Boston High School: Cushing Academy
After defeating the St. Andrew’s School on a last second buzzer beater by Jalen Adams to win the 2013 NEPSAC Class AA Championship, some were left wondering whether Cushing Academy was a legitimate champion.
The Penguins answered all those questions and doubts Sunday by defeating Kimball Union (N.H.), 76-68, to win back-to-back Class AA championships.
“When you win it on a buzzer beater, there’s always those questions about did you get lucky? Was it a fluke? Did you deserve to win?” said Cushing coach Barry Connors. “The guys in the locker room know of course we did. You come back and win it again, and it sort of validates the first one. It feels even better this time than last year.”
This game featured future college basketball stars on both teams.
Kimball Union’s Abdul-Malik Abu, the No. 32 senior prospect on the ESPN 100, is signed to play at North Carolina State next season. Oliver Tot (9 points, 12 rebounds) will take his talents to William and Mary next year.
Cushing Academy’s Kaleb Joseph, the No. 49 recruit on the ESPN 100, is going to Syracuse to play for coach Jim Boeheim. Jalen Adams, currently the No. 46 junior in the ESPN 60, holds scholarship offers from Division 1 schools such as UConn, Creighton, and Providence.
The Penguins were able to keep Abu in check for the first half, holding him to only four points. In the second half, he was more assertive on the low block. He used his positioning and his muscular frame to out jump the Cushing bigs for rebounds and second-chance points. The senior finished with 16 points and 11 rebounds.
KUA went on a 9-2 run in the last two minutes of the first half to make the score 37-36. In what became a theme of the game, Cushing’s Connor Gilmore (12 points, 5 rebounds) hit a three before the buzzer.
Gilmore was also charged with defending Abu in the low block for most of the game. The senior held his own for most of the game, but when you are playing against a player like Abu that likes to draw contact, the fouls are bound to pile up. That was the case Sunday as he fouled out of the game with 7:51 remaining.
“He and Aaron Todd (2 points, 4 rebounds) did a tremendous job on the block fighting with Abu,” said Connors. “He’s averaging about 14 points a game for us over the course of the season, but the last 8 games he’s averaging 17 and 10 and he’s been hitting big shots for us.”
Cushing came out with a 12-5 run to open the second half and Kimball was playing catchup from that point on. The closest it cut the deficit to was 63-59 with 4:40 remaining.
A minute later, Abu fouled Adams (16 points, 7 rebounds) as he was going to the basket and was Kimball’s 10th team foul. For the rest of the game, he and Joseph (22 points, 6 rebounds) were at the free throw line extending the team’s lead. The two guards scored their way to a second league championship.
“I think this time around was better because this team got a feeling of what it was like to win,” said Joseph. “Me, Jalen, and Idris Taqqee knew what it was like to win a championship. We knew it wasn’t going to be that easy this year. We had more bumps in the road this year. We fought through it and that’s why it feels a lot better this time.”
Taqqee shines: Lost behind the statistics of future ACC players and future high-major commits was the play of Cushing’s Idris Taqqee. The St. Bonaventure commit dominated the first half of the game, scoring 16 of his 20 points in the opening frame while the defense was focused on stopping Joseph and Adams. He was hitting shots from all over the floor, including two from behind the three-point arc.
In the second half, his production quieted down while Adams and Joseph had the ball in their hands more as the game wound down.
“Idris is the consummate glue guy,” said Connors. “But how many glue guys are 6-foot-5 athletic studs? You see he’s starting to stretch it out a little bit. He’s knocking down three’s and handling the ball a little more. He’s the heart and soul and he sets the tone.”
Midway through the first half, he had 14 of Cushing’s 23 points. He also came down with five rebounds in the game, showing he’s not just a scorer.
“He has a will to win, he’s willing to do a lot of the things no one else is willing to do,” said Joseph. “He’s down there fighting with Malik Abu on the block and then he comes out on the perimeter and can hit jump shots. He’s really versatile. He’s kind of our unsung hero.”
Salisbury School, the No. 2 rated prep school program, according to New England Hockey Journal, took advantage of the opportunities handed to them while fourth-ranked Cushing Academy failed to convert on its many bids. The end result would see the Crimson Knights scoring four times on the power play to prevail 4-3 Sunday night inside Theodore Iorio Arena.
