Boston High School: Kachi Nzerem

Kachi Nzerem commits to St. Rose

May, 4, 2012
Former New Mission guard and Marianapolis (Conn.) post-graduate Kachi Nzerem has committed to the College of St. Rose for the 2012-13 season, according to New Mission head coach Cory McCarthy.

Nzerem, a Hyde Park resident, was fielding interest from several other Northeast-10 schools in addition to St. Rose, including Southern Connecticut State, New Haven and Franklin Pierce. He also fielded Division interest to varying levels at times in his high school career, including Maine, New Hampshire, Sacred Heart, Tulane and Florida International.

"I thought they were a good fit from day one when they called about him," McCarthy said. "They wanted him the most and he appreciated that. When it comes this time of year, you go where you're wanted most. He felt like they recruited him the hardest. They wanted him from the jump."

The 6-foot-5 Nzerem was an integral part of Mission's abrupt rise in the MIAA basketball landscape, helping the Titans win the Division 4 title in 2010 and then Division 2 in 2011. It was the first time in MIAA history that a team won back-to-back titles in different divisions.

Nzerem was also named to ESPN Boston's inaugural MIAA All-State Team in 2011, after averaging 17.1 points and 6.1 rebounds. He is the third member of Mission's backcourt from 2010-11 to continue their career at a Northeast-10 school, joining Samir McDaniels (New Haven) and Darius Davis (Bentley).

Boston Warriors showcase tomorrow night

May, 30, 2011
Tomorrow at 7 p.m. at Waltham High School, the Boston Warriors AAU program will hold its 3rd Annual College Showcase Night to showcase its juniors and sophomores, as well as several uncommitted seniors.

The evening will begin with 45 minutes of individual skill work, with the players split up between big men and guards. Former Providence College and Atlanta Hawks star Troy Brown will be working the big men; Watertown High coach Steve Harrington, a two-time MIAA state champion coach, will be working out the wings and guards.

The last 75 minutes all of the players will be split up to run five-on-five games on both courts, in front of the college and prep school coaches on in attendance. Below is the preliminary list of players expected to be in attendance:

Kachi Nzerem, 6-5, New Mission / Marianapolis
Nate Anderson, 6-6, New Mission
Kenny Reed, 5-10, Reading
Matt Droney, 6-4, Catholic Memorial
Max Risch, 6-6, Old Rochester
Jared Lewis, 6-3, Malden Catholic
Jordan Lewis, 6-1, Malden Catholic
Corey Gomes, 6-6, Uxbridge
Abiodun Akanni, 6-4, Fitchburg
Ryan Jann, 6-3, Westford Academy
Jerry Ellis-Williams, 6-5, Reading
Tyson Hallowell, 6-2, Middlesex
Sam Musler, 5-11, Belmont
Isshiah Coleman, 6-5, New Mission
Leroy Hamilton, 6-3, New Mission
Anthony Bell, 5-10, Boston Cathedral
Tony Alexander, 6-3, Boston Prep
Kyle Howes, 6-1, Maynard
Chris Murray, 6-1, Littleton
Joseph Connelly, 6-1, Beaver Country Day
Mark Melanson, 6-2, Burlington
Patrick McHugh, 6-4, Watertown
Isaac Carp, 5-10, Pingree
Ben Lawhorn, 6-3, Lincoln-Sudbury
Terrence Manning, 5-10, St Rafael's (R.I.)
Mario Payne, 6-0, Lincoln-Sudbury

Boston City League All-Star Classic rosters

March, 31, 2011
The Boston Scholar Athlete Program and the Boston Centers for Youth and Families have announced the teams and award winners for the 2011 Boston City League Basketball All-Star Classic.

The game will take place this Saturday at Northeastern University's Cabot Center, with the doors opening at 1:30 p.m., the girls' game starting at 2 p.m. and the boys' game following at 4 p.m.

Below are the rosters and award winners for the North and South divisions:


Jose Alfonseca, Sr. G, Snowden
Jeff Amazon, Sr. G, East Boston
Jonathon Deane, Jr. G, Latin Academy
CJ Dowdell, Sr. F, Charlestown
Rony Fernandez, Jr. G, Charlestown
Tyrese Hoxter, Soph. F, Charlestown
Khayree Hudson, Sr. C, Madison Park
James Jones, Sr. F, Fenway
Kwamaine Lane, Sr. F, Latin Academy
Walter Lewis, Sr. G, East Boston
Akosa Maduegbunam, Jr. G, Charlestown
Paul Maurice, Jr. G, Snowden
Tyrell Pugh, Sr. F, South Boston
Johan Vizcaino, Sr. G, South Boston
Stan Winn, Sr. G, East Boston

Coach of the Year: Edson Cardoso, Charlestown
Sportsmanship Award: Troy Bowens, Snowden

Dominique Boyd, Sr. F, Dorchester
Jared Butler, Soph. C, O'Bryant
Jakari Christopher, Jr. G, Burke
Darius Davis, Sr. G, New Mission
Jason Hall-Sergenton, Sr. F, West Roxbury
Dwayne James, Sr. G, Burke
Samir McDaniels, Sr. G, New Mission
Jesse Noel, Sr. G, Hyde Park
Kachi Nzerem, Sr. F, New Mission
Roger Paul, Sr. G, West Roxbury
Chris Shelton, Sr. F, Burke
Bernadin St. Vil, Sr. C, Brighton
Andrew Toney, Sr. F/C, Brighton
Alex Villanueva, Sr. G, Boston English
Kevon Young, Sr. G, Brighton

Coach of the Year: Hugh Coleman, Brighton
Sportsmanship Award: Jakari Christopher, Burke


Sara Centeio, Fr. G, Charlestown
Kayla Cox, Jr. G, Fenway
Maria Delvecchio, Jr. C, East Boston
Kaila Duarte, Soph. C, Fenway
Amber Edwards, Soph. G, Madison Park
Krystal Edwards, Soph. G, Madison Park
Makeeba Farguarson, Sr. C, Charlestown
Brittani Hardy, Sr. F/C, Snowden
Davetta Kinner, Sr. G, Latin Academy
Jovanna Sandifer, Jr. G, Snowden
Maya Scott, Sr. F, Latin Academy
Cleusa Sequeria, Sr. G, Fenway
Daitannah Smith, Fr. F, South Boston
Tajanay Veiga-Lee, Soph. G, Fenway
Elaina Wright-McCarthy, Fr. G, South Boston

Coach of the Year: Carla Hands, Madison Park
Sportsmanship Award: Maya Scott, Latin Academy

