Boston High School: Hampshire

Roundtable: Predicting MIAA State Champs

February, 24, 2015
Feb 24
3:08
PM ET
With the MIAA Boys Basketball State Tournament field set, here are our state championship picks from each of the four divisions from our ESPNBoston.com staff and correspondents:

Brendan C. Hall
ESPNBoston High Schools editor


Division 1: Putnam
Losing to St. John's Prep just before the start of the tournament might have been the best thing to happen to the Beavers. After looking damn near invincible the first two months of the season (having seen their Hoophall performance in person, I'm convinced mighty Corona Del Sol would have fallen if Jonathan Garcia suited up), it was a reminder of their mortality, and their biggest weakness -- defending the three. Now, they've got that fire again. Fifty points beats the Beavers, but it's getting to that 50 that so few teams ever accomplish. Like Nolan Richardson's fabled Arkansas Razorbacks of the 1990's, the Beavers' defense is "32 Minutes of Hell". They are not only battle-tested -- they are ready for war. Good luck to whoever comes out of Eastern Mass. -- and the favorite seems to be changing daily, between Newton North, Mansfield, Cambridge, Catholic Memorial and a half-dozen others.

Division 2: Danvers
What John Walsh has done in just five years at the Falcons' helm is nothing short of remarkable. The Danvers head coach is already closing in on the 100-win career mark in his half-decade at Danvers, to just 19 losses, and has had four straight 20-win seasons to go with back-to-back D3 state titles. Perennially long on shooters, the Falcons have size to go with it. I don't see too many teams matching up with Devan Harris down low, and if they do, they also have to worry about hot-handed Vinny Clifford, who has rebounded quite well after injuries wiped out his junior season. A state title would give Walsh his third in just five years as a head coach, to go along with the two he won at Watertown as an assistant for his cousin Steve Harrington. Among active head coaches, only New Mission's Cory McCarthy and BC High's Bill Loughnane (each with four) would have more state hardware. There's plenty of obstacles in D2 North, including potentially troubling matchups with Brighton or Tewksbury, but it's hard to pick against the Falcons. Outside of I-495, look for Marlborough, Shepherd Hill or Longmeadow to make a run to the DCU Center floor.

Division 3: Old Rochester
This one's kind of wide open. We haven't had a D3 team ranked in our poll all season long, which speaks to the statewide parity. Something tells me we'll get a deep run out of Watertown (what else is new?), while Hampshire looks like the team to beat out west. But I'm going with the Bulldogs of Old Rochester here. They pounded their South Coast Conference schedule all year, and their athleticism is going to be a problem for a lot of teams.

Division 4: Hamilton-Wenham
This might be one of those years where the Generals could legitimately compete in a higher division and play well -- they're that stacked. Bryant football commit Nolan Wilson is going to be a problem underneath the basket, but the biggest problem of all might be sophomores Max and Marcus Zegarowski, the twin brothers of reigning NBA Rookie of the Year Michael Carter-Williams. They garnered a lot of hype from the summer circuit, and they've more than lived up to it this winter. From the other end of the state, look for Monson to make a run to the DCU Center floor behind electric senior Moody Bey.

***

Nate Weitzer
ESPNBoston correspondent


Division 1: Newton North
The South is a minefield this year, but if the Tigers manage to best Catholic Memorial once again, they'll be battle-tested, and capable of taking down the winners of the other regions. Their sole in-state loss to Franklin could serve as motivation, and get Paul Connolly's squad back on a mission.


Division 2: Danvers
The Falcons could be a favorite in the Division 1 bracket, which makes them the prohibitive favorites in Division 2. The front court dominance of Merry and Harris is only the beginning for John Walsh's squad, as sophomore point guard Devonn Allen, senior sharpshooter Vinny Clifford, and swignmen Rashad Francois and Tre Crittendon comprise one of the most talented corps in the state.

Division 3: Hampshire
The Red Raiders are loaded this year, with sharpshooters Brendan Bzdel and Mitch Ouimette leading a tough back court. They also have a matchup nightmare in the form of Conor Cronin, who is making a huge leap as he's averaging 15.4 points per game in his senior season.

Division 4: Hamilton-Wenham
With six talented seniors, including scoring machine Jimmy Campbell, the Generals have as much experience and talented as anyone in this bracket. They have a good chance to complete an undefeated season.

***

Ben Cormier
ESPNBoston correspondent


Division 1: Putnam
While its loss to Prep shows vulnerability, Putnam’s earlier performance at the Hoophall Classic shows Putnam’s power under pressure. With just two losses this season for a total of six points, the Beavers have shown that their defense can hold any team back—and I fully expect that to hold true during playoffs.