"Scoring those power play goals is great," said sixth-year Salisbury head coach Andrew Will. "You want to make teams pay when they have a guy in the box. That was certainly a huge difference in this game. At the same time we take pride in our penalty kill by doing the little things like blocking shots and getting pucks away from our defensive zone. I thought our guys did a nice job creating that tonight."
In a physically-inclined contest halted repeatedly by an ongoing number of infractions, Salisbury displayed a solid, crisp passing style on the man-advantage before transcending into scoring mode.
Junior forward Vimal Sukumaran redirected two shots into the back of the net while Mitchell Smith and Derek Barach contributed one goal apiece as the Crimson Knights improved to 15-1-4. They are 6-0-1 in their last seven contests.
With the victory, Salisbury puts itself in prime position to contend for a second consecutive Elite 8 crown, which begins later this month and will conclude March 2 tentatively scheduled for Yale University's Ingalls Rink. Last season, Salisbury defeated Kent School for the title, its third overall.
"With our success, everything starts with our leadership," said Will. "Much of that has to do with our captains and our seniors who want to come to rink each day to try and get better. Getting to the Elite 8 is our dream goal but not our daily goal. Our daily goal is coming to work every day and continuing to get better and do all the little things that we need to in order to be successful. For us it is looking at the process instead of the end result."
This rough-and-tumble contest wouldn't be decided until the final period. With both teams deadlocked 2-2 after 36 minutes, Salisbury struck for the go-ahead goal at 4:46 of the closing frame. After failing to score on a 5-on-3 advantage, the Crimson Knights still had a one-man advantage for another minute. Sukumaran, standing just to the left of Penguins goaltender Joey Daccord, fed a quick pass to Smith in front of the crease. The senior got enough of his stick on it, pushing it past Daccord to give Salisbury a 3-2 lead.
Later in the period, Cushing's Jake Simons received a roughing call. With the man-advantage back in its lap, Salisbury capitalized as Barach (team-high 14 goals) raced down along right boards before slipping a shot between Daccord's pads, putting the Crimson Knight's ahead by a pair.
In all, a total of 14 penalties were called -- eight going against Salisbury.
The Penguins (20-7-0) failed to score when having the man-advantage. They then proceeded to watch in vein as the Crimson Knights showed them how it is done.
On Saturday night, versus Canterbury School, Cushing surrendered four power play tallies in a 4-3 defeat. It is a trend seven-year head coach Rob Gagnon says needs to change quickly.
"That's two nights in a row now that all the goals we've allowed were on the power play," said Gagnon. "Kids sometimes get caught up in the heat of the moment which is understandable. But we haven't faced this issue all year until this weekend. Usually our penalty kill is very good but we haven't had the issue of playing undisciplined like we have. This weekend we experienced those issues and it caught up to us and bit us in the butt. We need to be more-disciplined."
Senior forward Tommy DeFelice put the Penguins on the board first. Off the face off inside the right circle, DeFelice took control of the puck and send a laser past Mitchell Datz just 5:32 in. Moments later, Cushing had a golden opportunity to add to its lead after being given a 5-on-3 chance.
But to Salisbury's credit, there was no panic and the special teams performed admirably by shutting Cushing down. That, in turn, would lead to the Crimson Knights tying up this tilt. A shot from the outside by Smith deflected off of Sukumaran's stick in front and past Daccord coming at 9:45.
Daccord, a junior, was busy all evening, finishing with 35 saves.
The score stayed that way until Cushing sophomore Bailey Conger broke in on Datz (26 saves) and beat the senior with a backhand stick side at 3:01 of the second period and give the lead back to the Penguins at 2-1. But Cushing's inability to stay out of the penalty box would prove to be their downfall. Just four minutes following Conger's marker, Sukumaran once again perched in front of the crease. Salisbury's power play unit worked the puck vicariously between the circles before Will Toffey let go of a shot just inside the blue line. Sukumaran was able to tip it into the back of the net at 7:58 and send the Crimson Knights into the second intermission all even again.
Once Salisbury had taken control of the final frame with its two scores, Cushing, the defending Martin/Earl Tournament title holders, did not go down without a fight. With Daccord pulled for the extra man, Simons tallied a top-shelf goal with 47 seconds remaining.
"During the whole year our power play has been big for us," senior forward Evan Smith said. "Every practice we work a lot on special teams. We knew coming in that Cushing was going to hit us and hack at us and we knew they tend to get a bunch of penalties. The key to this game was for us to take it, let them get called for penalties and it ended worked out in our favor because we got a bunch of power play goals tonight."