Araion Bradshaw, 8th G, O'Bryant
Robbie Cardoso, Sr. G, New Mission
Kiana Dailey, Soph. F, O'Bryant
Pierline Durand, Sr. G, O'Bryant
Khadijah Ellison, Sr. G, Burke
Ashley Jean-Louis, Soph. G, Boston English
Tianna Johnson, Jr. G, New Mission
Raven Kelsey, Fr. F, O'Bryant
Jazala Laracuente, Fr. G, New Mission
Fredericka Lawson, Sr. F, Burke
Trayana Mair, Soph. G, Boston English
Rachelle Pierre, Jr. F, Hyde Park
Marissa Serrette, Soph. G, West Roxbury
Shantal Solomon, Sr. G, Brighton
Aaliyah Williams, Jr. F/C, Dorchester

Coach of the Year: Gertrude Fisher, O'Bryant
Sportsmanship Award: Pierline Durand, O'Bryant

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)

Mission makes history with D2 state championship

March, 19, 2011

WORCESTER, Mass. – New Mission celebrated their first ever Division 2 state championship at the DCU Center on Saturday, as the Titans beat Northbridge, 67-57.

“I can’t be happier,” exclaimed Mission head coach Cory McCarthy after his team's exciting victory.

This also marks the first time in MIAA history that a team has won the Division 4 and Division 2 titles in back to back years. The Titans memorably blew out Boston Cathedral on the TD Garden floor last March to capture their first state title in school history.

“It feels real good,” said Mission senior guard Darius Davis. “At the beginning of the year we set the goal to be at the DCU Center [and win] a state championship”

The Titans celebrated the win by dumping apple juice onto McCarthy’s suit in which their head coach explained the significance of the drink when he stated, “[My] guys watch NBA. It’s not champagne, it’s apple juice [and] it’s not bad either.”

After winning the opening tip, New Mission (22-4) began the game by playing impressive team basketball, as they scored baskets in the paint, as well as beyond the arc. The Titans also utilized their full-court press, which provided a great deal of pressure on Northbridge’s offense.

“Their quickness on the press hurt us and they just played really well, they’re just a great team,” said Northbridge head coach Paul Baker.

Yet, despite an early 10-3 by the Titans, the Rams attempted to respond to their poor start with their senior guard, Corey Pryor, who finished the game with 17 points. Pryor appeared to be the only member of the Rams' (20-6) high school squad who could drive, shoot and rebound against New Mission’s defense.

“They’re a very talented team and I feel like we came out probably a little scared of intimated. We just weren’t ready for that type of talent,” said Pryor said.

Although, Northbridge had no answer when it came to stopping New Missions senior guards Samir McDaniels and Darius Davis, as well as junior guard Kachi Nzerem, who combined for 48 of their 67 points.

“All three are just very good. They do everything. They shoot the ball well, they take it to the hoop, they rebound, they get it off the glass, they’re tough to stop,” said Baker.

“I’ll tell you one thing, they’ve been together, they stuck together, they’re four different personalities and many times, usually in those situations its tough to manage, but we were able to pull it out. They were able to stick together and pull it out because these guys are high character guys,” said McCarthy.

New Mission extended their large lead during the second half, as well as forced the Rams to beat them from outside the paint, which didn’t seem to work. Northbridge only converted 17 of its 45 shots from the field.

Despite their large lead, the Titans continued their game plan of putting the ball down low and scoring easy baskets in the paint.

“We were so focused on getting the ball inside,” said New Mission head coach Cory McCarthy. “Once we got the ball inside we thought good things would happen.”

Although, once the fourth quarter began, it had already been decided that New Mission was going to leave Worcester as champions, which allowed McCarthy to allow his players one final curtain call, as well as a hug after leaving the floor.

WORCESTER, Mass. -- The idea came back to Cory McCarthy on the bus ride home from Lowell after his New Mission team wrapped up the Division 2 North title last week.

Instead of the taking the long ride to the game hours before its start, McCarthy had the idea to have a sleepover of sorts.

“I was thinking, why don’t we just stay there overnight,” the Titans head coach said.

McCarthy implemented his idea before New Mission’s 67-57 win over Central champion Northbridge on Sunday at the DCU Center. It paid off.

The only caveat was that the Titans didn’t stay in downtown Worcester, they stayed overnight at a hotel a couple of minutes away from McCarthy’s Dorchester home. To McCarthy, it didn’t really matter where they stayed, he just needed a little time away from home.

“Hey, I needed to be my team’s sixth best player today,” McCarthy said, followed by his trademark self-deprecating guttural laugh. “I had to get my mind right and make sure my mind was clear. I wanted to have my defensive and offensive game plans down.”

It was evident McCarthy had clarity of min and his players executed the game plan flawlessly. By the start of the fourth quarter, the Titans held a 21- point lead, after Kachi Nzerem’s three-pointer to close the third.

“All we worked on this week is defense,” said Nzerem, who poured in 15 points. “All we wanted to do is try and stop them … We know that if we play good defense, our offense will open up.”

The victory capped New Mission’s meteoric rise from the Division 4 ranks. Although an odds-on favorite wire-to-wire to win the Division 2 crown this season, it was just a year ago that the Titans completed a successful Division 4 title run. A year before that, they didn’t even reach double digits in wins — five to be exact.

It’s all a credit to the man his players simply call Cory.

“Cory’s a straight line,” said senior Charles Gunter who chipped in eight points, “if you cross the line, he was there to remind you. He didn’t want to you fail. He wants to see you succeed as young men and as players.”

His players have also repaid the favor, time and time again.

With about a minute to play in the first quarter, Gunter hit the floor hard going after a rebound. It took a few moments for Gunter to regain his wind, sauntering toward the bench after a stoppage of play down the offensive end.

McCarthy greeted him, saying, “Are you for real?”

“He’s on the floor all the time,” McCarthy added.

Gunter knew exactly how to respond: “I got this Cory.”

Gunter got back on the floor. He, along with New Mission’s fellow senior starters Darius Davis (team-leading 17 points) and Samir McDaniels (16 points), seemed as though they never left the floor. They finally went to the bench with less than a minute to play, when the game was well in hand.

“I love those guys,” McCarthy said of his seniors.

He paused, “I don’t really say that to anybody.”

Maybe it’s because of their character, or their work ethic, their skill or their personality.

It’s easy to see why McCarthy talks of his team with such affection.

When asked how he was going to celebrate the Titans’ latest title, McDaniels responded that he was going to hit the gym tomorrow.