Division 2: Danvers
The Falcons, with their 79-78 win over No. 7 Lynn English, completed their first undefeated season in school history. Vinny Clifford and Devan Harris won’t allow a loss of momentum until a championship victory.

Division 3: Old Rochester
The Bulldogs don’t just beat their opponents — they blow them out of the water. Old Rochester has won 7 games this season by more than 25 points, including a 52-point victory over Seekonk. If the Bulldogs can stay consistent, they'll take home the grand prize.

Division 4: Hamilton-Wenham
One of only two undefeated teams in the ESPNBoston.com top-25 poll, Hamilton-Wenham hasn’t come close to losing many games. Even if opponents can slow the Generals down, they certainly can’t stop them.

D2 Central/West: Grafton 2, Hampshire 0

June, 12, 2014
6/12/14
12:21
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WORCESTER, Mass. -- It's starting to become old hat with the Grafton Indians. After out-lasting Hampshire Regional 2-0 in Wednesday's Division 2 state semifinal, Grafton will be vying for a third consecutive state championship. The Indians (24-0) take on Bellingham (24-1) Saturday here starting at 4 p.m.

Behind the brilliant performance of star pitcher Kendal Roy, the Indians were able to score a couple of unearned runs and keep the Red Raiders (19-4) at bay. Roy, who will attend Assumption College next fall, allowed four hits and fanned 10. Roy is 2-0 lifetime versus Hampshire, having defeated them in the 2012 state semifinal.

"Their pitcher was strong and their defense was strong and they have a few good hitters," said Roy. "But I think today we got the benefit of the doubt. We have a lot of young players on this team but when you think about Grafton softball you think of a team that is always in it and that's how we go throughout the whole season. It's not so much we expect to win but it's like we don't expect to lose. We don't go into games thinking we might lose but we're certainly not going in think we've got this game either."

Amazingly, the Indians have now won 36 straight games dating back to last year.

After the Red Raiders loaded the bases in the top half of the third only to come away empty, The Indians answered with a run in the bottom of the frame. A lead-off double by Meaghan Sawtelle. As expected, Shelbe Turpin laid down a SAC bunt. But on the play, third baseman Danielle McGan threw wildly to first which allowed Sawtelle to come home. While Hampshire stranded seven runners on base for the game, Grafton took advantage of its limited opportunities. In the first inning, Savannah Waters started the game off with a triple but was left stranded after Roy managed to escape the inning. That seemed to be the way things went all day for frustrated Red Raiders head coach Brian McGan.

"Savannah gets that triple and the door is open for us but we just couldn't knock it down," McGan said. "I told our girls we've faced a very good pitcher so you tip your hat to her. It's part of the game. Good pitching sometimes shuts down good hitting and when (Roy) had to come up big she did."

In the sixth, Roy opened by ripping a single off of pitcher Alexis Ferris (4 hits, 6 Ks). Michelle Goulet laid down a bunt towards McGan and once again, the freshman threw the ball away which plated pinch-runner Kendall Leofanti. McGan was playing with a sore right hand. In the previous inning, she swung at a pitch with her hand making more contact with the ball than the bat did. She opted to stay in the game.

As a result, with the way Roy was dealing, two runs would be enough for Grafton to move onto the finals and attempt to win its third crown.

"This team just constantly finds ways to win," Indians head coach John Gemme said. "Either a great defensive play, a timely hit or even a bunt that results in a mistake by the other team. The girls have been great they don't get flustered and played very poised today against a very good team."

Soccer Tourney Roundup: Needham gets revenge

November, 6, 2013
11/06/13
12:17
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NATICK, Mass. – The only blemish on Needham girls’ soccer’s regular season schedule was back in the second game of the season in a defeat to its Division 1 South quarterfinals opponent, Natick. The Rockets are much healthier at this point in the season and, on Tuesday night, turned the tables to reach the sectional semifinal.

Kira Oberle scored the winner and Rachel Kingston added a late goal on the break, as No. 5 seed Needham pulled out a 2-0 victory over No. 4 seed Natick on a cold evening at Natick High.

Needham head coach Carl Tarabelli praised the depth on his squad as crucial to the Rockets (12-1-7) having the energy to stay with the Herget division champions, especially coming off an overtime win in the first round and with one day less rest than the Redhawks.

He explained, “I went 18 deep into my bench today and it was a team effort; it was a complete team effort. Although I have some very, very talented players, our strength is our depth and we had to use it tonight.”