Once again, local-based skaters littered the rankings, with St. John's Prep and Cushing Academy product Shane Eiserman leading the class. The West Newbury native was 39th among the 200-plus ranked North American skaters.
There is also a goaltender in the mix, with Thayer Academy standout Bob McGovern ranking 25th among North Americans.
Here's how the locals stacked up:
(For a look at the complete rankings, click HERE.)
39 Shane Eiserman, Dubuque - USHL (U.S. NTDP, Cushing, St. John's Prep), C/LW, 6-1.5, 200
44 Johnathan MacLeod, U.S. NTDP (Kimball Union), D, 6-1.5, 200
54 Ryan Donato, Dexter School, C, 6-0.25, 174
83 Beau Starrett, South Shore Kings - USPHL (Catholic Memorial), LW, 6-4.75, 195
85 Miles Gendron, Rivers, D, 6-1.5, 173
121 Michael Turner, Cushing Academy, LW, 6-1.5, 192
123 Tyler Bird, Kimball Union (St. John's Prep), RW, 6-1.5, 202
146 Bobo Carpenter, Austin Prep, C, 5-10, 183
157 J.D. Dudek, Kimball Union, C, 5-11.25, 178
159 Michael Lee, The Gunnery, D, 5-11.25, 165
177 Max Willman, Williston Northampton (Barnstable), LW, 6-0, 180
188 Dominic Franco, Kimball Union, RW, 6-2.75, 183
193 Billy Sweezey, Noble & Greenough, D, 6-0, 190
204 Evan Smith, Salisbury School, C, 6-0, 190
25 Bob McGovern, Thayer Academy, 6-4, 245
The regional nominees are:
Patrick Benzan, Roxbury Latin
· Alec Brennan, Milton Academy
· Matt Cimino, Worcester Academy
· Malik James, Notre Dame Prep
· Kaleb Joseph, Cushing Academy
· Tyler Nelson, Central Catholic High School
· Jeff Spellman, Beaver Country Day
· Jacquil Taylor, Beaver Country Day
· Abdul Malik-Abu , Kimball Union Academy
· Isaac Copeland, Brewster Academy
· Chris McCullough, Brewster Academy
· Jared Terrell, Brewster Academy
· Kevin Zabo, Brewster Academy
· Mike LeBlanc, New Hampton School
· Bonzie Colson, St. Andrew’s School
· Kealen Ives, Classical High School
The New England region was well-represented with current and former high schoolers and prep schoolers making the grade.
Here's a breakdown of New England skaters:
MASSACHUSETTS HIGH SCHOOLS
Ryan Donato, Dexter School, C/LW, 6-0.25, 174 lbs.
Miles Gendron, Rivers, D, 6-1.5, 173 lbs.
John-Claude Brassard, Noble & Greenough, D, 5-10, 180 lbs.
Bobo Carpenter, Austin Prep, C, 5-10, 183 lbs.
William Feeney, Dexter School, D, 6-1.75, 202 lbs.
Michael Turner, Cushing Academy, LW, 6-1.5, 208 lbs.
Bob McGovern, Thayer Academy, G, 6-4, 245 lbs.
NEW HAMPSHIRE HIGH SCHOOLS
Tyler Bird, Kimball Union (St. John's Prep), RW, 6-1.5, 202 lbs.
J.D. Dudek, Kimball Union, C, 5-11.25, 178 lbs.
Dominic Franco, Kimball Union, RW, 6-2.75, 183 lbs.
CONNECTICUT HIGH SCHOOLS
Will Brophy, Westminster, D, 6-3.5, 193 lbs.
James Gobetz, Salisbury, D, 6-2, 188 lbs.
Mike Lee, The Gunnery, D, 5-11.25, 165 lbs.
Evan Smith, Salisbury, LW, 6-0, 190 lbs.
Mitchell Smith, Salisbury, LW, 5-11, 182 lbs.
Joseph Lissak, Taft School, G, 6-1.5, 203 lbs.
Sam Tucker, Choate-Rosemary, G, 6-1.25, 177 lbs.
UNITED STATES HOCKEY LEAGUE
Shane Eiserman (U.S. NTDP/ Cushing Academy/ St. John's Prep), Dubuque, LW, 6-1.5, 200 lbs.
