Boston High School: Mahar

Some quick-hit thoughts from the week’s high school basketball action around Massachusetts:

1. Don’t look now, but it’s looking like that time of year again for Lynn English. Last season, after a 4-4 start, the Bulldogs won 15 of their next 16 games before bowing out in the Division 1 North Final, their first such appearance since the fabled 2009 state final run. When they are fully healthy and in full swing, the Bulldogs’ backcourt of Freddy Hogan, Erick Rosario and Stevie Collins is among the state’s best, and they’ve proven as much with two gutsy wins over NEC rivals -– first a 15-point rally over Danvers, then a dramatic victory over Salem to avenge the loss two weeks prior.

The excuse for the early slump last year was that coach Mike Carr’s run-and-gun, full-court man-to-man pressure system takes about half a season to get used to. With a year of that system under their belts, that doesn’t feel applicable for the recent spell of three losses in four games that ended with the Danvers win. Perhaps it had more to do with the need for more assertion on the boards, a problem that tends to arise as the Bulldogs sometimes surrender the offensive boards in order to prevent a fast break going the other way. The return of Collins from injury should bolster the backcourt, but if the “Runnin’ Dawgs” are to replicate last year’s success, promising athletic forwards Danny Lukanda and Johnny Hilaire are going to be the key.

2. Went and saw Marshfield host Barnstable on Saturday night, a battle between two unranked teams in our Top 25 poll, and I got the feeling one of these teams –- maybe both -– could steal a game in what should be a wide-open D1 South tournament. Bob Fisher has won everywhere he went, which includes this latest stop at Marshfield, where he always seems to move past the first round. Against Barnstable, the Rams were 11-of-26 from three-point range in a 63-53 win, including a 5-for-7 mark in the first quarter. They get a night like that in D1 South, combined with their speed in transition, and I could see them dealing haymakers to a high seed.

Realistically, Barnstable might be a year away from being a bona fide contender, but first-year coach Chuck Kipnes has this program going in the right direction, and there is plenty to like with this young group. Two underclassmen in particular to keep an eye on are sophomore point guard Izaiah Winston-Brooks, a transplant from Boston, and junior forward Elijah Baptiste, a long and lanky slasher who excels on the wing and has deep range. Winston-Brooks is strong on the ball and vicious driving with his left, and made a few nifty dishes to post players for some sweet assists. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Kipnes score an upset on somebody in the South.

3. Seeing Shabazz Napier’s jersey retired at Charlestown on Friday night conjured up a lot of memories for what was a brilliant high school career split between the Townies and Lawrence Academy. My favorite memory of Napier is his final game in an LA uniform, the 2010 NEPSAC Class B Final against St. Mark’s. The undersized Spartans were getting hammered underneath in the first half by the likes of Nate Lubick and Kalb Tarczewski, with many of LA's stars (including Napier) racking up three first-half fouls. Throughout his career Napier wowed fans with no-look passes and dagger three’s, but in this battle he took control of the game in second half by slowing the game to a crawl. Literally, each trip down he would bring the ball over halfcourt and huddle up with the other four players on the floor as he continued dribbling, milking the shot clock for all its worth. The Spartans rallied to win by 10 in that game, still one of my favorite NEPSAC games I’ve covered in my career.

4. It there is one weakness with No. 1 Springfield Putnam, it is its shooting ability. But then again, that was the Beavers’ glaring weakness last year, and they rode that deficiency all the way to a D1 state title. Call me crazy, call me whimsical, but I’m a firm believer that there is a difference between a good shooting team and a timely shooting team. The Beavers certainly aren’t a great shooting team, getting most of their baskets off turnovers and fast breaks. But I saw Ty Nichols hit a gutsy three against Nazareth (N.Y.) back in December to force overtime, and apparently he was up to his old tricks against Holyoke this week, hitting a buzzer-beater to rally the Beavers from down five with 1:30 to go. When their feet are held to the fire, the Beavers pride themselves on not being out-toughed or out-played.