Natick head coach Lisa Wilkins admitted that there were no secrets between league rivals and it was clear from the start that Needham had a specific game plan to attack the Redhawks (12-3-4). The Rockets used width, especially down the Needham right, to avoid Herget MVP Carly Wilkins at the heart of the Natick defense.

In the opening three minutes, Kingston sped down the far side line and cut the ball back to the edge of the 18 for Oberle, who set herself but struck the post going for the bottom corner. A few minutes later, it was Alanna Bollas getting down the right side for the Rockets and she picked out Kingston, but the sophomore struck a shot just wide.

Defensively, Needham pinpointed Herget division leading scorer Haley Reddish as the person that spearheads the Redhawks attack and had Natalie Wong shadow her throughout the game. Just four minutes in, Natick had a big chance, but midfielder Danielle Ranucci’s shot from close range was closed down and blocked by Rockets keeper Emily Bowers.

Natick keeper Devan Malcolm was called into action 12 minutes before halftime. She dove low to her right to palm aside a shot from Kyra White. Wong also headed a chance narrowly wide off of a late free kick. Tarabelli was concerned with all the missed opportunities.

“I was a little nervous,” he said. “We hit the post and then we had a sitter that went wide. I was just thinking that this can’t be a re-creation of the game against Bridgewater-Raynham.”

Needham stormed out of the gates in the second half with Kingston getting several chances in the first 10 minutes out of the break. Natick turned up the pressure on the Rockets, especially after a cramp forced Wong to the bench for a few minutes midway through the second half.

With her marker on the bench, Reddish finally found a little room and sent in a corner that tipped off the bar, before a corner from the other side found her on the edge of the box and she again struck the woodwork. Ranucci also had a chance that went narrowly wide for the Redhawks.

“I thought we played outstanding in the second half,” said Wilkins. “The first half we were a little disorganized, but in the second half I thought we had equal opportunities for each team and they just capitalized and we didn’t.”

Not long after having its cross bar rung twice, Needham took the lead. Again pressure down the right touchline caused problems for the Natick defense and gave the Rockets a dangerous free kick. Kayla Steeves, who became increasingly dominant in midfield over the course of the game, found the head of Oberle and she placed into the corner to make it 1-0.

Wilkins noted, “I basically knew when we got into the second half that whoever gets the goal was going to win; that it was going to be 1-0. Their second goal was because we were pushing for the tying goal.”

With only three minutes remaining, and Natick becoming increasingly desperate to find an equalizer, Needham struck again. Sophomore Emma Spector picked out her classmate with a through ball and Kingston made no mistake with a shot across the keeper to wrap up the victory.

Kingston, who missed a large portion of the regular season with an injury, scored the overtime winner in the first round and was a consistent threat to the Natick back four. Tarabelli would not single her out after the game; he said that all of his forwards are a threat in every game and that is what makes Needham tough to defend.

“She’s just one piece,” he said. “They all bring something different. I go six deep up top. She’s fast and she’s talented, but I got six strikers and you can’t pick one because if you do then one of the others will get you.”