Satisfaction only comes with accomplishment.

Disability doesn't stop Mission's Hamilton

March, 19, 2011
ROXBURY, Mass. -- With three seconds to go in last Saturday's Division 2 North final at the Tsongas Center, and in need of a clean inbounds pass to hold on to their 56-54 lead over Boston City rival Brighton, the New Mission Titans gathered themselves in the timeout, and thought of nobody better to heave a Hail Mary to than Leroy Hamilton.

Head coach Cory McCarthy was hesitant at first, but in the end thought he would be the perfect guy for Charles Gunter to heave the long pass over the Bengals' defense, which stuck all five players in the backcourt for intense pressure.

[+] EnlargeLeroy Hamilton
Brendan Hall for ESPNBoston.comDespite being born with a deformed left hand, Leroy Hamilton has emerged as New Mission's leading rebounder and one of its leading scorers (11 points per game).

Said senior guard Darius Davis, "I was actually the one that said do it, because Charlie's taking the ball out, and for two possessions in a row they didn't want the ball in my hands. So I just told Charles, if you can't get it to me to to shoot free throws, then just throw it long, get enough air under it and let Leroy catch it. And I've got faith that he's not going to drop the pass."

Sure enough, the 6-foot-3 junior came up with the ball, and the Titans avoided the upset bid to capture the North sectional title.

One glaring problem, though: common logic says that Hamilton shouldn't have even gotten a grip on the ball.

See, Hamilton, a 16-year-old junior starting forward on Mission's state finalist basketball squad, was born with a deformity on his left hand that has left him with just two fingers his whole life, with a pinky and a thumb twice as thick as a normal thumb.

Hamilton is a quiet kid in the hallways at this Roxbury-based high school. So subtle does he make it that from a distance, it's tough to tell. And tucked away amidst all the hype surrounding the Titans' Northeast-10 ready backcourt of seniors Samir McDaniels, Kachi Nzerem and Davis, Hamilton slides by even more anonymously. Yet he is no less crucial to the team's success, as they prepare for Northbridge today at 4 p.m. at Worcester's DCU Center, for the Division 2 state championship.

"It's sort of like natural selection, he's adapted," says head coach Cory McCarthy, who is also the school's Dean of Students. "Natural selection says what, we don't need our pinkies? Seriously though, I don't even think half the school knows. Because he's just so high-functioning."

To the outsider, daily routines might seem like a chore to Hamilton, but it's something he's grown numb to -- "Just gotta work with it," he shrugs to each question about his daily functioning.

"Some people look at it as a handicap, but I don't really look at it that way," he said. "It's like, I do everything that everybody else does. It's just the same. I feel like everybody's different, but we're all the same at the same time, you know?"

Only, it shouldn't. Human nature says Hamilton shouldn't be one of the Titans' leading scorers (11 points) and rebounders (six) right now, let alone starting every game. He shouldn't be the one cleaning up the glass on the weakside post, or stepping back for 15-foot perimeter shots with that light backspin and perfect 60-degree arc. He shouldn't be the one dropping 13 points -- all of them in crucial moments -- over Hopkinton at the TD Garden on a Tuesday night in a playoff game.

Yet there he is, dunking on breakaways. There he is, taking senior center Charles Gunter hard into the post in practice, dizzying him with spin moves and drop steps, dropping a floater with his left -- yes, that's right, finishing with his left.

"It's a quick pivot, he goes either left or right, with or without his disability," Gunter said. "You never know what his next move is. He'll go left with his left, real quick dribble, pull up or spin."

Said McCarthy, "You never know how he gets it off. His body has caught up to whatever disability he has."

If anything, though, perhaps the left hand actually works to his advantage. Too much grip out of one's guide hand, as many a player will tell you, can sporadically alter the shot. So with such limited use of the hand, forcing it into a guide role, it gives Hamilton just the right amount of soft touch to keep the shot straight and slick.

All of it has the Titans playing inspired, in a program that is never short on inspiration.

"Leroy is very down to Earth, very respectful, always trying to do hard and go hard," Gunter said. "He's always looking to better himself as a person and player, just a cool dude to be around, very high spirited very playful, never really down at all. When we need help with something, he acts so he'll get better at it, especially with plays and stuff. He just doesn't let his disability make him any less a hard worker than he is."

McCarthy admits that should he ever decide to leave Mission, Hamilton -- who he's already penciled in as a co-captain next season -- "is the reason I'd come back."

"Always, definitely," he said when asked about Hamilton's impact on him personally. "I feel like he is the single most coachable kid I've ever had, maybe because I don't take him for granted. I feel like there's a lot worse people in the world that would deserve that. If he could function like everyone else, he'd be amazing. It's a huge credit to his work ethic, he works so hard. We would have to tell him to go home, he's still here.

"If he could live in a gym, he'd live in a gym, and I'd be right there with him. Great kid, he'll come to games and whatever I tell him to do he listens."

And with that, the conversation drifts back to his playing ability. Practice has ended 20 minutes ago on this late Friday afternoon at the Reggie Lewis Center, and McCarthy watches from the bleachers as Hamilton stays on the court knocking down shots with Jeremiah Burke High's ubertalented female point guard, Mississippi State commit Khadijah Ellison, who stands casually rebounding.

Hamilton has just nailed his fifth straight shot from the same spot 12 feet out along the left baseline, with that same parabolic arc and slow rotation.

"I think it's because of that balance, it gives him just the right amount of touch," McCarthy said. "I feel like more than anyone else, every time he shoots the ball, it's going in. It's crazy."

He then points to the court.

"I mean, look at him, he's on fire right now!" he exclaims. "He doesn't miss."

ESPNBoston's Hoops Finals Picks

March, 18, 2011
We've got you covered from the first tip-off to the final buzzer tomorrow at Worcester's DCU Center, home of six MIAA basketball state championships. But for now, to whet your appetite, here's high school editor Brendan Hall's picks for each of the six games.

The Lowdown: In a season of relative unknowns in Division 3, the Wildcats of Lee dominated Western Mass again, albeit to nobody's surprise. Puncutated by wins over Division 1 finalist Amherst and Division 3 juggernaut Sabis (which was averaging nearly 70 points per game before falling in the D3 West final to Lee), the Wildcats are at it again with that famously dogged press of theirs. Always undersized yet always relentless, they blitzed Pentucket a year ago on the DCU floor en route to their sixth state title in 20 years, and could be up to their same old tricks tomorrow morning. St. Mary's, meanwhile, has size all over the place, led by the senior "Twin Towers" of 6-foot-2 center Tori Faieta and 5-foot-11 forward Cassi Amenta. The Spartans beat Lee a month ago, 71-60, in a tournament just before the start of the MIAA playoffs.
Hall's Pick: History says to never take Lee lightly -- no matter what shape or size it comes in. But unfortunately, there is just too much size to be accounted for on St. Mary's side of things. Not that they're unbeatable, but I just think the Spartans will control the glass. St. Mary's, 50-45.