UNITED STATES PREMIER HOCKEY LEAGUE
Beau Starrett (Catholic Memorial), South Shore, LW, 6-4, 190 lbs.
I have officially decided to chase my dreams at Syracuse University and play for the hall of fame coach Jim Boeheim #OrangeNation— kaleb joseph (@kalebjoseph15) August 17, 2013
The Nashua, N.H.-bred Joseph is the No. 51 overall player in ESPN 100, and the No. 10 point guard. last season, he helped lead the Penguins to the NEPSAC Class AA Championship, in a thrilling buzzer-beating finish over St. Andrew's (R.I.). Earlier this month, Joseph whittled his list of suitors down to three finalists -- Providence, West Virginia, and the aforementioned Orange.
Joseph becomes the second New England prospect to commit to Syracuse in the Class of 2014, joining Brewster Academy (N.H.) power forward Chris McCullough, a native of Bronx, N.Y., who is ranked No. 7 overall in the ESPN 100.
ESPN's Adam Finkelstein has more on Joseph's commitment, which is excerpted below. For the full article, CLICK HERE.
For Joseph, the opportunity to play at Syracuse was a dream come true.
"It's always been my dream school, and I just don't think there are many people who have the opportunity to do what they have dreamed about since they were young," Joseph said. "To work so hard for so long and then have God put the opportunity in front of me, it just felt right."
Nevertheless, this commitment still wasn't an easy one for Syracuse to win. Jim Boeheim and his staff followed Joseph throughout July with his Mass Rivals travel team and ultimately had to convince Joseph there was an important role for him despite the presence of Tyler Ennis, who will be just a year ahead of Joseph at Syracuse and is widely expected to be the team's starting point guard from Day One of his freshman season.
While the realization that both West Virginia and Providence had more immediate playing time to offer gave Joseph pause, it ultimately wasn't enough to make him say no to his dream school.
"I know of like the whole thing about Tyler, how everybody thinks I won't play," Joseph said.
"My whole basketball career I've always been the underdog," he added. "Not many basketball players come from New Hampshire to begin with. Everybody said I'd never get out of here. I like the underdog role. It keeps me grounded and motivated."
Boyd, a 6-foot-3 native of Lake Worth, Fla., had nine goals and 15 assists in 32 games last season for the Martin/Earl Tournament champions.
"He's a kid that's had the opportunity to leave and play juniors somewhere, but he's stuck to the program," Penguins head coach Rob Gagnon said. "A lot of people in the hockey world appreciate that and it just shows you what kind of kid he is. He’s a high-character kid.”
Boyd, a 1995 birthdate, is expected to join the Wildcats in either 2014-15 or 2015-16.
His older brother, R.J. Boyd (a former Cushing skater and fellow defenseman), currently plays at Michigan State.
“I think that Rich’s ceiling is very high," Gagnon said. "The reason why I say that is that he seems to get better every day at some element of his game in practice. Defensively, he already has sandpaper to his game and has a good, active stick. And he makes good decisions with the puck on the breakout.”
I have decided to narrow my list of schools down to Syracuse University, West Virginia University and Providence college.— kaleb joseph (@kalebjoseph15) July 29, 2013
Joseph, a Nashua, N.H. native and the No. 51 overall player in the ESPN 100, held number of high-major offers but said Providence, Syracuse and West Virginia stuck out the most.
“Throughout the whole recruiting process, those three schools stood out the most and made it known that I was a priority for them since Day One,” Joseph told ESPN's Adam Finkelstein.
For the complete story from Finkelstein, CLICK HERE (Insider only).
Playing this summer with the Rivals AAU club, Joseph has distinguished himself as one of the nation's top point guards during the intensive July evaluation period. Scouts Inc. says Joseph "has all the signs of a top prospect with good ball skills, size and length at his position, and a calm court demeanor at his disposal, but he will be judged by his ability to turn potential into production in the coming years."
Joseph's complete evaluation from ESPNU can be found HERE (Insider only).
Pinho was one of 13 skaters with ties to MIAA hockey who were taken on the day, including 10 who played for member schools last season.