Statewide tournament notes from Tuesday:
  • Needham will advance to play the top seed in D1 South, Franklin, on Thursday in Medway. The other side of the bracket includes No. 2 Bishop Feehan and the Cinderella story of the tournament thus far, No. 19 Walpole. The Rebels advanced to the quarterfinals with a pair of penalty kick victories, both after scoreless games, but on Tuesday afternoon beat No. 6 North Attleborough, 2-0, on the road. Steph Lund and Lauren Regan had the goals for Walpole, which needed to win on the final day of the regular season just to qualify.
  • While Walpole’s win was impressive, it was not the biggest upset of the day. The top-ranked team in the ESPNBoston.com state wide girls’ soccer rankings was beaten in the D1 North semifinals. A lone first half goal by Acton-Boxborough’s Alex Spangler, which was described on Twitter as a bicycle kick, was enough for the Colonials to beat undefeated Central Catholic. It was the fifth goal allowed in the last three games for the Raiders, after allowing only one in their first 17 games. The win by Acton-Boxborough also denied a No. 1 versus No. 2 matchup in the sectional finals against Newton North, which eased past Masconomet, 5-0, in the early game on Tuesday.
  • On the boys’ side of D1 North, Acton-Boxborough was unable to reach the sectional semifinal after a 1-0 overtime defeat to No. 2 seed Madison Park. The Boston City League team advances to the semifinals to take on last year’s D1 North finalist, St. John’s Prep. A rematch of last year’s final is still in the cards after top seed Somerville continued its stellar play with a 4-0 win over a talented Brookline team thanks to a Thayrone Miranda hat trick. The Highlanders will need to go through No. 13 Malden in their quest to repeat as sectional champs, after Malden beat No. 12 Lowell, 3-2, in overtime.
  • D1 South has a pair of marquee matchups in the semifinals with Top 10 opponents squaring off on both sides of the brackets, although in the case of New Bedford just barely. The Whalers, the No. 4 seed and fifth-ranked team in the Top 25, needed a goal by Klisman Sousa in the final three minutes to cancel out a goal by Franklin’s Joe Kalil and send the game to overtime. After a nerve-wracking 20 minutes of sudden death and another six rounds of penalty kicks, New Bedford advanced to face top seed and No. 1-ranked Silver Lake, which has outscored teams 11-2 to get this far. On the opposite side, Needham and BC High will get a rematch of their meeting during the Bay State Conference/Catholic Conference tournament, which ended in a 1-1 tie.
  • Several marquee teams are still alive in Division 2 as well. Caitlin Harty continued to build her resume for Player of the Year with a hat trick to lead Beverly over Woburn and into a semifinal against Concord-Carlisle. Masconomet, which dropped down to D2 this year, also won 3-0 to advance to the semifinals. Both were teams that exceled in D1 last season and will be hoping to make similar waves in D2.
  • The first of the 2012 state champions to be knocked out was the Medfield girls. The Warriors scored the opening two goals of the game against top seed Scituate, but the Sailors stormed back with four goals to advance in the D2 South sectional. In fact, there will be a completely new D2 South final this year after Dartmouth defeated Duxbury, which was ranked in the Top 5, 1-0. Scituate will face No. 5 Sandwich in the semifinal and the Indians will take on No. 2 seed Notre Dame (Hingham), which survived overtime against Holliston on Tuesday.
  • Shocking news came today for the Palmer boys’ team in D3 West after it was determined that the team had accumulated five cards during its first round game with Hampshire. Palmer had won the game 2-0, but because of an MIAA rule that limits the amount of cards a team can get in a single game, it will forfeit the victory. Hampshire advances to the sectional semifinal and will take on top seed Belchertown. MassLive.com had the initial report.


WORCESTER, Mass. – The kids are better than alright.

Grafton softball, which boasts just 12 players on its game roster, only two of which were seniors this season, claimed its first-ever state championship, edging Abington, 1-0, at Worcester State University on Saturday.

The Indians ran through most of the regular season with an undefeated record, and they continued tearing through the postseason, outscoring opponents 28-4 in three games during the Division 2 Central tournament, before taking a 3-2 win over defending state champion Hampshire Regional in order to get to championship Saturday.

Once there, Grafton was carried by a sophomore pitcher, Kendal Roy, who threw a complete-game, three-hit shutout. The game-winning hit was provided by a freshman, second baseman Amanda Voellings.

This may have been the first time, but these Indians aren’t going anywhere.

“We’ve been playing since middle school, since we were 10 years old, together,” Roy said. “I think this is the team, this year and next year that’s going to be the strongest. I know all the girls, we’ve known each other for years.”

The Indians (24-1) played a very much collaborative game. Roy pitched to contact and let her slick-fielding teammates take care of the work behind her.

Yet, Roy was able to pump it up when called upon. Half of her six strikeouts came in the third inning, when she struck out the side despite some difficulty. Green Wave center fielder Alicia Reid lined a two-out single to center. The fleet-footed junior promptly stole second and kept running to third on an error on the throw down. It was then Roy ratcheted up the velocity and ended the inning on a three-pitch strikeout to end the frame.

Grafton struck for its run in the fifth, when first baseman Kate Cardoza led off with a single. After Nikki Murphy laid down a sacrifice bunt to move Cardoza over to second, Voellings rapped a two-out single to right.

“I moved in on the plate because I noticed she was going outside a lot and I struck out the first time, so I wanted to make sure I could cover [the plate],” Voellings said of her at-bat.”

SOMETHING HAD TO GIVE
Both Grafton and Abington were in uncharted waters Saturday, making the deepest postseason run in either program’s history, so someone had to go home a first-time champion.

It didn’t work out for Ernie Ortega’s Green Wave (23-3) this year, but like their Saturday opponent, Abington has a young nucleus. While the Green Wave will certainly miss outgoing ace Kelly Norton (CG, 4 K, 5 H, 0 BB vs. Grafton) in the circle, things are looking up.

“This was a great group of girls,” Ortega said. “We’re going to lose four seniors, two that were starting players, so hopefully we’ll be able to fill in some of the gaps. We’ll need to break in a pitcher or two, but we’ve got a lot coming back, so we’ll try to make a deep run next year.”

