was going to take it himself. He drove down the right side of the paint and let go an off-balance finger roll. The ball rolled around the right edge of the rim and into the hoop. Three-point lead.

“Big players make big plays at the end of big games,” said Andover coach Dave Fazio, referencing Perry’s play. “We ran a nice little play for (David) Giribaldi (7 points) on the baseline and Bede blocked the shot. I was like, ‘Are you kidding me?’ E.J. is just tough. He’s a warrior. We’ve got a lot of warriors.”

Coming out of a North Andover timeout, the offensive objective was obvious: get Bede an open three-point shot. The junior had a monster game, scoring 22 points and pulling down 12 rebounds. This is the player that dropped 47 points on Haverhill three nights earlier.

He curled around a screen, caught a pass, and let go the open shot North Andover coach Paul Tanglis was looking for. It bounced off the rim but a teammate came down with the rebound. Robert Couyoumjian (9 points) stepped behind the line in the left corner and let off a shot of his own. That too hit the rim and this time Andover’s Ryan O’Connell came down (9 points, 9 rebounds) with the rebound and the last seconds ticked off the clock.

“We gave Wabissa the look we wanted with an open three and I’ll take that 100 out of 100 times,” said Tanglis. “It was in and out, but I thought that’s what we wanted in the end and we got it. It just didn’t fall. I liked the way we executed down the stretch and I thought overall we played pretty well.”

Andover held on for a 49-46 victory.

“We’ll take it,” said Fazio. “We won a league title tonight (Merrimack Valley Conference Large), now we decide do we want to share it with anybody or do we want to own it all by ourselves?”

Defensive stalemate: Friday was the second time the two teams played against each other. The first time, on Jan. 16, Andover was victorious 76-61. Coming into the game, Tanglis was determined to not give up that many points to the Golden Warriors again.

“We watched film the past two days and we just said we can’t let up 76 points to a team like that, they’re just too good,” he said. “We worked on a lot of different things like getting back on defense, just trying to not let any transition layups in and we did a great job with that. Unfortunately, we didn’t keep them off the glass like we wanted to (29 rebounds). A couple long rebounds, a couple big three’s off offensive rebounds for them I thought was the difference for us.”

Conversely, Andover had defensive lapses of its own. Fazio employed multiple defensive looks in order to keep North Andover guessing and its guards out of rhythm, but also to hide what he feels is a team inefficiency in its man-to-man defense.

“We used a multiple defense approach because you have to keep them off balance, especially that guard (Bede), that guard is tremendous,” he said. “We just tried to keep them off balance, tried to change the defenses. We’re just trying to find something that will stick with my guys. For 26 years we’ve been solely a man-to-man team. This team can not play man-to-man, so we mix it up.”

Recap: No. 5 Andover 76, North Andover 61

January, 17, 2015
Jan 17
1:30
AM ET
ANDOVER, Mass. -- Geometrically, the triangle is the strongest shape and, in the sport of basketball, it can also be one of the strongest defenses.

After going shot for shot with North Andover through two-plus quarters, Andover coach Dave Fazio instituted a triangle-and-two defense that stymied the Knights offense and allowed the Warriors to cruise to a 76-61 win.

After the Warriors made the defensive switch, in a last-ditch effort to stop the North Andover guard duo of Wabissa Bede and Robbie Couyoumjian, the results piled up fast. Andover turned a three-point deficit with three minutes left in the third quarter into a four-point lead by the end of the period, and extended the lead to 10 three minutes into the fourth.

“They went to that triangle-and-two which hurt us,” North Andover coach Paul Tanglis said. “We practiced a lot against the box-and-one, and not enough against the triangle-and-two, so I told my guys I take full responsibility for that. We play a lot of guys, we don't give a lot of guys rest some times, and they wear you down. They're a good team.”

Bede (30 points, five rebounds) and Couyoumjian (18 points, nine rebounds) lit it up for the Knights and caused a headache for Andover. The duo scored all but four of North Andover's 23 points in the second quarter and were the force that propelled North Andover to a 33-30 halftime lead.

Once Fazio made the defensive switch the faucet dried up for the guards. Andover stifled Bede and Couyoumjian, by forcing the ball away from them with face guarding and double teams, and held them to eight combined points over the last 11 minutes of the game. With North Andover's attack stunted the Warriors were able to fully kick their offense into gear and sew up the game.

“I got to find and push the right buttons for us to defend,” Fazio said. “Maybe it's not our old school, Andover man-to-man defense. I don't know what it is, but we got to be more proactive. At the end of the day it's 11 games in and I've got to find something for us to be great at defensively. Offensively we're going to score, but we just got to play better defense.”