Here's a list of players with New England ties who were selected Tuesday, listed by overall selection:
6. Brian Pinho (North Andover), C, St. John's Prep - Indiana
15. Ryan Segalla (Hanover), D, Salisbury - Dubuque
18. Merrick Madsen, G, Proctor - Des Moines
22. Connor Light (Sudbury), D, Phillips Andover - Omaha
25. Anthony Petruzzelli, LW, Brooks - Green Bay
28. Zach Sanford (Auburn, N.H.), LW, Islanders (EJHL) - Waterloo
30. Liam Coughlin (South Boston), C, Catholic Memorial - Dubuque
34. Danny Tirone (Trumbull, Conn.),G , Loomis-Chaffee - Cedar Rapids
37. James Winkler (York, Maine), RW, Berwick - Muskegon
53. Jake McCarthy (Dedham), D, St. Sebastian's - Muskegon
56. Garrett Hehir (Auburn, Mass.), C, Cushing Acacdemy - Lincoln
59. Shane Starrett (Bellingham), G, Selects Academy (Catholic Memorial) - Sioux Falls
66. A.J. Greer, LW, Kimball Union - Des Moines
93. Kevin Duane (New Canaan, Conn.), RW, Boston Junior Bruins (EJHL) - Des Moines
94. Terence Amarossa, D, Holderness - Sioux City
100. Aaron Titcomb (Charlestown), D, Salisbury - Cedar Rapids
105. Shane Kavanaugh (E. Providence, R.I.), RW, Cushing Academy - Dubuque
111. Connor Brassard (Fitchburg), D, Cushing Academy - Chicago
120. Mark Hamilton (Winthrop), D, Salisbury - Dubuque
140. Mark Dufour (Winthrop), RW, Kents Hill - Cedar Rapids
165. David Belluche (Andover), D, Phillips Andover - Dubuque
177. Carl Hesler (Boxborough), F, Belmont Hill - Waterloo
191. Miles Gendron (Shrewsbury), C, Rivers - Lincoln
192. Shane Bennett, C, Milton Academy - Waterloo
210. Evan Smith, C/LW, Salisbury - Dubuque
211. Ryan Collins (Newton), C, Ottawa (CJHL) - Indiana
213. Brendan Shane, C, The Gunnery - Des Moines
220. Niko Rufo (Stoneham), LW, Kimball Union - Green Bay
225. Mitchell Smith, C/LW, Salisbury - Dubuque
226. Michael Turner, LW, Cushing Academy - Indiana
230. Tyler Sifferlen (North Andover), F, Malden Catholic - Cedar Rapids
237. Mason Krueger (Nashua, N.H.), LW, Avon Old Farms - Waterloo
246. Vincent Ditmore, D, Choate Rosemary Hall - Chicago
257. Tyler Bird (Andover), RW, St. John's Prep - Tri-City
266. Nick Rutigliano (Shrewsbury), D, Boston Advantage AAA - Lincoln
272. Andrew Cross (Saugus), D, Austin Prep - Tri-City
274. Tyler Drevitch (Middleborough), RW, Boston Bandits (EJHL) - Sioux City
279. Colin MacGillivray (Peabody - Malden Catholic), D, N.H. Junior Monarchs (EJHL) - Youngstown
285. Will D'Orsi (Sudbury), F, St. Sebastian's - Dubuque
300. Nolan Vesey (North Reading), F, Austin Prep - Dubuque
307. Joel Daccord (North Andover - North Andover), G, Cushing Academy - Chicago
309. Sam Tucker (Wilton, Conn.), G, Choate Rosemary Hall - Youngstown
310. Charlie Corcoran (New Canaan, Conn.), C, Berkshire School - Green Bay
366. Jack Adams (Boxford), F, Malden Catholic - Chicago
367. Luke Stevens, F, Duxbury - Omaha
382. J.J. Layton (Peabody), D, Austin Prep - Omaha
384. Charley Borek (Durham, N.H.), F, Choate Rosemary Hall - Youngstown
Holding the top pick in Monday's draft proceedings, the Indiana Ice decided to forego using their pick, instead signing a tender with the Boston University commit. Indiana had selected Askew with the 89th overall pick last May.
This is the second year of the tender system by USHL rules. All players signed to tenders guarantee that they will play in a minimum of 50 percent of their teams games in the upcoming season.