D2 EMass softball: Abington 5, Dracut 4

June, 13, 2012
6/13/12
2:29
AM ET


TAUNTON, Mass. -– Whenever a game-changing situation occurred during Tuesday’s Eastern Mass softball final, Abington right fielder Jill Marella was involved. A two-run single, a sac-fly, a fielder’s choice to score the game-winning run, a miracle catch in the field, she pretty much did it all.

Marella’s performance was a microchasm of the Green Wave’s unprecedented postseason run. After taking a 5-4 win over North sectional champion Dracut at Taunton High’s Jack Tripp Field, Abington will stare down history again with its first-ever trip to a softball championship game on Saturday.

“This is the way you want to go out senior year,” Marella said.

The Green Wave’s mettle was tested in several critical points of Tuesday’s game, and while it wasn’t always pretty, Abington (23-2) has continued to find ways to win ball games.

Dracut (23-2) erased two Green Wave leads in the early going, tying the game 1-1 through the first and 3-3 through three. Abington claimed its third lead of the game in the fourth on Marella’s sacrifice fly, scoring Victoria Chiocchio (2-for-2, two runs scored). The Middies again countered; Kaylee Kacavas’ sac-fly plated Samantha Durand in the fifth.

Although Abington regained the lead in the sixth, with Alicia Reid scoring on Marella’s bases-loaded fielder’s choice, there would be no clear sailing for the Green Wave.

Dracut had a runner in scoring position in both the home half of the sixth and seventh against Abington ace Kelly Norton. Those runners wouldn’t advance past second as the Green Wave defense held to retire the side in both innings without any further damage.

JACK OF ALL TRADES
Beside her work at the plate, Marella was instrumental to stopping a potential Middies rally in the fourth.

With the bases loaded and two out, Dracut lead-off hitter Amanda Vallante pulled a Norton offering to deep right. Although Marella initially broke in on the ball, she recovered in time to get back and snag the liner for the final out of the frame.

“I wasn’t used to the lights and I lost it for a little bit,” Marella said of her fully extended shoestring catch. “And I just kind of made a leap of faith, I grabbed it. I got lucky.”

It’s just another way Marella has delivered this postseason.

“She’s come up big every time we’ve asked her to,” Abington head coach Ernie Ortega said. “She gets the bunt down, or she gets a big hit. They play her to bunt all the time, but they don’t realize she does both, and she came up with the big hit.”

DIGGING DEEP
Norton, who is frequently dominant, found herself scrapping for three strikeouts against the Middies lineup. But she was at her best with her back against the wall in the final frames.

Abington assistant coach Marty French made several key trips to the circle to calm Norton’s nerves in those tense situations.

The experienced coach and pitching expert always seems to know exactly what to say. And how to make light of the situation.

“They’re light-hearted conversations, he likes to keep things upbeat,” Norton said. “In my head, I was freaking out, I was so nervous, but he just told me to relax.”

Norton induced a ground-ball out to end the sixth-inning rally and a couple of fly balls to end threats in the fifth and sixth.

Whatever French had to offer must’ve been pretty funny.

WHAT’S NEXT
Abington’s chance at ultimate history comes Saturday at Worcester State College (4 p.m.) when the Green Wave will face Central sectional champion Grafton, which claimed a 3-2 win over Hampshire in the other state semifinal game on Tuesday.

Ortega feels his team will enter battle-tested.

“We’ve face some really, really tough teams coming out of the South. It’s just amazing the talent that has come out of there and to be able to be where we are now, I don’t think it’s really sunk in yet.”

“Coming this far, we have to win,” Norton added. “We have to win.”

Roundtable: Predicting the MIAA tournaments

May, 31, 2012
5/31/12
11:45
AM ET
Today, with the MIAA Baseball and Softball tournaments set to begin, the lacrosse tournament in its first action, we roll out predictions from ESPNBoston.com staff and correspondents.

BOYS LACROSSE

Scott Barboza
ESPN Boston High Schools Editor


DIVISION 1 EASTERN MASS.

Final - Duxbury over Acton-Boxborough
Why this pick: Really?

DIVISION 2

Eastern Mass.
Final - Concord-Carlisle over Hingham

Central
Final - Algonquin over Grafton

West
*Brackets to be released

State Final
Concord-Carlisle over Algonquin
Why this pick: The Patriots defend better than just about anybody in the state, save for No. 1 Duxbury. While C-C might not overwhelm with offense, they're still talented up top with Will Blumenberg and Jackson Finigan.

Division 3 EMass
Final - Dover-Sherborn over Norwell
Why this pick: Because it has to be the Raiders' year eventually, right?