The Lowdown: Another matchup that on paper looks uneven, the Whitinsville Christian Crusaders boast plenty of size behind 6-foot-9 Hans Miersma, who dominated Lenox in Wednesday night's Central/West semifinal. Meanwhile, Watertown's tallest player is 6-foot-3 senior forward Connor Stockdale -- whom head coach Steve Harrington likens to another point guard on the floor -- and Marco Coppola, one of the state's leading scorers with 25 points per game. Whitinsville excels in the 2-3 zone but isn't afraid to quickly drop it and play straight man should they get into early trouble. But this is Harrington's Raiders, which means you're likely to see four things: weakside post, four out, pick and roll, perimeter shots. In other words, don't take the Raiders lightly, especially if they don't try to challenge Miersma immediately at the rim.
Hall's Pick: The tale of the tape favors Whitinsville, just based on the size it wields in the frontcourt. But Steve Harrington is one of the best coaches in New England, and you can guarantee he's going to draw up a hell of a game plan to try and neutralize the size advantage. Whitinsville Christian, 65-64.

The Lowdown: The Arlington Catholic Cougars -- led by Emma Roberson, Nicole Catizone, and sisters Rachel and Maura Buckley -- can be viewed as a green bunch with all of their youth abound. But on Monday night at TD Garden, they pulled off one of the more impressive feats in recent EMass Finals history, clawing back from 18 down with six minutes left in the first half to take a halftime lead over Hopkinton and hold it up. Meanwhile, Millbury has burned opponents in the transition game all season long, beating opponents in the playoffs so far by an average of 16.5 points per game. Out on the break, seniors Julie Frankian (19.1 points, 8.3 rebounds) and Sydney Bloomstein (9.5, 6.1) have been as formidable duo as we've seen in Division 2.
Hall's Pick: Sorry, AC. That was an amazing comeback you pulled over Hopkinton over the Garden. But this is Julie Frankian's moment in the sun. Millbury, 60-48.

The Lowdown: Mission was the odds-on favorite in Division 2 headed into the season, and hasn't done a whole lot to convince otherwise. Led by three Northeast-10 ready senior guards in Samir McDaniels, Kachi Nzerem and Darius Davis; as well as Charles Gunter, Leroy Hamilton, and Isshiah Coleman on the blocks; the Titans have begun to find that scoring touch around the rim that was missing for stretches this season. They also like to wear opponents out with a smothering, physical man-to-man defense -- as head coach Cory McCarthy often tells reporters, "The uglier, the better." Good news for the Titans: Northbridge relishes in that style, too. Eight of its players were on the Rams squad that won a Division 2 football Central Mass Super Bowl this past fall, and have brought that aggressive mentality to the floor with forwards (and brothers) Thomas and Harrison Murphy. Also watch out for Corey Pryor, who burned Sabis on Wednesday night with a series of uncontest layups en route to 24 points.
Hall's Pick: Cory McCarthy is known to fill up a reporter's notebook fairly quickly with his endless arsenal of money quotes. But the one that still resonates above the rest is the one he gave our correspondent Adam Kurkjian back in December: "I love these kids. I would do anything for these kids. And I feel like they will eat glass for me." Remember that one if this is close in the waning minutes. Mission, 58-47.

The Lowdown: Amherst, written off the in preseason after the transfer of Mariah Lesure to Tabor Academy, has rolled through Western Mass, and arrives in Worcester after a thrilling overtime defeat of Algonquin in Tuesday's Central/West state semifinal. Much of the Hurricanes' emergence has to do with the maturation of their junior class led by Brianna Leonard (11.1 points), Morbasaw Nkambeo (10.0) and Kristen Ferrola (9.3). The Golden Warriors, meanwhile, were one of several heavy favorites in Division 1 headed into the season, and save a lone regular-season blip to Central Catholic have done nothing to deter that thinking. Much has been made of Andover's Division 1-ready backcourt led by Marist-bound senior Natalie Gomez-Martinez and BC-bound junior Nicole Boudreau, the state's newly-anointed Gatorade Player of the Year. But the Warriors excel on the boards, too, behind junior Ally Fazio and sophomore Devon Caveney.
Hall's Pick: At the risk of jinxing this...should Andover win, I don't think it's out of the realm to think the Warriors have a shot next season at making it the first Division 1 girls three-peat since Haverhill in the mid-90's. Long Live The MVC. Andover, 70-60.

The Lowdown: After the loss of Ryan Kelley (ACL tear) and stalemate of a Central Final defeat of Fitchburg (40-38), some questioned whether Shrewsbury was ripe for the picking. The Pioneers put an end to that doubt on Wednesday night, handling a talented Northampton squad with physical defense and clutch shooting from Matt Harrington. Head coach Bob Foley is known for his Princeton-ish offense, this year led by forward pivots Matt Palecki and Richard Rodgers, but we've seen the Pioneers transition teams to death in state championships past (Lynn English, 2009, anyone?). This marks the fourth straight D1 final appearance for SJS, while Prep is making its first appearance since 1974. The matchup of the day might be Pat Connaughton versus Rodgers (we'll just assume that's what Prep head coach Sean Connolly will do for now), but the Eagles have prided themselves all year long on the work of their role players. Every game, it's a different kid stepping up, between Steve Haladyna, Freddy Shove, Mike Carbone, Owen Marchetti and Isaiah Robinson.
Hall's Pick: It's going to be a rockfight on the court, and both student sections are going to be rocking out. And I do mean rocking. I literally can't wait. By the way, every high school fan ever, you've got your work cut out for you after Northampton's "Full Metal Jacket" routine the other night at DCU. Prep, 45-41.

Mission fends off Hopkinton for D2 EMass title

March, 15, 2011

BOSTON -- When Isshiah Coleman made not one, but two big blocks as the seconds ticked off the clock in the second quarter, it brought a smile to New Mission head coach Cory McCarthy’s face.

Actually it did a little bit more than that.

“For a quick second I felt like a kid,” said McCarthy. “I wanted to cheer like the crowd.”

The excitement was probably half about the play from his sophomore center and half about the return of the gritty defense that his team has showed all season long.