5. Continuing with the “defense trumps offense” theme over in girls’ basketball, I thought No. 1 Braintree made a statement in sweeping its season series with Newton North, even if the Tigers were without star guard Infiniti Thomas-Waheed. The Tigers have been a tough out for the Wamps the second time around. Defense has never been a question in Braintree, but if you’ve been following our girls basketball coverage the last two seasons, you know my biggest criticism of the Wamps is their scoring ability. Well, they put up 70 on a pretty talented Newton North team tonight, so I guess that shows how much I know. Don’t be surprised if there is a third installment of this growing rivalry in the D1 South tournament, either.

6. Two milestones that deserve some praise: Wachusett’s Tom Gibbons, who earned his 200th win in an overtime victory over Fitchburg; and Mahar’s Chad Softic, who earned his 100th win in his seventh season at the helm of the Senators’ program. Under Gibbons’ watch, the Mountaineers have always scheduled tough, and been consistently in the upper echelon within its division. Like his brethren in the famous Gibbons coaching family of Central Mass.,Tom is as genuinely good a human being as you’ll come across.

Softic inherited a program at Mahar that was just looking to get off the canvas, and after going 1-19 his first season he brought the Senators hardware in year five, beating heavily-favored Brighton in the 2012 Division 2 State Championship. The Senators basically played six kids that on paper did not hold water to All-State Brighton players Malik James and Nick Simpson; but they ate the Bengals' much-vaunted extended 3-2 zone alive, jumping out to a 17-3 first quarter lead and making it hold up for a four-point victory. To this day, that is one of the best coaching jobs I’ve seen in my time covering high school sports in Massachusetts.

Roundtable: Preseason MIAA hoop primer

November, 25, 2012
11/25/12
1:34
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With the first MIAA-sanctioned practices of the 2012-13 season set to commence tomorrow, today we're looking at the top storylines and top players from across the state.

Check back with us later in the preseason for our first Top 25 poll and our Preseason All-State Teams. But for now, here are the storylines to watch, and our projected Super Teams.

***

Brendan Hall
ESPN Boston High Schools editor


Reading Machine Rages On
Had it not been for Andover and superstar Nicole Boudreau, the Division 2 state champ Reading Rockets would have been garnering far more attention last season. The Rockets were one of the state's most dominant forces from wire to wire, going 25-0 en route to the program's first state title. They were one of the state's most explosive offenses (64.3 points per game), and blew out nearly everyone -- their average margin of victory was 27.1, with their only threats coming in the North final (49-46 over Arlington Catholic) and Eastern Mass. Final (71-64 over Scituate, in overtime).

The conversation in Reading starts with Richmond-bound guard/forward Olivia Healy, a two-time ESPN Boston All-State and one of the early favorites for our Miss Basketball award. The 5-foot-10 senior can play any position on the floor, excels on the boards, and is as physical as they come. But every superstar needs a supporting cast, and you can't do much better than Assumption-bound guard Morgan O'Brien in that regard.

With Andover expected to level off following the graduation of one of the MIAA's best ever (Boudreau), we're most likely looking at Reading starting the year at No. 1 in our statewide girls' poll, which will be released later this preseason.

Fierce, Fierce City A
Over the offseason, the Boston City League voted overwhelmingly to split into three tiers for boys basketball, based on competitive balance. And with it, the city's "A" division instantly becomes the state's toughest league. City A is comprised of Brighton, New Mission, Madison Park, Charlestown and East Boston -- all teams expected to start the season in our statewide Top 25 poll -- and with the new scheduling setup, we're looking at appointment viewing in the city nearly every night.

Charlestown-Eastie, Mission-Brighton and Eastie-Madison are the city's three fiercest basketball rivalries. Now, on top of those series, we're getting two installments of Mission-Madison, Brighton-Eastie, Charlestown-Mission, Madison-Brighton, and so forth. Brighton and MP figure to be the favorites here, but this is going to be an absolute grinder of a league. Of the highest degree.

Swat Team
Anyone that watched the University of Kentucky last season can tell you how valuable Anthony Davis was despite an unpolished offensive game. Heck, he was named the Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four despite going just 1-for-10 from the field in the championship game.