SOFTBALL

Scott Barboza
ESPN Boston High Schools Editor


Division 1

North
Final - Malden over Boston Latin

South
Final - King Philip over Bridgewater-Raynham

Central
Final - Milford over Shrewsbury

West
Final - Agawam over Minnechaug

State final - Milford over King Philip
Why this pick: The Scarlet Hawks have been the most consistent team box to wire. And there's Shannon Smith, who's been unreal this season.

Division 2

North
Final - Dracut over Burlington

South
Final - Coyle-Cassidy over Fairhaven

Central
Final - Grafton over Notre Dame Academy

West
Final - Hampshire over Wahconah

State Final - Dracut over Grafton
Why this pick: The Middies beat up on a deep Merrimack Valley Conference schedule this season. That'll make the postseason seem a little easier.

Division 3

North
Final - St. Mary's (Lynn) over Greater Lowell

South
Final - Greater New Bedford over Avon

Central
Final - Blackstone Valley Tech over Assabet

West
Final - Turners Falls over Franklin County Tech

State final - Greater New Bedford over Blackstone Valley Tech
Why this pick: As mentioned in my bold prediction, I think the Bears will enter well adapted to playoff softball.

BASEBALL

Brendan Hall
ESPN Boston High Schools Editor


DIVISION 1

North: Lowell
The No. 1 seed Red Raiders have one of the state’s toughest draws to start, in a pairing I like to call the “Group of Death” in the upper left quadrant of the bracket. To get to the semifinals, the Raiders have to face the winner of tonight’s Westford-Salem matchup, followed by the winner of Chelmsford and Malden Catholic. Should they make it to the semifinals, the presumptive opponent would likely be Peabody -– and you have to think the Tanners will roll out ace Pat Ruotolo in that matchup.

If the Raiders can survive all of that -– which they can, with a deep stable of hitters and one of the state’s best rotations in Matt Tulley, Chad Gens and R.J. Noel –- why shouldn’t they win this bracket?

South: BC High
“Group of Death 1-A” might be the lower left quadrant in this bracket –- Barnstable, Catholic Memorial, Framingham and the Eagles. A win over Framingham would pit the Eagles against either CM or Barnstable –- neither of which is an easy out by any stretch – and after that, you have to think there is vengeance on their minds at the possibility of facing Franklin again in the semifinals (the Panthers crushed BC High last year, plating 17 runs). A BC High-Xaverian final isn’t out of the question here.

Central: St. John’s of Shrewsbury
No team in the state has been as consistent as the Pioneers, who swept St. John’s Prep, didn’t allow a run in two games against Burncoat, and came back around to clobber their lone losses (BC High, New Bedford) the second time through. Look for Ben White, Mike Badjo and company to beat Milford in a much-anticipated final.

West: East Longmeadow
This is the last chance for the Spartans, who have been placed with lofty expectations since the town won the state American Legion title two summers ago. If Steve Moyers, Matt O’Neil and company can’t get it done this year, then when?

State Champion: Lowell
One of the state’s great baseball cities gets a state title to call its own, while Tulley and Gens go down as two of the Mill City’s best ever.

DIVISION 2

North: Danvers
North Andover is the No. 1 seed for the second straight year, but Danvers has the big-game experience to overcome everybody else in this bracket. Potential semifinal matchups with either Lynn Classical or Reading will be must-see.

South: Plymouth North
This is my bold prediction of the playoffs. Few teams across the state have a track record like Eagles skipper Dwayne Follette when it comes tournament time, and if they can get by Dennis-Yarmouth in the quarterfinals –- a team they lost to twice this season –- I can see them overcoming Hingham or Oliver Ames. Top seed Dighton-Rehoboth lost to the Eagles in last year’s final, by the way –- could we see this again in 2012?

The Eagles are aggressive on the basepaths and at the plate, in a unique brand of baseball my loyal legion of Twitter followers have dubbed “DwayneBall”. How this hasn’t become a hashtag until 2012 is anyone’s guess, but let’s get this trending, fellas.

Central: Auburn
Rockets have the clearest path to the final, whereas No. 1 seed Northbridge might have to avoid an upset from feisty Hudson in the quarterfinals. The Rockets also hold the advantage over Northrbridge in the regular season.

West: Monument Mountain
More than Pittsfield or Taconic, everyone out west says this is the best team in the Berkshires. And the fact the Spartans have been doing it all without Columbia-bound shortstop John Kinne, who has been out all season, is even more impressive.

State Champion: Plymouth North
A seven-loss state champion? Better believe it. I like the Eagles’ chances in any given year, to be honest.