New Mission (21-4) stifled Hopkinton (20-4) in the fourth quarter, after watching the Hillers go 10-of-17 from the field in the first half, in its 67-56 victory in the Div. 2 Eastern Mass. state semifinals on Tuesday night at the TD Garden.

McCarthy switched Kachi Nzerem onto Barrett Hanlon (13 points) to take away some of the dribble penetration that worked in the first half, and the Hillers were held to 2-for-10 from behind the 3-point line in the second half, while only managing 23 points in the final two quarters of play.

“Taking away the baseline off good penetration and blocking shots really made them indecisive as to whether to shoot the three or penetrate. … We used that aggression that we have as a team,” said McCarthy.

Darius Davis, who assigned to take away the Hillers’ deep threat Wesley Ericksen, made a come-from-behind block on Hanlon to keep the Titans up by two possessions. Nzerem, who scored 21 points to lead the Titans, tipped home his own miss and canned one of his three 3-pointers to give New Mission its biggest lead of the game, 57-48.

The Titans did a good job of getting their hand in the passing lane throughout the fourth quarter, and Charles Gunter’s quick hands led to a loud Coleman dunk on the other end that felt like the game-winner with about three minutes to go in the game.

“The beginning of the game we were trying to feel them out,” said Gunter. “Coach told us they like to get out and run, and that’s what they were doing. We had to stop that or we were going to take the loss.”

If there was anyone who optimized the type of scrappy, all-around game that McCarthy preaches at New Mission, then it was Samir McDaniels. The 6-foot-4-inch senior finished with 13 points, 15 rebounds and five steals.

McCarthy holds his senior leader to a high standard, and he was happy to see his senior turn it on when needed.

“I didn’t know Samir was playing in the first half,” said McCarthy. “But in the second half he showed up. He played the husky, tough, rough-and-tumble basketball that we like and that we always preach about.

“We are tough, and we can be tougher than anybody when it gets down to it.”

McDaniels did a number on the offensive glass in the second half with six offensive rebounds, with five of those coming in the third quarter alone.

“We have been working on boxing out all week, matter fact all tournament,” said McDaniels. “We have been getting out rebounded by smaller players, so we just had to make sure we were boxing out.”

The Titans held a 14-rebound advantage for the game, including a 17-7 edge on the offensive glass.

“The second-chance points was a huge difference,” said Hillers’ coach Tom Keane. “We played pretty strong defense, but then we couldn’t finish it. We couldn’t clean it up and get the rebounds.”

Mission, Winthrop, W'Town win North crowns

March, 13, 2011
LOWELL, Mass. -- After Brighton cut New Mission’s double-digit third quarter lead down to two in the final frame, New Mission head coach Cory McCarthy was not nervous that his his team was losing momentum and could give up the lead.

His team rewarded him with a 56-54 down-to-the-wire victory, in the Division 2 North Sectional Final Saturday afternoon at the Tsongas Center.

“At no point did I think our seniors would let us lose that game,” McCarthy said. “We’ve been working too hard and had this vision for a long time. It takes a lot of guts to move from Division 4 to Division 2, and it paid off because these guys worked hard. They’re just winners. When you have that type of commitment to the game of basketball, the game will reward you every single time.”

New Mission (20-4) had a 33-23 lead at halftime after going on a 12-4 run in the last five minutes of the second quarter. They had a sluggish third quarter, and an at-the-buzzer three from Brighton’s Ronald Mack brought the deficit down to six points, 45-39.

When it appeared like the metaphorical wheels could be falling off for New Mission, its free throw shooting came through for them. Kachi Nzerem was particularly effective from the charity stripe for the Titans, converting 12-of-13 in the game.

As a team, New Mission was 26-of-34 from the line. Conversely, Brighton (14-6) was a mere 3-of-16. Even with the startling deficiency, Brighton was able to use its height to grab offensive rebounds, create second-chance points, and hit timely three-point shots to keep the game close.

“We knew they were going to come back, that’s just the heart of their team,” McCarthy said. “We knew it was going to come down to the final seconds, with free throws and we pulled it out.”

Bernadin St. Vil was a force underneath for the Bengals, grabbing 13 rebounds before fouling out with 2:45 remaining and his team down by three points, 51-48.

“We had to play good defense because they’re a great rebounding team,” Nzerem said. “We had to limit their second-chance points so good defense was key in this game.”

With effective defense down the stretch by New Mission, Brighton was never able to tie the game up. It was forced to foul in the waning seconds, but Nzerem converted the necessary free throws, allowing New Mission to take the championship home.

The win capped off an already successful afternoon for New Mission, which won the girls Division 4 North Championship in the preceding game over Fenway.

D4 Boys: Winthrop 55, St. Mary's (Lynn) 40

The fourth time was the charm for the Winthrop Vikings.

After having lost in the Division 4 North State Sectional Finals the past three years, they finally got over the hump Saturday, beating St. Mary’s of Lynn 55-40.

“We paid our dues,” Winthrop head coach David Brown said. “I told the team in practice that St. Mary’s is a very good basketball team. There was a lot of emotion involved in the game tonight, but we paid our dues. This team wanted it bad and they took it over in the end.”

St. Mary’s (17-7) did not hit a shot for the first five and a half minutes of the first quarter, which allowed Winthrop (18-6) to open up a 10-0 lead. After it finally got its first basket, it scored three more after that, cutting the Winthrop lead to 10-8.

“Getting that lead was huge, but losing it was bad for us,” said Taj Gennerazo (13 points). “The fact that we got it let us know what we were capable of.”

The two teams battled back and forth for the next two quarters, with Winthrop holding a distinct advantage on the glass. Quinton Dale, a 6-foot-3 junior, finished with 17 points to go along with 12 rebounds. Anthony Hatzisavas, its 6-foot-4 center, also contributed 10 boards.

“(Dale) is a kid that’s been averaging 18 points and 15 rebounds for the tournament, I told him he had to step up his game a little bit in the second half,” Brown said. “This is a kid that’s playing varsity for the first time this year. He was averaging 13 (points) and 10 (rebounds) for the season. He really took up his game, made some shots and got some rebounds that were key.”

“We earned this,” Dale said. “Coach kept telling us we paid our dues and finally it came through after four years.”

With four minutes to go and St. Mary’s down by nine points, Matt Manning fouled out of the game. Up to that point, he was a critical piece to the St. Mary’s offense with nine points and seven rebounds. Only Nick Gagliolo, who had 11 points, reached double-digits for the Spartans.

