Boston High School: John Swords

Two of three ain't bad for L-S volleyball

June, 13, 2011
HUDSON, Mass. -- When it seemed like things were spiraling downward for her team, Lincoln-Sudbury boys' volleyball coach Bunny McClung had faith because she knew had what it takes to make a comeback.

The Warriors blew what was a five-point lead late in what should have been the deciding game of Tuesday night’s state championship game and watched Haverhill rally to grab a 27-25 win to force a fifth game.

Then, the Hillies ripped off five straight points to open the final, forcing McClung to call a timeout. In the huddle, she reminded her team of a similar comeback they had to make two years ago, erasing a seven-point deficit in the semifinals against Newton South en route to a state championship.

L-S stayed composed and gradually worked its way back into the match behind senior Ned Donaldson, who had four of his team best 12 kills, and the Warriors ultimately prevailed to defeat Haverhill, 3-2, and capture their second state title in the last three years. The Warriors won 25-20, 18-25, 25-16, 25-27, 17-15.

Senior captain Thomas Houpt added 11 kills and an impressive 20 digs for L-S, while 7-footer John Swords had nine kills and four blocks. Haverhill senior captain Brett Pettis also had 12 kills, sophomore Tommy Oliveira had 10 kills and 10 blocks, and senior captain Drew Caruso contributed nine kills for the Hillies.

“It was really a strange thing to see the lead go away in the fourth game, and then in the fifth game, it was coming back from a deficit like that,” McClung admitted. “Fifteen points is a really short match. A lot of times when you get down its really hard to recover.”

“We had to do this a couple years ago with Newton S in our semifinal match. We were down 12-5 and came back to win 18-16. so we’ve done it before. A lot of my players were there so I think that experience helped them a lot. They know they could do it and they did it.”

After splitting the first two games, L-S (21-1) dominated the third and built a seemingly insurmountable 18-13 lead in the fourth. Haverhill (21-2) got back into the game thanks to a combination of stellar play from Oliveira and a series of unforced errors by the Warriors. The Hillies grabbed their first lead of the game on a Zach Sindoni kill that made it 25-24, then finished comeback with a spectacular block by Oliveira three points later.

“This team had heart all year long. We’ve been down before and we’ve come back. There’s no quit in these guys, praised Hillies coach Bill Kaste. “They forced Lincoln-Sudbury into a few errors which I believe helped us out. We led to that by hitting the ball a little bit better at them. Tommy Oliveira did a great job at the block and we kept serving the ball in at them and making them side us out. That made it difficult for them.”

A pair of L-S mistakes, two aces by James Murray and another Oliveira block helped the Hillies build a 5-0 lead in the fifth and final game, a huge margin when you’re only playing to 15 points, before McClung took a timeout.

“After game four, I thought we would all be disappointed but we came together as a team and supported one another,” described Houpt. “To tell you the truth, I really thought we weren’t going to win that last game when we were down 5-0 in the beginning.”

L-S chipped away gradually, and took its first lead at 16-15 after a block and a kill by Houpt, and the match ended when a booming slam by Pettis landed wide of the line.

ESPNBoston's MIAA All-State Boys Basketball Team

March, 25, 2011

Guard – Samir McDaniels, Sr., New Mission
The 6-foot-3 McDaniels was the steady hand that rocked the Titans' Division 2 state championship season. He averaged 18.8 points, 12.7 rebounds and 3.1 steals as the Titans became the first team in MIAA history to win the Division 4 and Division 2 titles in back to back seasons. McDaniels recently committed to the University of New Haven for next fall.

Guard – Pat Connaughton, Sr., St. John’s Prep
The Notre Dame-bound Connaughton, currently ranked No. 96 in the ESPNU 100, once again saved his best performances for the postseason as the Eagles won the Division 1 state championship for the first time in school history. Connaughton averaged 21.8 points, 17 rebounds and 6.5 assists and took home the Massachusetts Gatorade Player of the Year award. Connaughton, who will play both baseball and basketball for the Fighting Irish next year, is ranked No. 77 in Baseball America's list of Top 100 high school prospects.