ANDOVER ASSAULT

After a slow first quarter that saw the Warriors take an 11-10 lead into the break, Andover's prolific offense opened up.

While Couyoumjian and Bede shouldered the load for the Knights, Andover distributed the wealth across the floor. Five Andover players scored in double digits led by Connor Merinder with 17 points and Jonathan Rodriguez and E.J. Perry, who each had 16 points.

Perry played like a man afire in the second half, scoring 14 of his points and pulling down six of his team-high eight rebounds.

“These games border the Central games from past years,” Perry said. “It's just a rocking crowd. You're playing against the kids you played against in travel ball. You've got to come out fired up up to play. We didn't in the first half, and we did in the second half to show what this game means to us.”

The Warriors played a balanced offense despite having to play around David Giribaldi. who was nursing a hip injury and was in foul trouble throughout. Giribaldi, though, did finish with 13 points including a pair of three pointers in the fourth quarter to put a bow on the game.

North Andover had few answers for Merinder, who controlled the paint. Ryan O'Connell had another solid performance with 10 points, five rebounds, and a pair of steals.

“One thing you know for sure is that Ryan's going to show up and give you everything he has,” Fazio said. “Every time he's going to give you everything he's got.”

Despite having to play different faces in different places it was Andover's depth top to bottom that was an X factor to getting the win and snapping a two-game losing streak.

“It's tough when you got new faces in there, but that's what Faze does so well in practice: you've got competition,” Perry said. “You're playing with new guys every day in practice. You get to learn every player's strengths and weaknesses, and we got a lot of players with a lot of strengths.

“Two losses you got to come back from that with a win. We did it. Shaky in the first half, but we showed our true form in the second half.”

MC returns to boys' hockey No. 1

January, 14, 2015
Jan 14
3:03
PM ET
Off to an undefeated start, four-time defending Super 8 tournament champion Malden Catholic returns to the top spot in our statewide MIAA boys' hockey Top 25 poll this week.

The Lancers entered the week having not allowed a goal in their three Catholic Conference wins, taking control of the league race.

For this week's complete poll, click HERE.

(Editor's Note: Records are as of Monday, Jan. 12)

Hawks make their move: There was plenty of jockeying for position in the top 10 of the poll in the last week or so. Xaverian made the biggest move, jumping up to No. 3 after dealing BC High its second straight Catholic Conference loss on Saturday. The Eagles fell two spots down to No. 4.

Austin Prep reasserted its dominance over the Catholic Central Large with a win over rival Arlington Catholic over the weekend and moves to No. 5.

Hingham makes a splash in the top 10 as well, moving up eight spots to No. 8 this week.

Who wants the Middlesex?: Year in and year out, the Middlesex League is one of the hottest contested battles in all the state. And yet, through the fist half of the season, it's been a bit of a surprise which teams has risen to the top.

Woburn has already eclipsed its win total from a year ago, going 5-1-1 entering this week's action. Now the Tanners, who debuted at No. 11 this week, have some competition hot on their heels, as Burlington slides to No. 12 this week. Of course, the Winn Street rivals have another installment of their storied series next month.

Arlington (No. 22) and Winchester (25) round out the Middlesex contingent in the poll this week, which checks in with the second most total by a conference, trailing only the Catholic Conference with five.

Hello, old friends: With a sea change underfoot in the back half of the poll, several teams made their debut this week who haven't been seen in the poll in more than a year.

Andover, which is undefeated entering this week's action, checks in at No. 17, its highest showing since the 2011-12 season.

Another undefeated side in Westwood makes its debut at No. 20, the Wolverines' first poll appearance in more than two years. Another D2 South power also checks in this week, with Coyle-Cassidy sliding in at No. 23.

Meanwhile, unbeaten Wellesley makes the program's first poll appearance at No. 24 this week.

 

 

Miami (Ohio) offers Andover's Marshall

January, 11, 2015
Jan 11
1:29
PM ET
Andover High junior tight end Alex Marshall received his second Division 1 FBS offer yesterday, from Miami of Ohio, he announced on his Twitter account.



The 6-foot-7, 225-pound Marshall was an ESPN Boston All-State selection at tight end in 2014 after recording 22 catches for 351 yards and four touchdowns for the Golden Warriors. He initially committed to the University of North Carolina in lacrosse his sophomore year, but de-committed last year to turn his focus to football.

Marshall received his first FBS offer during the 2014 season, from UMass. Last summer he took visits to Boston College, Michigan, Notre Dame, Penn State and Michigan State.