J.P. Doherty added 8 points for Winthrop, including 6-of-7 from the free throw line.

Winthrop will play Cohasset at the TD Garden next Tuesday for the right to move on to the state finals.

“We were willing to give our lives to go to the Garden, and we’re here, and now we’re going to win it all,” Gennerazo said.

D3 Boys: Watertown 55, Newburyport 31

Watertown rode stout defense and a second half surge by senior Marco Coppola to beat Newburyport 55-31 in the Division 3 Sectional finals, to earn a return trip to the TD Garden to face South champion Cardinal Spellman.

“This is my third time winning this. I won it my freshman, sophomore, and now senior year, but this isn’t the last goal we want,” said Coppola, who finished with 21 points and 5 rebounds. “We want to get back to the DCU Center and we want to win that. This is just another step along the way.”

Watertown (18-5) jumped out to an 11-6 lead in the first quarter, and that was when the defense first started to clamp down. For about seven minutes of game time, Newburyport did not score a basket, keeping its score at 6 while Watertown extended its lead.

In the second, Danny Kelly and Cory Donahue each hit 3-pointers, which helped their team take a 26-12 lead into the half. By that time, Kelly and Coppola each had seven points, meaning they alone were outscoring Newburyport (15-8).

Kelly finished the game with 14 points and 6 steals.

During the half, Watertown head coach Steve Harrington told his team to take the game over. Coppola came out and asserted himself on both ends of the floor. During one four-minute sequence, he had three steals on defense which created transition opportunities on the offensive end.

“Coach just told us to put the game away in the third quarter so I tried to step up my defensive intensity,” he said. “I knew defense and turnovers would lead to baskets so that’s what I tried to do.”

The Red Raiders lead 40-20 after the third, and the defense showed no signs of letting up.

“I think our defensive pressure overwhelmed them at times,” Harrington said. “I think that was the key to the game. It was the third game in a row that we’ve held someone in the thirties. I think we’ve taken our defense to another level. It’s certainly the strength of our team, our speed, our quickness, and our ability to defend.”

Brett Fontaine and Chris Jayne each had strong showings for Newburyport. Fontaine had 8 points and 9 rebounds, while Jayne had 11 points and 5 rebounds.

The Watertown defense had almost as many turnovers as Newburyport had points, with 29 to the Clippers’ 31 points.

“Defense has been the key to our success all year,” Coppola said. “I feel like we’re faster, quicker, smarter on defense than every team we play. That was the key to our success tonight.”

Mission rallies past Eastie, ready for...Eastie

February, 21, 2011

BOSTON -- With the Boston City League semifinals three days away, and his New Mission Titans set to face East Boston yet again in the nightcap at Madison Park High School, head coach Cory McCarthy played today's matchup with the Jets close to the vest -- not unlike the way, say, a professional sports team would handle an exhibition game against a divisional opponent.

Why else would the Titans, revered so much for their aggressive man-to-man defense, go to a zone?

"Do you ever see us play zone?" McCarthy asked reporters rhetorically, with a stern pause and a chuckle, following the Titans' 65-58 win over Eastie in the Black History Month Classic at Emmanuel College's Yawkey Center. "Why not? Can't show all your cards, you know? [Eastie head coach] Malcolm [Smith] is a smart guy. I have all the respect in the world for that guy, he's the best coach in the city of Boston.

"So I've got to beat that guy, you know? So I've got to throw a wrinkle, because I want to win City's."

Perhaps, then, that can be partially to blame for the Titans' lethargy through the first 20 minutes of action in this one. Sitting back in a 2-3 zone, it took the Titans (15-3) some getting used to the different ball instincts such a look requires. McCarthy and his assistants found themselves constantly yelling at their players to collapse to the middle, and force the Jets shooters to knock down outside shots.

Ahead 27-25 at the half, Eastie (16-4) opened up the third quarter on a 17-5 run, with a handful of points in transition from Walter Lewis (18 points) and Kenny Ramos (10). The Jets were not only outmuscling their way to rebounds, but getting up and down the court at will. They took their largest lead, 44-30, on a layup with 3:44 to go, and that prompted McCarthy to immediately call a timeout, stressing a need to get back to the basics.

"I usually don't call timeouts when teams go on runs on us," McCarthy said. "But that timeout was critical, where we decided that, you know, we've got nothing but heart left. Sometimes when you don't have anything, you've got to show resolve. We've been doing that all year. There's no excuse. We battle adversity all the time, so I expected us to make a run."

Mission outscored Eastie 35-18 over the final 11 minutes, taking the lead for good with four baskets from senior guard Darius Davis (13 points) in the final three minutes. First, the 6-foot-3 Davis came up with a steal on the perimeter, and pulled up for a 15-footer to cut Eastie's lead to 52-51.

The next trip down, Davis' runner in the lane put the Titans ahead 53-52; he then pulled the same move a minute later for a 55-55 score, before finishing it off with a jumper to make it 59-55 with 1:20 to go.

"We knew with our history, we could make a run," Davis said. "We knew we had to stay calm, Cory told us 'Don't panic, stay with the team, concentrate and don't try to do too much'."

On the ensuing possession, Eastie's Jeff Amazon (13 points) charged through the lane, but senior Samir McDaniels (19 points, eight rebounds) met him right in front of the basket, getting a no-call but getting sent to the line at the other end. He made both free throws, to make it 61-55 with 58.8 seconds left. McDaniels finished the afternoon nearly perfect from the charity stripe, going 11 for 12.

No. 5 New Mission battles illness, thwarts Brighton

February, 10, 2011

ROXBURY, Mass. -- The capacity crowd at the Tobin Community Center having dispersed minutes ago, Samir McDaniels slouched in the bleachers, head bowed, casually sipping a Poland Spring bottle as he took in some relaxed deep breaths after two hours of congestion. He needed a minute after this one.

Battling the flu all day, the New Mission senior guard was advised by head coach Cory McCarthy to sit out tonight's pivotal Boston City South rematch with No. 13 Brighton. Ten minutes before tip-off, though, McCarthy was told otherwise.

"Cory wasn't going to let me play, but I told him I was going to play regardless of whether he let me or not," McDaniels said. "No disrespect, but I've got to be there for my team."

Same for fellow senior guard Darius Davis, who was battling similar symptoms and had a temperature of 102 degrees at game time ("No excuses," he said). Both he and McDaniels went the full 32 minutes, and put in double-doubles as the No. 5 Titans fought off a late Brighton surge to win, 65-58, and sweep the season series with the Bengals -- a win made even more intriguing when considering they'll be missing the third wheel of the much-hyped backcourt, senior Kachi Nzerem (hip pointer), at least another two weeks.