Forward – Richard Rodgers, Sr., St. John’s (Shrewsbury)
Considered one of the best athletes to come out of Central Mass in the last two decades, the 6-foot-5, 235-pound Rodgers was a monster in all facets of the game as the Pioneers made their fourth straight appearance in the Division 1 state final. The senior, who will continue his football career next fall at Cal as a tight end, averaged 17.8 points, 10.8 rebounds, 4.5 blocks, 4.1 steals and 3.4 assists in his final season in Shrewsbury. He is also the son of Holy Cross defensive coordinator and former Cal great Richard Rodgers, and the cousin of Buffalo Bills cornerback Jairus Byrd.

Forward – Jake Layman, Jr., King Philip
The 6-foot-7 Layman lived up to his potential high-major billing in his junior season with the Warriors, helping them end a 15-year postseason drought and set a school single-season record for wins (17) before bowing out in the Division 2 South finals. Layman averaged 24.6 points, 13.6 rebounds, 4.6 blocks, 3.1 steals and 2.3 assists; he also took home Hockomock League MVP honors. Layman's 1,196 points at KP are the most by any boy in school history. He currently holds offers from UMass, Providence, Boston College, Notre Dame, Texas A&M and Brigham Young.

Center – Jimmy Zenevitch, Sr., Central Catholic
A force in the middle the last three seasons for the Raiders, the 6-foot-7 Zenevitch lived up to the hype headed into his senior season. He closed out his career with a strong finish, averaging 19 points, 11 rebounds, four assists and two blocks, and stretched many a defense with his ability to post up and shoot from long distance. He earned Merrimack Valley Conference All-Star nods, and his Raiders went 39-1 in MVC play the last two seasons. Zenevitch, whose older sister Kate is a freshman forward for Boston College, will continue his career next fall at Division 2 Assumption College.


Jaylen Alicea, Sr., Lawrence
Few had as explosive a postseason as the 5-foot-8 Alicea, who averaged 30.4 points in five playoff games as the Lancers became the first No. 15 seed since 1998 to advance to the Division 1 North final. The run included a 35-point effort in a shocking first round upset of No. 2 seed Cambridge, followed up the next game with 38 on Westford. For the season, Alicea averaged 19.3 points, four assists and three steals and earned a Merrimack Valley Conference All-Star nod.

Travonne Berry-Rogers, Sr., Lynn English
The 6-foot-1 Berry-Rogers made a name for himself as one of the North Shore's best finishers in his senior campaign, which ended in a D1 North semifinal loss to Lawrence but with some Northeastern Conference recognition. The senior, who was also an NEC All-Star in football, averaged 23.5 points, five assists and five rebounds to lead the 21-3 Bulldogs. He plans on pursuing basketball at the next level, and is considering several Division 2 and Division 3 colleges.

Joe Bramanti, Sr., Andover
The 6-foot-2 Bramanti was the Golden Warriors' prized horse in 2010-11, and they rode him to a 15-5 record and an appearance in the Division 1 North tournament. Bramanti averaged 22.3 points, six rebounds and four assists in his senior season, in which he took the Merrimack Valley Conference's MVP honors by an almost unanimous decision. Bramanti is currently looking into pursuing a post-graduate season at a prep school.

Grant Cooper, Sr., Northampton
Cooper, a 6-foot-3 forward, played an instrumental role in the Blue Devils' Division 1 Western Mass championship season, and established himself as one of the premier forwards in the western part of the state. He finished his career at Hamp on a high note, averaging 11 points, 12 rebounds, 4.5 assists this season while also posting a field goal percentage of .550.

Marco Coppola, Sr., Watertown
The 6-foot-1 Coppola was instrumental to the Raiders' run to their third Division 3 state title game in six seasons, and also pitched in tremendously on the defensive end -- before losing to Whitinsville Christian in the state championship, they held their previous four opponents in the 30's. Coppola was Eastern Mass' leading scorer, averaging 25.1 points per game, and finishes fourth all-time on the school's scoring list, behind his older brother Anthony, Max Kerman and Kyle Stockmal. Coppola is currently undecided on college plans, but is leaning heavily towards Worcester Polytechnic Institute.