Recap: No. 5 CM 90, No. 2 Andover 73

January, 10, 2015
Jan 10
11:35
PM ET
BOSTON -- Twenty-one was the lucky number in fifth-ranked Catholic Memorial’s win over second-ranked Andover on Saturday.,

Guilien Smith (who sports No. 21 for the Knights) racked up 22 points in his team’s 90-73 victory over Andover at the Good Sports TD Garden Invitational.
,
"I think playing here when it wasn’t a playoff game alleviated all of the press,” said Smith, an ESPN Boston preseason All-State selection and co-MVP of the Catholic Conference last season. “Being here last year... knowing the rims, knowing the court helped us too.”,
,
Smith led the Knights in a very strong start, holding Andover to just two points during the first half of the first quarter. At the end of the first quarter, CM held a commanding 26-15 lead. ,
,
Andover picked up its game in the second quarter, reducing its deficit to four at halftime at 48-44.

Jonathan Rodriguez scored more than half of Andover’s 29 second-quarter points himself, with 18 points including 12 from beyond the three-point line.,
,
“I think it’s the first time in 26 years that Andover has given up 48 points in a half,” said Andover coach Dave Fazio. “I was really excited at halftime.”,
,
The Knights, after losing their comfortable lead, knew they had to come out strong. Their primary second-half goal was to contain Rodriguez.,
,
“He lit us up in the first half” said CM coach Denis Tobin, talking about his team’s second-half strategy. “We wanted to make sure he didn’t get any open looks in the first half and hopefully wear them down.”,
,
And they did. The Knights held Rodriguez to just six points in the second half. CM led Andover 69-59 at the end of the third quarter, winning with extraordinary plays such as a cross-court throw-in by Matt Hanna to set up Smith for a layup.,
,
Though Andover closed the gap to six points with four minutes remaining, CM broke away down the stretch.,
,
Smith played well in the second half, too, scoring 10 points for CM. While Smith added points to the board in the frontcourt, he was well-supported in the backcourt as well.
,
"All year we pressured constantly" said Tobin. "When we are lucky enough to force a turnover, or two in a run… you know these guys are kind of like sharks. It becomes a feeding frenzy then they just get going faster and faster.",

Andover will look to recover this loss and keep itself in playoff contention amidst a very tough Division 1 North.

"When you win, it covers up a lot of different things you need to work on. When you lose, it is very apparent what you need" said Andover coach David Fazio. "These guys... they're tough. They believe in each other and they'll play for each other. We've just got to be better."
,
CM looks ahead a slate that doesn’t get any easier, including a game at No. 7 St. John's Prep on Thursday night.

Still, the prospects look bright for this Knights squad, as CM has proven the ability to perform under pressure.,
,
"This was our fourth game this week" Smith said. "If we can keep this momentum going, we'll be good.",
Starting at 9:30 a.m. Saturday, 16 teams will square off on the mystical parquet floor of the TD Garden, in the second annual Good Sports TD Garden Invitational.

A number of teams ranked in ESPN Boston's statewide basketball polls will be represented, incuding Andover, Catholic Memorial, St. John's Prep, Newton North, and Masconomet's girls team. Storied Rhode Island power Bishop Hendricken, the defending RIIL state champions, will also be playing, as well as last year's MIAA Division 1 runner up Central Catholic.

For the complete schedule, CLICK HERE.

Here are my picks for the day's eight matchups:

9:30 a.m. – No. 17 Masconomet (6-1) vs. Central Catholic (3-5) – GIRLS
The Raiders have encountered some struggles early in their season, the latest a loss Thursday night to Andover. That, coupled with Masco’s hot start, has me thinking the Chieftains avenge last year’s D1 North tournament loss. Pick: Masco

11 a.m. – Masconomet (5-2) vs. Arlington Catholic (4-1)
This could be one of the more underrated matchups of the day, but the Chieftains will squeak out a victory to here for the first boys-girls sweep at the Garden. Pick: Masco

12:30 p.m. – Belmont (5-2) vs. Somerville (0-6)
It’s been a long time since Somerville last appeared at the Garden – and, given the cold weather, we likely won’t see fans making the walk all the way to the Garden like in the old days. Even with the recent hand injury to guard Matt Kerans, Belmont has enough to overcome the Highlanders, who have a terrific star forward in Fru Che but a lot of youth around him. Pick: Belmont

2 p.m. – Malden Catholic (6-0) vs. Bishop Hendricken (R.I.) (5-2)
For the first time in what seems a while, Malden Catholic feels like a true contender in D2 North. This might be the upset of the day, but there’s a lot of weapons to take down in the defending Rhode Island state champs, including some promising scholarship talent. Pick: Hendricken