Here's a look at all the skaters with local connections who were selected during Monday's proceedings:
Round 1, Pick 11: Ryan Dmowski (Oakdale, Conn.), C , The Gunnery - Des Moines
Round 3, Pick 5: Charlie Kelleher (Longmeadow), F, Boston Junior Bruins - Cedar Rapids
Round 3, Pick 15: Spencer Young (Brentwood, N.H.), D, Phillips Exeter - Dubuque
Round 4, Pick 3: Austin Rook (Shrewsbury), D, Rivers - Des Moines
Round 4, Pick 5: Cal Burke (Boxborough), C, Noble & Greenough - Cedar Rapids
Round 5, Pick 3: Callum Booth (Montreal, PQ), G, Salisbury - Muskegon
Round 5, Pick 15: Lincoln Griffin (Walpole), F, Thayer Academy - Dubuque
Round 6, Pick 5: Erik Foley (Mansfield), F, Tabor Academy - Cedar Rapids
Round 6, Pick 10: Liam Darcy (South Berwick, Maine), D, Berwick Academy - Green Bay
Round 7, Pick 15: Elijah Harris (Haverhill), G, Austin Prep - Dubuque
Former Malden Catholic standout and Valley Junior Warriors (EJHL) product Ryan Fitzgerald leads the New England skaters, checking in at No. 56.
Here's the list of skaters with local ties who made the cut:
(The full list can be found here):
56. C Ryan Fitzgerald, Valley Junior Warriors (EJHL - Malden Catholic, North Reading), Previous Ranking - 46
60. LW Zach Sanford, Islanders (EJHL - Pinkerton Academy, Auburn, N.H.), Previous Ranking - 83
75. D Anthony Florentino, South Kent School, Previous Ranking - 79
94. C Nick Huthinson, Avon Old Farms, Previous Ranking - 133
97. LW/C Jason Salvaggio, South Kent School, Previous Ranking - 90
104. D Wiley Sherman, Hotchkiss School, Previous Ranking - 125
109. C Brian Pinho, St. John's Prep, Previous Ranking - 117
138. LW Miles Wood, Noble and Greenough, Previous Ranking - 163
169. D Ryan Segalla, Salisbury School, Previous Ranking - 136
182. C John Stevens, Salisbury School, Previous Ranking - 162
185. D Connor Light, Phillips Andover, Previous Ranking - 178
186. RW Ross Olsson, Cedar Rapids (USHL - Billerica Memorial), Previous Ranking - 121
187. LW Tyler Hill, Chicago (USHL - Hotchkiss), Previous Ranking - 85
195. C Daniel LaFontaine, Avon Old Farms, Previous Ranking - 172
198. D Quin Pompi, Berkshire, Previous Ranking - 160
201. RW Thomas Aldworth, Cushing Academy, Previous Ranking - Unranked
206. D Tyler Wood, Noble and Greenough, Previous Ranking - 197
15. Shane Starrett, South Kent School (Catholic Memorial), Previous Ranking - 35
26. Merrick Madsen, Proctor Academy, Previous Ranking - 34
Video is courtesy of correspondent Derek Malloy:
Champions were crowned in the AAA, AA and A classes Sunday afternoon at Endicott, with no shortage of action:
Cushing wins on a buzzer-beater: St. Andrew’s seemed to have completed the upset, but Jalen Adams simply couldn’t let that happen.
Heaving up a jumpshot from just over halfcourt with no time left on the regulation clock, Adams banked the shot in from off the glass, giving Cushing the 61-60 victory. It was just another on the list of feats that the sophomore guard has accomplished already over the course of his young career.
“But I’ve never hit a buzzer-beater before,” he said with an ear-to-ear grin. “When I shot it, I honestly didn’t think it was going to go in.”
It wouldn’t be the first time Adams, who was awarded Most Valuable Player, hit a halfcourt shot, though. In practice Cushing practices a drill where they take shots from different spots on the floor—one of those spots, of course, is from the halfcourt line.
“Jalen Adams has hit more halfcourt shots just goofing around in a team game, than anyone I’ve ever seen,” Cushing coach Barry Connors said. “Was it a wing and a prayer? No question. But hey, I’ll tell you what, he made the shot.”
St. Andrew’s trailed 33-28 at halftime, but came out on an absolute tear in the second half—beginning the half on an 8-0 run that gave them their first lead of the game with fourteen minutes to go. Cushing’s forward Andrew Chrabascz, a Butler signee, picked up his fourth foul with still ten minutes to go in the game. Connors put Chrabascz back in a few minutes later, and with his help, Cushing managed to diminish their deficit.