DIVISION 3

North: Lynnfield
Or to put it more bluntly, I like any team from the Cape Ann League taking this field.

South: Coyle-Cassidy
Mac Curran gets most of the attention, but this is a squad that dominated the Eastern Athletic Conference, has won 10 of its last 11, and is among the state’s stingiest defenses (2 runs allowed per game). A potential semifinal matchup with Wareham is very intriguing.

Central: Maynard
Bryant University commit Mike Marshall has been as good as advertised for the Tigers, but he’s not alone. The Tigers have five starters batting over .375, led by Marshall, and will dole out ace righty Ben Chiasson, a Franklin Pierce commit who has been one of Central Mass.’s best (7-1, 51 IP, 83 K, 12 BB, 0.96 ERA).

West: Frontier
Frontier and Pioneer Valley (the top two seeds in this field) split the regular-season series, but I’m going to go with Frontier unseating the defending Division 3 runners-up. Quality bats in the Frontier lineup, let by Keith Spencer, Rylan Baronas and Niko Ames -– those three have a combined 64 RBI between them.

State Champion: Coyle-Cassidy
We could end up with a heck of a pitchers’ duel at Fitton Field if it’s Coyle’s Curran against Maynard’s Chiasson, but for now that’s just wishful thinking of course.

Andy Smith
Correspondent


Division 1 North: St. John’s Prep
Coach Pat Yanchus said Saturday his team isn’t hitting the way he’d like them to be going into the tournament, but they have enough strong pitching and defense to carry the bats if needed. Plus, given the way the bracket is laid out, it’s hard not to see Prep cruising to at least the semi-finals. I think they can win the final two games and take the North.

Division 1 South: Norwood
8-0 over its last 8 games. Call it a crazy pick, but I never bet against the Big Mo...mentum.

Division 1 Central: St. John’s (Shrewsbury)
Hard to find a team that has played as well as SJS has against against a schedule as tough as SJS had this season. I can’t see any team taking SJS down in this bracket. I think this is a state finals team.

Division 1 West: Springfield Cathedral
Cathedral went 18-2 and won four games all year by more than 3 runs. That type of experience with small deficits can only help in the playoffs, where most games are the tightly-contested, grind-it-out type.

Division 1 State Champion: St. John’s (Shrewsbury)
If I think long enough, I could talk myself into Prep winning D1, but SJS has been playing too well for too long for me to think someone will take them down in these playoffs.

Division 2 North: Danvers
The Falcons have outscored opponents 33-14 in the past five games. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and say Saturday night’s 8-2 loss to St. John’s Prep was a reminder of the difficulties that lie ahead in the playoffs. I look for them to go all the way.

Division 2 South: Dennis-Yarmouth
Same rationale as D1 South: D-Y is 10-0 in its last 10 games. I’ll take the team with the most momentum going into the playoffs and feel good about it.

Division 2 Central: Northbridge
Important rule to follow: If you want to keep getting assignments, don’t bet against ESPNBoston.com Editor David Lefort's alma mater. Northbridge it is.

Division 2 State Champion: Northbridge over D-Y
I can’t see a team from the West making it to the state title game. Ultimately, I don’t think Danvers has enough pitching to make it to the finals. I’m taking Northbridge here because of nothing more than a gut feeling. I could very well be wrong here. It wouldn’t be the first time.

Division 3 North: Newburyport
They won Division 3 last season. Their longtime coach retired at the end of last year, but here they are again. This veteran team was two wins away from the No. 1 seed in this bracket. Give me the team that’s been there before. I trust them to do it again.

Division 3 South: Coyle-Cassidy
This bracket is Coyle's to lose. Two of its three losses this season came against Dartmouth, and that team isn’t in this bracket. C&C is an easy pick here.

Division 3 Central: Oxford
This team is capable of putting up a lot of runs when it needs to (scored double-digit runs eight times this season). I like teams with firepower, so I’m picking Oxford here.

Division 3 State Champion: Newburyport
For all the reasons mentioned in the bold prediction.

John Botelho
Staff Writer, Brockton Enterprise


South Section Champions:

Division 1: BC High
The offense has been top notch all season, and probably features more future NCAA D1 hitters than any lineup affiliated with the MIAA. Put metal bats in their hands after using wood all year, and the Eagles will bash their to a South crown.