3:30 p.m. – No. 4 Newton North (8-0) vs. Newton South (6-2)
It’s going to be hard for Tommy Mobley to top last year’s performance in this matchup at the Garden, going off for 35 points in a blowout victory over their cross-town rivals, but he’ll be the leading scorer here once again. South, off to a surprising start, may have run into a superior talent here. Pick: Newton North

5 p.m. – No. 15 Mansfield (6-0) vs. No. 25 Franklin (6-2)
Both of these heated rivals are off to hot starts, and should once again bring a huge fan contingent. I picked a Franklin upset last year in this event, and it nearly happened. Is twice as nice? Pick: Franklin

6:30 p.m. – No. 2 Andover (8-0) vs. No. 5 Catholic Memorial (6-1)
With respect to the other matchups, this is the marquee battle of the day. Between Andover’s duo of David Giribaldi and E.J. Perry IV, and CM’s trio of Guilien Smith, Kellan Grady and Brandon Twitty, there’s no shortage of guards who can let it fly from deep. But the difference here is Connor Merinder, a nightly double-double machine manning the post for the Golden Warriors. Pick: Andover

8 p.m. – No. 7 St. John’s Prep (4-2) vs. Central Catholic (3-6)
When this matchup was first booked, many of us had flashbacks to the epic 2010 D1 North battle between these two teams, with ESPN 100 recruits Pat Connaughton and Carson Desrosiers squaring off before a huge crowd that sprinkled into the upper deck. Few of us expected Central to be fighting for its playoff life right now. One team needs this one badly, but there’s simply too much height to account for on the Prep side. Pick: St. John’s Prep

Recap: No. 2 Andover 71, Central Catholic 60

January, 9, 2015
Jan 9
12:14
AM ET
LAWRENCE, Mass. -- No matter what the records are, where the game is played, or what month the game is played in, Andover versus Central Catholic is always a tightly-contested basketball game.

Thursday night was no different. Central took a one-point lead with just over five minutes remaining, but Andover slowly pulled away to a 71-60 Merrimack Valley Conference victory.

Central’s (3-6) three-guard lineup of A.J. Pettway (6 points), Tanahj Pettway (23 points, 7 rebounds), and Kevin Fernandez (12 points) gave Andover problems at both ends of the floor. Its lead got as large as 21-12 early in the second quarter, but the Golden Warriors went on a 9-0 run out of a timeout to tie the game.

“They’re very quick,” said Connor Merinder (21 points, 10 rebounds) of Central’s three guards. “The freshman Tanahj is phenomenal. We respect him more than any other freshman that we’ve seen so far.”

“It’s tough when you come out with low energy like we did to guard quick guards like that, especially on their home court,” he added. “Once we got our guards to click and once we got everyone on the same page, we were able to compete and go on a run.”

The teams were tied at 33 coming out of halftime. To amplify the pressure on Central’s guards, Andover (8-0) coach Dave Fazio employed a 2-1-2 half court trap. This helped to slow Central’s offense down and held it to three baskets in the entire third quarter.

Andover was only ahead by three points heading into the fourth, but that was where it was able to pull away. Merinder, the team’s anchor in the middle, left the game early in the quarter with four fouls. He reentered the game with five minutes to go and converted two crucial three-point plays to extend his team’s lead.

As a team, Andover was 23-of-25 from the free throw line. In the final 5:30 of the fourth quarter, it was 15-of-16.

With less than a minute remaining, David Giribaldi (17 points) stepped to the line converted the final four free throws and made sure his team left Central Catholic with an 11-point victory.

“I think we can get better in all facets,” said Fazio. “I like when we make the extra pass. I’m all about making the right play. I love when our guys make plays for each other and we get 'we' shots. We have to get better there. Sometimes we get a lot of 'me' shots. But right now, we’re doing okay. It’s a long season. You know we’re going to have some bumps in the road, but the kids just kind of show up and they grind. That’s all you can really ask as a coach.”

Manning the post: Guards Giribaldi and E.J. Perry (14 points) might have more opportunities to fill up the stat sheet than their Andover teammates because they have the basketball in their hands, but Conor Merinder is the catalyst of the team. The 6-foot-5 big man plays physical under the basket fighting for rebounds, but he is also able to run the floor on the fast break and pop out and hit midrange jump shots if necessary.

Late in the fourth quarter of Thursday’s game, he converted two and-one opportunities when he backed a defender down and used an array of moves to score the basket and get fouled. Those two sequences stretched the Andover lead to 10 points and helped the team ultimately win. He finished the game with 21 points and 10 rebounds.