Last year our Defensive Player of the Year award went to a guard, Stoughton's Marcus Middleton, but I'm looking at a number of frontcourt shot-blockers to contend for the award. Any conversation about swatters in the MIAA has to begin with New Mission's Isshiah Coleman, but keep an eye on Cambridge's Fredens Deneus, a 6-foot-6 junior who is expected to have a breakout season. Rockland's Tyler Gibson, a UMass-Lowell commit, will alter many a shot in the South Shore League. Also keep an eye on Holy Name's Dan Kegbeh, only 6-foot-1 but blessed with some impressive ups.

On the girls' side, Holy Name's Brianna Frias is my early favorite for Defensive Player of the Year. The 6-foot junior committed to Providence over the summer, and averaged six blocks per game last season as the Naps went 20-0 in the regular season and captured the No. 1 seed in Division 1 Central.

Sizzlin' Sophs
Across the state, there are a number of Class of 2015 players to get excited about. Springfield Central's Chris Baldwin has yet to play in an MIAA game, having played his freshman season down the street at Hillside School, but he is already garnering significant hype. Wakefield's Bruce Brown showed freak athletic ability at times during his freshman campaign for the Warriors, and figures to be regarded as one of the state's elite by season's end. Same for Mansfield's Brendan Hill and St. John's of Shrewsbury's Davon Jones.

Central Catholic junior Tyler Nelson is on the short list as everyone's favorite shooter, and deservedly so, but Newton North sophomore guard Tommy Mobley is as automatic as they come. He plays a different role for the Tigers than his older brother, 6-foot-8 Yale forward Greg Kelley, did several years ago. But when you talk about the elite shooters in the state, Mobley has the potential to be in that conversation.

Also keep an eye on Falmouth guard Craig Green, a three-sport star who's already on the radar for track and field. He turned many heads last June, when he placed third in New Englands in the 100-meter dash. He has run as fast as a 10.6 in the event so far in his young career.

On the girls' side, we all know the capabilities of Braintree's Molly Reagan. The 6-foot-1 center was a key cog in the Wamps' run to the Division 1 South title last March, and she already holds Division 1 offers. On the flip side, Archbishop Williams' Jaylen Williams committed to Penn State this past summer despite playing limited minutes for the Bishops.

But the potential speaks for itself. For one, Williams is 6-foot-3 and long. For another, there is plenty of pedigree. She is the daughter of former New England Patriots defensive lineman Brent Williams, and the younger sister of two high Division 1 college football players -- North Carolina offensive tackle Brennan Williams, and Ohio State linebacker Camren Williams.

Open Waters in the North
I'm not sure which will be the more interesting race in the North -- Division 1 girls, or Division 2 boys.

In Division 1 girls, we're looking at a number of contenders in the North. Nobody's counting out Andover in spite of the talent graduated, but it should be an interesting race in the Merrimack Valley Conference with Central Catholic and Billerica figuring to start the year high in many polls. Lincoln-Sudbury will be another contender, led by Lafayette-bound forward Ashley Lutz, as will be Lynn English and reigning Northeastern Conference MVP Catherine Stinson. The ultimate wild card might be Cambridge, led by Georgia Tech-bound guard Donnaizha Fountain. And don't count out Somerville, either, with Indira Evans in the fold.

Division 2 North will be an interesting bracket. New Mission returns a strong core, but so does Brighton, behind returning All-State guard Malik James, forwards Nick Simpson and Prince Unaegbu, and one of the state's best shooters, Daivon Edwards. Ditto Wakefield, with Bruce Brown expected to have a breakout year alongside seniors Kendall Hamilton and Mikol Blake-Green.