Mark Cornelius, Sr., Westford
The 6-foot-2 Cornelius was a scoring machine this season for the Grey Ghosts, winning the Dual County League scoring title with an average of 21.1 points per game, and was co-MVP of the league. He saved arguably his best performance for last, getting 33 points and 23 rebounds in a loss to Lawrence in a Division 1 North quarterfinal. Also a standout wide receiver for the football team, Cornelius is undecided on college plans.

Alex Gartska, Sr., Westfield
One of the state's sharpest shooters, the 6-foot-1 guard averaged 19.7 points, three rebounds and two assists per game as the Bombers marched to a 20-3 record and an appearance in the Division 1 Western Mass final against Northampton. Gartska, who was recently named the MassLive/Basketball Hall of Fame's inaugural Western Mass Player of the Year, finished his career at Westfield with 1,172 career points. He is currently undecided on college plans.

Steve Haladyna, Jr., St. John’s Prep
The 6-foot-3 junior was the Pippen to Pat Connaughton's Jordan on this year's squad, but that proved to be a pivotal role in the Eagles' first basketball state championship season. In 2010-11, he averaged 19.7 points and seven rebounds as the Eagles battled through the toughest Division 1 North bracket in recent memory.

John Henault, Sr., St. Bernard’s
The Bernardians ended their season on a sour note with a shocking upset by Oxford in the Division 2 Central tournament, but the 6-foot-2 Henault ends his career on Harvard Street on a positively high one. He leaves St. B's as the school's all-time leading scorer (1,682 points) and led the state in scoring average (27.8 points) this season. He also racked up over 600 rebounds, 200 assists and 170 steals in his four-year career with the Bernardians. Henault is currently considering several Division 2 and 3 colleges.

Mike Lofton, Sr., Mansfield
With such a unique skill set, the 6-foot-4 senior played anywhere from point guard to power forward this year for the Hockomock League champions, and excelled in every role. Lofton averaged 13.5 points, 11 rebounds. 4.5 assists and 2.7 steals this season for the 24-3 Hornets, who won a wide-open Division 1 South before falling to eventual state champ St. John's Prep on the TD Garden floor. Lofton is currently considering several Division 2 and 3 schools.

Akosa Maduegbunam, Jr., Charlestown
In 25 games this season for the Townies, the 6-foot-4 slasher averaged 22 points, eight rebounds, three assists and two steals as they captured their first Boston City title since 2006. in his two seasons at Charlestown, he has averaged 20.5 points, seven rebounds and three assists. A two-time City all-star, Maduegbunam was also named the City tournament's Most Valuable Player.

Hans Miersma, Sr., Whitinsville Christian
Few teams in the state could match up with the Crusaders' size this season, and none was more pivotal than the 6-foot-9 Miersma. He averaged 14.3 points, 8.9 rebounds and 3.7 blocks as the Crusaders captured their first Division 3 state title since 2005. The first team All-Dual Valley Conference center will continue his playing career next fall at Gordon College.

Joe Mussachia, Sr., Manchester-Essex
The 6-foot-6, Amherst College-bound forward excelled in a multitude of roles for the Hornets, who won the Cape Ann League and advanced all the way to the Division 4 North semifinals. Mussachia averaged 25.2 points, 17 rebounds, five assists, four steals and three blocks, and finishes as the school's all-time leading scorer (1,714 points). For his career at M-E, he averaged 20.9 points, 11 rebounds, four assists and three blocks.

Jarrod Neumann, Jr., Northampton
The 6-foot-3 guard/forward helped to form Western Mass's most intimidating, swarming defenses, as the Blue Devils marched all the way to a 21-3 record and the Division 1 Central/West Final, where they lost to state runner-up St. John's of Shrewsbury. For the season, Neumann averaged 15 points and 10 rebounds. Barring the unexpected, Neumann should return next fall as one of the MIAA's top 2012 prospects.

Kachi Nzerem, Sr., New Mission
As one part of the Titans' three-headed monster of a backcourt, the 6-foot-5 Nzerem was a physical force around the rim. He averaged 17.1 points and 6.1 rebounds as the Titans became the first MIAA squad in history to win the Division 4 and Division 2 titles in back to back seasons. Nzerem is considering pursuing a post-graduate season at several prep schools.