"It's kinda scary," McCarthy said. "Because, you know, there would have been no excuses, but guys were dragging. You could tell, you can look in their faces right now, they're dragging. But, you know, they love the game, and they want to protect our house. They want to protect Mission Hill. They want to protect the neighborhood, the school, what we're about."

When these two teams battled last month in Brighton's gym, a New Mission win, McCarthy characterized the game as "ugly basketball" -- granted, a style the Titans often tell reporters that they embrace.

And while the second installment featured far less pressing and more organization in the half-court, it wasn't a symphony, either. Both teams shot less than 40 percent from the floor for the game, and coupled with a slew of unforced turnovers on both ends, things boiled down to physicality as the Titans threw six different zone looks to try and confuse the Bengals' young lineup.

"We started off way too sluggish, way too casual," Brighton head coach Hugh Coleman said. "We didn't attack until late, we didn't play aggressive until late. You can't do that against a good team like that. But again, we're young, with alot of room to grow, so to me that was more immaturity and youth than anything else."

New Mission (11-3) opened the game in a 2-3 zone, but didn't stay in it for long as the Bengals' first four field goals were all three-pointers, starting the game off 4 of 8 from deep. McCarthy was unsure how many minutes to expect out of McDaniels (22 points, 12 rebounds) and Davis (19, 11), but both were a force on the boards early, and started fast breaks with deflections on the perimeter. And while the Titans went with a deeper bench, they never left those two off the floor.

A buzzer-beating Davis three-pointer gave the Titans a 17-14 lead over Brighton (10-2) at the end of the first quarter. New Mission used 8-0 runs at the start of the second and third stanzas to take a comfortable 45-30 lead headed into the fourth.

The Titans went a stretch of roughly six minutes without a field goal over the final minutes of the third and start of the fourth, but found spark again when Leroy Hamilton (11 points) stepped up with a three to make it 51-34 with five minutes left. From therein, though, the Bengals made a furious rally behind guards Malik James (19 points) and Kevon Young (20), getting great looks on the perimeter and outscoring the Titans 24-14 over the final four minutes.

In all, the Bengals made nine 3-pointers. But New Mission used its athleticism to its advantage, with McDaniels and Davis drawing contact on hard drives and going a combined 11 of 12 from the free throw line in the second half, to keep this from getting too close for comfort.

"They worked hard. They worked hard," McCarthy said. "That's a tough team to hold down, as you can tell. But I think people came to play. Guys stepped up without Kachi -- that's 18 points a game, you know. That just shows the resolve this team has. They've been fighting adversity all day, all year, and it's showing. We're starting to build that mental toughness that I've been crying about, really complaining about, so they showed up."

McDaniels delivers for No. 6 New Mission

January, 28, 2011
ROXBURY, Mass. –- Samir McDaniels went ballistic tonight.

Five steals and a block, four assists and 18 points (including 8-of-12 from the line) was the top stat for New Mission, as the Titans walked away with a 65-45 win over West Roxbury at the Tobin Community Center.

“He’s the guy that we look to for our big baskets,” New Mission head coach Cory McCarthy said. “He’s the guy that we look to, to set the New Mission, rough-and-tumble attitude that we have. His game, his ugly game, always helps us play the style of basketball we like. He is the epitome of what we teach.

In the fourth quarter, on a free throw attempt, McDaniels was lined up and got pushed. He pushed back, physically to show he was not to be tested, he pushed back with his skill, dropping eight of his 18 points in the quarter.

“Mentally tough,” said McCarthy. “I thought he was so tough inside. The thing about it is that he can do that against anybody. I don’t care how tall you are, he’s going to get the rebound, he’s going to put it back in, he’s going to block your shot…”

“They were ready for us this time,” said West Roxbury coach Martin Somers, referencing the teams’ first meeting this season on December 17th, 2010. The second game of the season for the Raiders and third for New Mission, New Mission won 68-62 in overtime, but Somers felt they had a mental edge and an element of surprise for McCarthy and his crew before their first match.

“I think they underestimated us,” Somers said. “We could have won that one, but we missed our shot. Tonight, they out hustled us and out toughed us.”

One of the hardest hustlers tonight was Kachi Nzerem who scored 15 points and had five rebounds. The most impressive of those rebounds came in the waning minutes of the fourth quarter when coach McCarthy had his players back up to West Roxbury’s three-point line with the game well out of reach. Nzerem was on the New Mission (10-3) end of the court alone with four Raiders (8-4). He made the first shot but missed the second. Off the block, he got in between and past the Westie potential rebounders, got his own rebound, put the ball up and scored.

“You never take plays off, you’ve always got to score,” Nzerem said matter-of-factly. “You should never take a play off because it could become a bad habit. I am always hungry, so I always want to score.”

The hunger is something that coach McCarthy recognizes in Nzerem, and although he is not a praise-heavy coach, the play he saw tonight impressed him.

“I usually dog him, but he will get the unsung hero award for tonight,” McCarthy said. “I don’t really do player of the game, but I like the way he played tonight.

“He had some lapses on defense,” added McCarthy doling out his serving of humble pie, “but he played the game I wanted him to play. He played above the rim. I say very few nice things to these guys, but I’ll tell him that he played well tonight.”

Relatively content with tonight’s win, McCarthy is getting what he expects out of his seniors, but he is not settled with his team’s play.

“When you have seniors, they’re supposed to close it out, but we need more going towards the state tournament.”

McDonald's All-American nominees announced

January, 25, 2011
Thirty-eight athletes playing at Massachusetts high schools have been nominated for this year's McDonald's All-American basketball games, and it is quite the interesting list. On the boys side, Notre Dame Prep has a whopping six players nominated; also of note, Newton North's Tevin Falzon gets a nomination despite not playing a minute all season due to a wrist injury.