Division 2: Oliver Ames
Hall of Fame coach Leo Duggan seems to have a knack for developing pitching. Ryan O'Shea, a Central Michigan commit who was supposed to be the staff ace, has thrown four innings this year because of a shoulder injury. The Tigers didn't miss a beat early and raced out to a commanding lead they never relinquished in the Hockomock League Davenport Division. Their path won't be an easy one, but David Holmes (4-0, 1.35 ERA) is as good as any pitcher in this sectional. If he beats Pembroke, one of the Tigers' younger pitchers will have to find a way to pitch OA past a very good Hingham team but this team is capable of playing with anyone, and comes into the tourney battle tested from Hockomock League play.

Division 3: East Bridgewater
The Vikings and Coyle & Cassidy will get a lot of play here, but E-B just seems to have the clearest bracket. Coyle will have to go through Apponequet or Rockland in the quarterfinals before squaring off with the likes of a string Wareham or Middleboro team just to reach the finals. The Warriors are loaded with pitching, led by Mac Curran and Donny May, who both sports sub-1.00 ERAs this year, but they have less room for error than East Bridgewater does. A match-up featuring these two teams in the final would be ideal, as they're probably the two most complete teams in this sectional.

State Champs

Div. 1: BC High beats Lowell in EMass final, then takes out Steve Moyers and East Longmeadow in the state title game.
Div. 2: Danvers beats Monument Mountain in state title game.
Div. 3: Lynnfield beats Pioneer Valley in state title game.

2012 Hoophall Classic schedule set

October, 21, 2011
10/21/11
1:49
PM ET
The Basketball Hall of Fame has unveiled the schedule for the 11th Annual Hoophall Classic, annually one of the nation's top high school invitationals, at Springfield College's Blake Arena, and once again it's a loaded list.

Traditionally held on Martin Luther King Jr. Day Weekend, the invitational has now expanded to five days, with a slate of local Western Mass. teams facing off on Thursday to kick things off.

St. Mark's, Oak Hill (Va.), Findlay Prep (Nev.), Bishop Gorman (Nev.), St. Anthony (N.J.), St. Patrick (N.J.) and DeMatha Catholic (Md.) all return for the second straight year, and all will be involved in key matchups. Some of the more enticing local matchups include Northwest Catholic (Conn.) and its prized 6-foot-8 junior Kuran Iverson takes on national power DeMatha, led by ESPNU 100 stars Jerami Grant (Syracuse) and James Robinson (Pitt).

A trio of New England prep school matchups also highlight the weekend, with Tilton (N.H.) and Brewster Academy (N.H.) squaring off early Sunday evening, followed by Notre Dame Prep and New Hampton (N.H.). Monday afternoon, Wilbraham & Monson will face St. Thomas More (Conn.).

Here is the complete schedule for the weekend:

THURSDAY, JAN. 12
4 p.m. - Springfield Commerce vs. Springfield Sci-Tech
5:30 p.m. - Springfield Cathedral vs. Central Catholic
7 p.m. - Springfield Central vs. Springfield Putnam
8:30 p.m. - Mahar vs. Hampshire

FRIDAY, JAN. 13
3 p.m. Sabis vs. Springfield Central (Girls)
4:30 p.m. - Sabis vs. New Leadership
6 p.m. - West Springfield vs. Cicero North (N.Y.) (Girls)
7:30 p.m. - East Longmeadow vs. Christ the King (N.Y.) (Girls)
9 p.m. - East Longmeadow vs. Longmeadow

SATURDAY, JAN. 14
Noon - Springfield Central vs. Windsor (Conn.)
2 p.m. - St. Patrick (N.J.) vs. LaVerne Lutheran (Calif.)
4 p.m. - Gonzaga College (D.C.) vs. Riverside Academy (La.)
6 p.m. - Oak Hill (Va.) vs. Prestonwood Christian (Texas)
8 p.m. - Northwest Catholic (Conn.) vs. DeMatha Catholic (Md.)

SUNDAY, JAN. 15
10 a.m. - Our Savior New American (N.Y.) vs. Mount St. Joseph (Md.)
Noon - St. Thomas More (Conn.) vs. Wilbraham & Monson
2 p.m. - St. Mark's vs. Friends Central (Penn.)
4 p.m. - Tilton (N.H.) vs. Brewster Academy (N.H.)
6 p.m. - Notre Dame Prep vs. New Hampton (N.H.)
8:30 p.m. - Skills Challenge

MONDAY, JAN. 16
11 a.m. - St. Anthony (N.J.) vs. Miller Grove (Ga.)
1 p.m. - DeMatha Catholic (Md.) vs. Bishop Gorman (Nev.)
3 p.m. - Simeon (Ill.) vs. Findlay Prep (Nev.)
5 p.m. - Christ The King (N.Y.) vs. Mater Dei (Calif.)
7 p.m. - Granby vs. St. Joseph's (Pittsfield)

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