Keandre Stanton, Jr., Lynn English
It was quite the breakout season for the 6-foot-6 Stanton, a Northeastern Conference All-Star who turned in a monster junior campaign to establish himself as one of the state's best pure athletes on the blocks. He averaged 19.5 points, 12 rebounds, six blocks and achieved 10 triple-doubles on the season for the 21-3 Bulldogs, who advanced all the way to the D1 North semifinals before bowing out to Lawrence.

Jacquil Taylor, Soph., Cambridge
At 6-foot-8, the sophomore was one of the state's most imposing forces in the paint. He has started every game in his two years on the Falcons' varsity, and has only blossomed under head coach Lance Dottin; after averaging nearly a double-double as a freshman (nine points, 10 rebounds), he turned in an even more impressive sophomore season, with 13.5 points, 11.4 rebounds and 4.8 blocks as the Falcons won the Greater Boston League outright for the second year in a row. He has already amassed 166 blocks in his young career (including over 100 this year), and is a two-time GBL All-Star.

Noah Vonleh, Soph., Haverhill
Ranked the No. 23 overall player nationally in the Class of 2013 by ESPN, the 6-foot-7 Vonleh came into the season with a load of hype, and lived up to it in spite of the Hillies' struggles to a 7-13 record this season. Vonleh averaged 18.4 points, 17 rebounds, seven assists and five blocks and earned Merrimack Valley Conference All-Star recognition. Kansas, Pitt and Boston College are among the early offers for Vonleh, but expect that list to get quite lengthy over the next six months.

Yes, one of the North Shore's all-time schoolboy greats has had one of New England's top senior talents to work with the last three seasons. But this season, which culminated in the program's first state championship, was all about the role players. And between Steve Haladyna, Freddy Shove, Isaiah Robinson, Mike Carbone and Owen Marchetti, this season was about a different player stepping up every night to ease the load off superstar Pat Connaughton. For that, and to survive one of the most loaded Division 1 North brackets in recent history, Connolly deserves some credit.

1. Paul Neal, Lawrence
2. Cory McCarthy, New Mission

Bill Daley, Westfield
Paul DiGeronimo, Fitchburg
Rey Harp, Northampton
Rick Kilpatrick, Acton-Boxborough
Sean McInnis, King Philip
Duane Sigsbury, Manchester-Essex
Malcolm Smith, East Boston

G – Joe Bramanti, Sr., Andover
G – Luis Puello, Jr., Central Catholic
G – Akosa Maduegbunam, Jr., Charlestown
F/C – Jacquil Taylor, Soph., Cambridge
C – John Swords, Sr., Lincoln-Sudbury

Pat Connaughton, Sr., St. John's Prep
Marco Coppola, Sr., Watertown
Alex Gartska, Sr., Westfield
John Henault, Sr., St. Bernard's
Jake Laga, Sr., Northampton

G – Jonathan Joseph, Brockton
G – Tyler Nelson, Central Catholic
G – Damion Smith, West Roxbury
F – Drew Shea, Medfield
F – Aaron Falzon, Newton North

1. Northampton
2. St. John's (Shrewsbury)
3. Newton North
4. Central Catholic
5. St. John's Prep

(NOTE: Some headshots were provided by ESPN's Adam Finkelstein, courtesy of his New England Recruiting Report)

Swords slices Eastie in D1 North first round

March, 3, 2011

SUDBURY, Mass. -- When you're seven feet tall, and you're towering over your classmates, you tend to become somewhat of a cult phenomenon when they see you on the court. So it probably wasn't a shock to hear Lincoln-Sudbury's Bowdoin-bound senior John Swords get the loudest ovation from the stands as he took a seat on the bench with two minutes left and the Warriors' Division 1 North first round game in hand.

But on this night, Swords deserved every shred of the pop. He was nearly flawless from the field, going a near-perfect 8 for 9 for 16 points, to go along with 13 rebounds and five blocks in the Warriors' 57-39 win over East Boston, in a Division 1 North first round matchup. With the win, L-S (18-3) moves on to Sunday, where they will face the winner of Friday's clash between St. John's Prep and Billerica.