SUPER TEAMS

Boys
G - Jameilen Jones, Sr., BC High
G - Tyler Nelson, Jr., Central Catholic
G - Malik James, Jr., Brighton
F - Kamari Robinson, Sr., Springfield Central
F - Tyler Gibson, Sr., Rockland

Girls
G - Donnaizha Fountain, Sr., Cambridge
G - Sarah Hope, Sr., Medway
G/F - Olivia Healy, Sr., Reading
F - Ashley Lutz, Sr., Lincoln-Sudbury
C - Molly Reagan, Soph., Braintree

***

Ryan Kilian
Editor-in-Chief, New England Prep Stars


Central Reign
Can Central Catholic represent Eastern Massachusetts in the state finals this season in Division 1? Central returns a battle tested and veteran group that represented EMass Division 1 as the top seed in last season’s MIAA tournament. Central boasts key returnees Tyler Nelson, Joel Berroa, Doug Gemmell and Nick Cambio.

Veteran Sophomore Talent
Mansfield’s Brendan Hill and Wakefield’s Bruce Brown are two of the top returning players in Massachusetts. They are also only sophomores. Both sophomores started and lead their respective teams deep into tournament play as freshman and we can expect even bigger seasons from both this year.

Best Frontcourt?
Massachusetts has a very strong group of point guards this season but the depth in the frontcourt is down in part of the continued flood of players to prep schools. New Mission (Nate Anderson and Isshiah Coleman) and Central Catholic (Gemmell and Cambio) are at the top of the frontcourt ranks but look out for North Andover and Charlestown to also have improved front lines with the development of returning veterans as well as additions of new talent to the mix.

Replacing Boudreau
It will be impossible to replace two-time Miss Basketball Nicole Boudreau (Boston College), but Andover does return senior Devon Caveany, and the glue of the squad in top defenders Jackie and Rebecca Alois. Expect some more classic Central Catholic and Andover battles for years to come in the MVC.

Special time for City of Braintree
The city of Braintree boasts some the best young female talent in the state, with Braintree High School and Archbishop Williams sharing city quarters.

Braintree returns Coach of the Year Kristen McDonnell and a lineup featuring returning senior Rachel Norton, and sophomores Ashley Russell, Bridget Herlihy, and Molly Reagan. Archbishop Williams returns Southern New Hampshire commits Olivia Conrad and Sara Ryan along with Alana Gilmer and Penn State commit Jaylen Williams.

SUPER TEAMS

Boys
G - Bruce Brown, Soph., Wakefield
G - Tyler Nelson, Jr., Central Catholic
G - Jameilen Jones, Sr., BC High
F - Brendan Hill, Soph., Mansfield
F - Kamari Robinson, Sr., Springfield Central

Girls
G - Kayla Burton, Sr., Newton South
G - Donaizha Fountain, Sr., Cambridge Rindge
G - Olivia Healy, Sr., Reading
G - Tajanay Veiga-Lee, Sr., Fenway
F - Saliah Serrette, Sr., Weston

***

Chris Bradley
ESPN Boston correspondent


Springfield Central Is Back
Saying that Kamari Robinson and sophomore transfer Chris Baldwin are the best frontcourt in the state is no stretch. Robinson helped lead Central to last year’s division 1 state title, averaging a double double while the Golden Eagles went undefeated against MIAA opponents. The 6-foot-7 Baldwin is already drawing in interest from high major division 1 college programs. A strong, athletic forward who is known for his rebounding and sky-rising dunks, he’ll make quite a duo with Robinson, a member of last year’s ESPN Boston All-State Team.

Senior Cornelius Tyson could be primed for a big year as well. The 6-foot-1 guard made quite a showing in last year’s state championship game against Brockton, knocking down four 3-pointers in the second half to lead Central to the Division 1 title.

Can anyone knock off St. John's of Shrewsbury?
The Inter-High has two legitimate Top 25 teams in Worcester South and Doherty. Will this finally be the year that St. John’s doesn’t run away with the Division 1 tournament in Central Mass.? The Pioneers have won five consecutive Central Mass. Division 1 championships, and return yet another talented core from last year’s team. Sophomore point guard Davon Jones has already asserted himself as one of the best guards in the western half of the state, juniors Charlie Murray and TJ Kelley will be a tough duo on the post, and 6-foot-5 senior Ken Harrington is one of the best shooters in central Mass.