Below is the complete list of nominees for the boys and girls games:


Pat Ackerman, Worcester Academy
Khem Birch, Notre Dame Prep
Joe Bramanti, Andover
Ryan Canty, Brimmer & May
Sam Cassell Jr., Notre Dame Prep
Dennis Clifford, Milton Academy
Pat Connaughton, St. John's Prep
Aaron Cosby, Northfield-Mt. Hermon
Myles Davis, Notre Dame Prep
Tevin Falzon, Newton North
Grandy Glaze, Notre Dame Prep
Jon Henault, St. Bernard's
Kyle Kager, Deerfield Academy
James Kennedy, Cushing Academy
Samir McDaniels, New Mission
Joe Mussachia, Manchester-Essex
Angel Nunez, Notre Dame Prep
Kachi Nzerem, New Mission
Andrej Pajovic, Wilbraham & Monson
Joe Sharkey, Northfield-Mt. Hermon
Chris Sherwood, Brimmer & May
Tyler Strange, Notre Dame Prep
Vincent Van Nes, Northfield-Mt. Hermon
Jimmy Zenevitch, Central Catholic


Nicole Beresford, Marshfield
Sophie Bikofsky, Newton South
Kendall Burton, Newton South
Blake Dietrick, Wellesley
Amber Dillon, Brookline
Tori Faieta, St. Mary's
Julie Frankian, Millbury
Natalie Gomez-Martinez, Andover
Brenna Goncalves, Coyle-Cassidy
Briana Hunt, Newton North
Mariah Lesure, Tabor Academy
Samantha Mangano, Winchester
Gabie Polce, Central Catholic
Clare Sullivan, Rivers

No. 9 New Mission wins 'ugly' over No. 7 Brighton

January, 19, 2011

BRIGHTON, Mass. -- The New Mission boys basketball team nearly blew an 18-point lead. It scrapped, it rebounded. It survived 19 turnovers. The Titans spent as much time on the floor as their feet at times.

“Ugly basketball,” coach Cory McCarthy said.

Not just that.

“This is New Mission basketball,” he said.

Relying on its length, experience and a bunch of a heady seniors, New Mission held off a youthful Brighton squad in its bandbox of a gymnasium, 70-59, on Wednesday, playing the type of basketball that carried it to a Division 4 state title a year ago.

Samir McDaniels finished with 19 points and nine rebounds, joined in double figures by classmates Kachi Nzerem (24 points) and Darius Davis (13, eight rebounds). The trio fueled the Titans (8-3) return to an aggressive halfcourt trap, and after Brighton trimmed a near 20-point first-half lead to three early in the fourth quarter, they showed the poise McCarthy loves them for.

Even if it came without style points.

“The uglier the better, the messier the better, the dirtier the better,” McCarthy said. “That’s what we preach. We’re on the ground, ripping our jerseys in practice. We can’t play that cute basketball.”

But they can play good basketball, especially with a healthy McDaniels. The 6-foot-4 guard/forward has been dogged by injuries for the better part of a month, limiting what McCarthy could do defensively. But with the senior finally healthy, the Titans -- ranked No. 9 in ESPN Boston’s MIAA boys basketball poll -- went back to the pressure defense it relied on last season with great results.

New Mission held No. 7 Brighton (7-1) to five first-quarter points, forced 13 turnovers and continually frustrated the Bengals with its exceptional length. With McDaniels and Davis running a patient but assertive offense, it led, 40-22, late in the second quarter.

Asked what New Mission’s defense does so well, McDaniels spread his arms out on each side, displaying how much room just one defender can take up.

“They can’t do much,” he said of New Mission‘s opponents.

But Brighton responded with its own pressure defense in the third quarter, ditching its man-to-man coverage for a full-court zone press that emphasized trapping in the corners. It kick-started what had been a stagnant Bengals offense to that point and finally slowed New Mission, which turned the ball over 10 times in the third quarter alone. But it wasn’t until the fourth when Brighton ripped off a 10-0 run to cut it to 55-52 with 5:41 to play that it finally felt like a showdown of top-10 teams.

New Mission wasn’t worried.

“I told everybody they were going to make a run. I knew it was coming,” Davis said. “Senior leadership. We know what it takes. In late-game situations, we know what to do to execute.”

Davis and McDaniels tightened up -- New Mission committed just one fourth-quarter turnover -- and the Titans did their damage at the free throw line, hitting seven of their next nine foul shots to push their lead to six.

Meanwhile, all the plays Brighton was making behind Kevon Young (17 points) and Theo Oribhabor (13) stalled late, perhaps a result of the Bengals’ youth as much as New Mission’s defense. Two starters, Oribhabor and Malik James, and key reserve Davion Edwards are all sophomores.

“They [New Mission] made plays,” said Brighton coach Hugh Coleman, whose team hit just one field goal in the final 3:18. “They got a loose rebound, or they got an open lay-up, finished the lay-up. It felt like the foul situation was leaning more against us, which was tough. That stagnated our rebounding. I thought they rebounded pretty well against us.

“[But] we thought, in terms of the foul calls, we were riding guys, but we thought they were riding, too. And a couple times we went to the basket, no call, we had a turnover. So I think that kind of … eh, just making plays.”

But that’s what McCarthy has come to expect of his team, which moved up to Division 2 North this season to become Brighton’s main competition. Explosive when they need to but calm in stressful situations, the Titans’ growth into a state contender is one born as much from athleticism and talent as trust between players and coach.

“We’re just managing the game,” McCarthy said. “We’re going to try to manage our way to the states, manage our way through the city. I can’t do that as a coach unless I have smart guys. And I have smart guys. … You can’t put a value on that.”


-- McDaniels’ injuries have ranged from a sprained ankle to a sore tailbone suffered in a fall in the Chelsea tournament, among other nagging ailments. It’s limited his quickness at times, and made days like Wednesday -- when he played as much underneath as he did in the backcourt -- tougher than usual.

“That’s why I looked so bad,” he said, referring specifically to losses to St. John’s Prep and Mansfield. “It’s too bad we can’t get those games back, though.”

The Titans are simply happy to have him back at full strength now.

“His rebounding and his explosiveness” are the biggest differences, Davis said. “He’s better inside. It helps us. … That takes the pressure off me, him being healthy.”

-- Sophomore Nathaniel Anderson didn’t score for New Mission, but McCarthy went out of his way to highlight Anderson’s fourth-quarter block, which helped lead to a quick 6-2 spurt that gave the Titans some breathing room late. Anderson also grabbed a game-high 10 rebounds.

-- Brighton enjoyed an undefeated start to its season thanks in large part to its man-to-man defense. Wednesday’s loss may help change Coleman’s thinking in applying its “diamond” zone press more often.

“The diamond press that we normally do, I guess we realize how more effective it was,“ he said. “It may have helped if we started a little earlier.”

Brighton relies more on speed, quick hands and forcing bad passes in its defense, a contrast from New Mission’s style.

“In person, it showed, I thought their length really did frustrate us, early on,” Coleman said. “We adjusted a little bit, got more comfortable, but I think we were down almost 20 in the first half. The length, that’s where they got their cushion, and for us, it was an uphill battle from that point.”