East Boston ended its season at 16-5.

"It definitely allows us to pressure more," said L-S senior Mitch Perez, who ended up with 15 points. "In the zone, we can extend more because the middle guy has to shoot over him. When they drive, they've got to get over him, they have a couple of slashers and they weren't doing much because he was clogging the middle. He did a great job."

Indeed, the Warriors' defensive mettle was never questioned in this battle with the Jets, widely considered one of the best defensive teams in the city. Where Swords lacks in mobility he makes up for in precision around the rim, timing his blocks and grabbing errant perimeter shots out of the air. And with that in mind, the Warriors sat in a 2-3 zone almost exclusively, forcing the shooting touch of Eastie that on this night was absent. The Jets went a mere 9 for 30 from the field in the first half.

Yet in spite of all that, they trailed just 24-21 at the half. At the break, L-S head coach Pat Callahan stressed a need for more execution in the halfcourt, among other things.

"For us, it was just we needed to up the intensity, because we knew they were going to up theirs," Callahan said. "And offensively, we needed to calm down, get set, and every time you get double-teamed, move the ball."

The Warriors opened the third quarter on a 10-0 run to extend their lead to 13, highlighted by the first of several crowd-popping two-handed slams from Swords, off an entry pass by Perez.

"We talked about it earlier today, there was a thought that one of the strategies might be to try and draw a bunch of fouls on me," said Swords, who had just two fouls and went to the line just twice (missing both times). "I really relied today on the first line of defense guys, my teammates pitching in, so that it wasn't just up to me. And then by the time it gets to me, it's much different. They just threw it right to my hands, they did a great job with that."

Eastie countered with some full-court pressure, but the Warriors had the perfect guy to break it with. Callahan placed swords at center court, providing a release valve to either sideline for a quality press break.

All of it left East Boston head coach Malcolm Smith dejected following the loss. Jeff Amazon led the Jets in the loss with 11 points.

"It's by far our worst game of the year," Smith said. "I guess when you say that eventually you're going to have your worst game of the year, it's too bad it was tonight. I think we shot 27 percent today...obviously the zone did give us some trouble, but I didn't it was as much trouble as us just not being prepared to shoot against it. For some reason, we practiced and prepared for it all day, it just caught up with us."

Cakert sparks No. 20 L-S over No. 7 A-B

February, 9, 2011
ACTON, Mass. -- It’s easy to take a first glance at the Lincoln-Sudbury boys' basketball team and assume its success revolves around 7-foot senior center John Swords.

But as Dual County League rival Acton-Boxborough found out in Tuesday night’s 71-56 loss to the hot-shooting Warriors, there are plenty more reasons why this team has a chance to make a deep tournament run, even in a loaded Division 1 North.

Senior point guard Denny Cakert poured in 26 points, 15 of which came in a crucial stretch in the second and third quarters that pushed his team’s lead to 23 points, stunning the vocal Colonial supporters. As a team, the Warriors were simply on fire, making 55 percent of their shots from the floor, 45 from beyond the arc, and 83 from the charity stripe.

“That’s probably (Cakert’s) best game of the year,” said L-S head coach Patrick Callahan, whose team improved to 14-3 overall, 10-2 in the DCL. “He is, in my opinion, one of the best point guards in the state. But tonight, not only did he lead us on the floor, making sure everyone was doing the right thing, he had the ball probably 75 percent of the time. And 26 points and (six) assists is pretty intense.”

“It was really a great team win,” Cakert said. “Everyone was fired up and everyone was just doing their jobs.”

Conversely, A-B (15-2 overall, 13-1 in the DCL), typically one of the best shooting teams in Eastern Massachusetts, made just 29 percent of its field goals and 22 percent of its 3-pointers. Senior sharpshooter Sam Longwell finished with 26 points for the hosts, but they all came with L-S junior Ben Lawhorn draped all over his jersey, pestering him every time he sized up the rim.

“Longwell is a tremendous shooter and our junior forward Ben Lawhorn has been our lockdown defender all year,” Cakert said. “He brings just incredible intensity to every practice, every game, and he was in (Longwell’s) face. A couple times I tried to say I wanted to cover him but he denied me. He was really excited about covering him.”