“He’s getting better,” said Fazio. “We’ve always said he’s a 10 on defense, and he’s a 6 trying to make his way to an 8 on offense. He’s got his little up-and-under moves going and he’s just so much more relaxed on the defensive end. We’re trying really hard to get him comfortable on the offensive end. But when you have two snipers like Giribaldi and Perry, sometimes we run out of shots for him.”

“He’s just a smart, smart player who has great technique defensively and takes personal pride in being our anchor back there. You can’t even speak to what he does for our program. The kid is just amazing.”

In an effort to become a more complete player and wreak havoc on Merrimack Valley Conference defenders, the senior has worked on refining his post-up game and offensive efficiency around the basket. However, it is a change in attitude that might have made the most difference.

“My coach works with me a lot in the post in practice,” he said. “I think I’ve been more aggressive this year and that’s kind of what it’s been. I’ve been scoring more than I have in the previous years. These have always kind of been in my arsenal, I’ve just kind of been a passive player these past few years.”

End of the gauntlet: Andover will cap off a stretch of three games in five days when it heads to the TD Garden on Saturday to play Catholic Memorial in the Good Sports TD Garden Invitational. It will be a slugfest between two teams in the top 5 of ESPN Boston's statewide basketball poll. Both teams like to push the pace offensively and score in a multitude of ways. The Golden Warriors know the large challenge that lies ahead of them when they step on the parquet floor.

“They’re phenomenal, they’re great,” said Fazio. “I think we’re at a point right now where there’s no pressure. It’s a great experience against a great team. I saw them play and I think they put up 98 points. It’s fun and our guys like the bright lights. Giribaldi and Merinder and (E.J.) Perry, they went last year and played against Brookline, and they like the bright lights. It’s going to be a great challenge, they’re really good, and it should be fun. Hopefully we can take some notes and get back there again in March.”

CM's only loss of the season came in a double-overtime game against Newton North, where each team almost broke 100 on the scoreboard (Newton North won 102-99). Andover will have to be on its A-game to keep up with Guilien Smith and the high-powered CM offense.

“We know they’re very quick and they like their guard play,” said Merinder. “The game we played tonight, as great of a game as it was, isn’t the best game that we’ve played by far. It isn’t the best game we can play by any means. If we come on Saturday and play the way we know we can- which I think we will on such a big stage in such a big arena, we always rise to those kinds of things- I know we’re going to play a phenomenal game. I know our guards are going to be on point and hopefully I can keep the big man moves up. I can’t wait for this Saturday game.”
We updated our statewide MIAA Top 25 boys basketball poll before this evening's slate of games. To view it, CLICK HERE.

(NOTE: Monday's results were not factored into team records)

The next poll update will be on Monday, Jan. 13.

A few notes and observations about this week's poll:

Putnam stays on top: Two-time defending Division 1 state champ Putnam holds on to the top spot in the land after narrowly escaping Chicopee High with a 61-60 win, in which they rallied from down four with 36 seconds to go. The top five remains unchanged, with Putnam at the top spot followed by Andover (2), Cambridge (3), Newton North (4) and Catholic Memorial (5). The only significant movement this week is at the bottom half of the poll, which saw Bishop Feehan drop all the way out from No. 17 after a loss to Walpole.

Franklin checks in: Only one team makes its season debut this week. Franklin, off to a 4-2 start, comes in at No. 25 for its first appearance since the final poll of the 2013-14 season.

As always, here's how the poll breaks down by league affiliation:

Boston City - 3
Hockomock - 3
Merrimack Valley - 3
Bay State - 2
Big Three - 2
Catholic Conference - 2
Northeastern - 2
Dual County - 1
Central Mass. Conference - 1
Greater Boston - 1
Middlesex - 1
Patriot - 1
Suburban - 1
Valley League - 1
Valley Wheel - 1

Reading to host Bauer Winter Classic Showcase

December, 22, 2014
12/22/14
8:52
PM ET
Reading Memorial High School will host the Winter Classic Showcase presented by Bauer, featuring the boys' hockey teams from
Andover, Arlington Catholic, Billerica and Reading.

Here's a look at the schedule, with all action scheduled for Reading's Burbank Arena:

Monday, Dec. 22
Andover vs. Billerica, 6:30 p.m.
Arlington Catholic vs. Reading, 8:30 p.m.

Monday, Dec. 29
Consolation game, 6:30 p.m.
Championship game, 8:30 p.m.

Tickets are $8 for adults and $6 for students

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