“I can save Andrew, or you go with what you’ve got, you go with who got you there," Connors said. "The interesting thing about Andrew is: yeah he had four fouls. On the fourth one, he made a bonehead play, but Andrew’s very, very smart. If anybody can play with four fouls, it’s Andrew Chrabascz."
Down eleven points with three minutes left in the game, the Penguins rode Adams and Chrabascz to the win. Adams hit a tough jumper to bring the game within six with under two minutes to go. Adams fed Chrabascz with six seconds left in the game, and Chrabascz finished a tough lay-up inside to bring Cushing to within 60-58. Cushing fouled immediately, and following a missed free throw by Bonzie Colson (16 points, 8 rebounds), Adams took the ball to halfcourt and won the game.
“If I was going to lose this game, I was going to lose with my five best guys on the floor,” Connors said.
Historic first for Exeter: For the first time in school history, Phillips Exeter captured the Class A crown, knocking off Choate Rosemary Hall 58-47 in the opening game of the day. Exeter’s remarkable 25-1 season has been a long journey, one that started last June when the players on the predominantly-postgrad squad met for the first time on the front steps of Exeter’s gym. A group of players who, for the most part had never met before, quickly realized that they all had a lot in common.
“We had guys who had just met for the first time -- we talked about our individual goals, and we realized we were all at Exeter for our own personal agendas," Exeter coach Jay Tilton said. "Because why else would you come here as a postgrad if you didn’t have them?”
Thanks in part to strong leadership by captains Harry Rafferty (Wesleyan College) and Chris Braley (Stony Brook), a culture of change was started at Exeter—a culture that quickly became contagious to the rest of the team. Good friends off the court, Rafferty and Braley, who along with Duncan Robinson played AAU together for Middlesex Magic, brought Exeter a mixed blend of leadership by toughness, and leadership by example.
Braley, a soft-spoken workhorse known for his incredible work ethic, set an example for the rest of the team of how to compose themselves, while Rafferty, a scrappy ‘in your face’ type of point guard, was the quarterback.
“Chris demands so much respect because of his work ethic and his integrity, he’s not a real emotional guy or anything like that...He just does it," Tilton said. "With Harry, he’s the guy who’s going to run the show from day one. He’s the most caring kid, and the best communicator I’ve ever coached.
Tilton added, with a laugh, "He’s about the only one out there who’s not afraid of Braley.”
Six-foot-7 forward Robinson, the tournament MVP, put on what may have been the most impressive individual performance of the tournament, finishing with 24 points and 11 rebounds and playing as close to a perfect game as one possibly can -— knocking down five 3-pointers and shooting 9-for-9 from the field. Robinson’s show was the cherry on top of an unprecedented season by Exeter, who earlier in the day met on the front steps of their gym to discuss their goals one last time before departing for the championship game.
“We just kind of knew we had already reached that. That’s why I’m so proud of this group of kids. This group will hold a special place in Exeter history,” Tilton said.
Tilton admitted it is also a team that will hold a special place in his own memory, too. The teary-eyed veteran coach embraced each one of his players after the game, including his star forward.
“He said he loved me, and I said it right back, he’s done so much for all of us, myself included,” Robinson said, “To do that for him -- I know he wanted it very, very badly. He’s the hardest-working coach I’ve ever played for. He loves his players and cares about each and every one of us. It was only right that we did it for him.”
Exeter’s tremendous defensive effort held a very good shooting Choate team to just 4-15 from behind the three-point line. Future Wisconsin guard Jordan Hill was the catalyst; with long arms, a hard-nosed defensive mentality, and quick feet, Hill constantly harassed Choate guards Colin Richey (10 points) and Pete Weston (15 points).
“It starts with Jordan,” Tilton pointed out, “every second of the game he has a high motor, he doesn’t take unnecessary chances. To play that hard on the ball—he starts it, and we have great commitment off the ball helping him. It’s something we’ve been committed to from day one.”
Brewster takes AAA title in a thriller: Martez Harrison was one of the top scorers in the nation last year, averaging 35 points per game at University Academy Charter in Missouri. On Sunday in the Class AAA championship game though, he showed his complete ability to play the point guard position—leading Brewster to a thrilling 77-75 victory.
“Martez is the kid on our team who definitely has the biggest heart, he’s a true leader," Brewster coach Jason Smith said. "The growth and improvement from a point guard’s perspective from September until now has been phenomenal. He’s not really in the limelight, but we don’t win without him controlling the tempo, making good decisions, and making the right plays.”