L-S broke open a close game with a dominant second quarter, as the visitors made 9-of-13 shots from the field and extended a two-point lead at the end of the first to a 35-19 lead by the break. Cakert scored his team’s first eight points of the quarter. Mitch Perez (11 points) and Mario Payne added a pair of triples to extend the lead to 12, and Cakert hit a put-back and 3-pointer before Swords (13 points, 10 rebounds, two blocks) dropped in a layup to close out the half.

Other than Longwell, who had nine points at the break, no one on A-B had more than two points.

“They did a lot of things tonight that they didn’t do when we played them three weeks ago (an A-B win) defensively and I think it caught us off-guard,” Colonials coach Rick Kilpatrick said. “And, again, I need to make sure we’re not caught off-guard by that.

“To beat them -- and this is what we did the first time -- you have to shoot it well from outside. You can try a hundred different things, but at the end of the day, you’ve got to make jump shots unfortunately. And tonight we didn’t shoot it well from outside.”

The Warriors kept the momentum of the second quarter going in the third, as Cakert, Dominic Douglas (10 points, six rebounds, three assists) and Swords sparked a 7-0 run that made it 42-19. A-B was able to rally in spurts after that, but L-S made 15-of-18 free throws in the fourth quarter to effectively lock down the win.

“This is the happiest I’ve ever been,” Cakert said. “This is an incredible feeling. I’ve never been this happy. I’ve never beaten A-B at their place. So it’s a big win.”

Preseason All-State Hoops squads

December, 8, 2010
High school basketball season is finally upon us, and to kick things off, we're unveiling our All-State teams for both boys and girls basketball. Without further ado...



First Team
G – Joe Bramanti, Sr., Andover
F – Pat Connaughton, Sr., St. John’s Prep
F – Richard Rodgers, Sr., St. John’s (Shrewsbury)
F – Jake Layman, Jr., King Philip
C – Jimmy Zenevitch, Sr., Central Catholic

Second Team
G – Victor Aytche, Sr., West Springfield
G – Steve Wynn, Jr., New Bedford
F – Samir McDaniels, Sr., New Mission
F – Akosa Maduegbanum, Jr., Charlestown
F – Noah Vonleh, Soph., Haverhill

Third Team
G – Zach Hurynowicz, Sr., Burlington
G – Jules Tavares, Sr., New Bedford
G – Jon Henault, Sr., St. Bernard’s
F – Shane Sims, Sr. Brockton
C – John Swords, Sr., Lincoln-Sudbury

Mass. All-NEPSAC (post-grads excluded)

First Team
G – Rene Castro, Soph., Beaver Country Day
G – Marcus Grant, Sr., Lawrence Academy
F – Alex Murphy, Jr., St. Mark’s
C – Kaleb Tarczewski, Jr., St. Mark’s
C – Dennis Clifford, Sr., Milton Academy

Second Team
G – Jaylen Brantley, Soph., Wilbraham & Monson
G – Canaan Severin, Jr., Worcester Academy
F – Nik Stauskas, Jr., St. Mark’s
F – Andrew Chrabascz, Soph., Cushing Academy
F – Evan Cummins, Jr., Northfield-Mt. Hermon


First Team
G – Blake Dietrick, Sr., Wellesley
G – Kendall Burton, Sr., Newton South
G – Nicole Boudreau, Jr., Andover
G – Khadijah Ellison, Sr., Burke
F – Mariah Lesure, Sr., Amherst

Second Team
G – Natalie Gomez-Martinez, Sr., Andover
G – Briana Hunt, Sr., Newton North
F – Elizabeth Belanger, Jr., Acton-Boxborough
F – Leigha Tacey, Sr., Foxborough
F – Melissa Miller, Sr., Central Catholic

Third Team
G – Blake Underhill, Jr., Ashland
G – Gabie Polce, Sr., Central Catholic
G – Sophie Bikofsky, Sr., Newton South
F – Shannon Holt, Jr., Wachusett
F – Amanda Harrington, Sr., Sutton