Harrison, who finished with 14 points, shared the spotlight with future West Virginia forward Elijah Macon -- who was fresh off a heroic performance against Northfield Mount Hermon on Friday night. Finishing with 15 points and 12 rebounds in the finals, Macon, Brewster’s sixth-man, took home tournament MVP.
“[At the] beginning of the year...Elijah knew we were having a difficult time with whether we should play all three of the bigs together," Smith said.n "Or who was going to come off the bench. Elijah was the one who volunteered, he’s very mature for an 18 year old kid.”
Macon and N.C. State-bound forward Kyle Washington each picked up their fourth foul about midway through the second half, but Smith said the foul trouble did little to hinder his team in terms of gameplanning and substitutions.
“We were going to play Elijah his normal rotation of four and a half minutes," Smith said. "It just worked out well, Kyle picked up his fourth foul initially, and the substitution pattern worked out perfectly. Four fouls never really even came into play, it was just subbing in four minute intervals when needed.”
Gabe Levin and Marquise Moore each had 20 points for St. Thomas More, who was the top seed in the tournament thanks to very strong guard play and great preparation from long-time coach Jere Quinn.
“Anytime that you can beat a Jere Quinn coached-teams in the finals, it’s something that you have to work very hard for,” Smith said. “His teams are always very well-prepared, they don’t beat themselves, they don’t make mistakes. We could have caved in when we were down, but we persevered, we got stops when we needed to and we found a way.”
That's when Gagnon watched his Cushing team punctuate it season with a 1-0 victory over Avon to win the New England Prep School's Martin/Earl Tournament in the second of three NEPSAC championship games at the Icenter.
It was the third time Gagnon has coached against Avon. The teams skated to a 4-4 tie last season, and a 2-2 tie in December.
“Anytime you play your alma mater and win it makes it more special, but it's not about me – it's about my kids,” Gagnon said. “I'm proud of the way we competed.”
Junior forward Shane Kavanagh scored the game's lone goal 24 seconds into the contest. A shot from the point hit Kavanagh, who collected the loose puck and beat Avon goalie Cody Doyle with a shot from the right faceoff circle.
“It was a faceoff and we didn't execute defensively,” Avon coach John Gardner said. “We missed a defensive assignment. It happens. They're not pros.
“I thought there might be a lot of numbers [on the scoreboard] after that start, but the Cushing goalie played particularly well.”
Cushing senior Mike Dion made 31 saves. Doyle stopped 20 shots.
“The team played really good defense,” Dion said. “They kept everything to the outside. They didn't have many good scoring chances. It was a good way to go out.”
Gagnon said he thought it was Dion's best game in a Cushing uniform.
“His rebound control was very good,” Gagnon said. “In the first period he juggled some pucks, but swallowed everything after that. I expected this to be a 3-2 or a 4-3 game, but you never know – that's why you play.”
Third-seeded Avon was playing without two of its top forwards: senior Vincent Russo (high ankle sprain) and junior Daniel LaFontaine (broken collarbone).
Avon, which beat sixth-seeded Choate (8-0) and second-seeded Thayer Academy (3-2) to reach the championship game, completed it season with a 16-9-4 record.
“We didn't get done what we wanted to this season, to be honest with you,” Gardner said. “We battled through a lot of injuries. We have a lot of tough kids.”
The victory raised top-seeded Cushing's record to 21-7-4. Cushing posted victories over eighth-seeded Governor's Academy (4-2) and fifth-seeded Phillips Exeter (6-3) earlier in the tournament.
“We wanted to prove to the critics that we are a good team,” Gagnon said. “We wanted the kids to come together at the end – and that's what they did. It's great to bring a championship back to Cushing.”
A number of locals either move up or hold on to their spots in the latest updated rankings, including New Hampton's Noah Vonleh and Tilton's Wayne Selden. Below is the complete list of locals:
8. Noah Vonleh, Haverhill, Mass./New Hampton (N.H.)
12. Wayne Selden, Boston/Tilton (N.H.)
83. Kyle Washington, Champlin, Minn./Brewster Academy (N.H.)
6. Chris McCullough, Bronx, N.Y./Brewster Academy (N.H.)
20. Goodluck Okonoboh, Boston/Wilbraham & Monson
53. Abdul-Malik Abu, Boston/Kimball Union (N.H.)
54. Kaleb Joseph, Nashua, N.H./Cushing Academy