Brighton looking for revenge
Last year’s loss to Mahar in the Division 2 state title game was demoralizing to say the least for the Bengals, but another year of maturity should help Brighton come tournament time this year. Junior playmaking guard Malik James will be one of the very best in the MIAA, and he’ll have plenty of weapons around him with forward Nick Simpson and guards Theo Oribhabor and Daivon Edwards. The Boston City League will be a rock fight this year, but battle-tested Brighton will reap the benefits of a tough schedule come tournament time.

New Mission young, but talented
Sophomore guards Greg Bridges, Randy Glenn, and Juwan Gooding will make for quite a show this year when put together with 6-foot-5 forward Isshiah Coleman and 6-foot-7 forward Nate Anderson. The Titans will be young, with less experience at the guard position than many of their opponents, but when all is said and done this could end up being the most talented team in the state this year.

Who will emerge in D3?
Picking favorites in Division 3 is like splitting hairs. Wareham has Darien Fernandez, a waterbug considered one of the best point guards in the state. Danvers returns four starters from last year’s state title team. Quaboag has one of the best inside-out duos in D3 with Thomas Jankins and sophomore Jake Wisniewski. Hopedale has a deep, versatile lineup. Whitinsville Christian has won three straight central Mass. championships. Out in Pittsfield, St. Joseph Central returns the majority of their core from last year’s state finals team—including scoring guard Taverick "Tank" Roberson. Any of these teams could emerge and make a deep run into the tournament in February and March.

SUPER TEAMS

Boys
G - Malik James, Jr., Brighton
G - Tyler Nelson, Jr., Central Catholic
F - Jameilen Jones, Sr., BC High
F - Kamari Robinson, Sr., Springfield Central
F - Tyler Gibson, Sr., Rockland

Girls
G - Kayla Burton, Sr., Newton South
G - Sarah Hope, Sr., Medway
G - Donnaizha Fountain, Sr., Cambridge
F - Casey McLaughlin, Sr., Central Catholic
F - Olivia Healy, Sr., Reading

Bay State Games: Tyson ready to take flight

July, 11, 2012
7/11/12
1:38
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After an up and down junior year, Cornelius Tyson knows he has plenty to prove heading into his senior season.

The 6-foot-1 point guard from Springfield Central got an early jump on his 2012-2013 showcase last March, electrifying the DCU Center crowd with 16 second-half points to lead the Golden Eagles in a statement win over Brockton in the MIAA Division 1 State Championship.

And now, Tyson has been presented with another chance to pad his resume as a key member and starting point guard on the West squad as it takes aim at Bay State Games gold.

Tyson and Co. begin their quest Thursday with a pair of games against the Coastal and Northeast teams with the ultimate goal of playing for the shiniest medal possible on Sunday.

“We’ll do our best,” Tyson said. “We have a hardworking team and we’ll go out and give it everything we’ve got.”

That way of thinking is a good representation of the high-energy point guard, but things didn’t always fall into place so easily for Tyson.

Initially considered one of the region’s top players in the class of 2013 as a freshman and sophomore, Tyson hit a wall towards the beginning of the 2011-2012 school year. He struggled a bit with grades and adjusted to life as a role player on a supremely talented Central squad, even enduring a suspension because of a failed class.

In the end, though, Tyson persevered and has come out with a reworked approach that has only helped him improve on and off the court.

“Last year was really rough,” Tyson said. “I had my ups and downs with school and basketball but I tried to stay focused and work hard.”

The improved Tyson was on full display in the state final when Central head coach Mike Labrie, having seen Brockton’s size and rebounding advantage lead to a seven-point halftime deficit, elected to go with a small lineup. Tyson came off the bench to spark the epic turnaround.

“That was just amazing,” said Tyson, who remembers only getting that hot a few other times but never in a game of that magnitude. “I was just feeling the moment.”

That feeling and that moment could also be obtained this week at Wentworth where the Bay State’s 11th and 12th grade squads are conducting their tournament. The West team is a bit undermanned, losing a handful of players who elected to stay with their AAU teams but Tyson, along with fellow state championship winner Jesse Lacroix from Mahar (Division 2), comprise perhaps the most talented backcourt in the entire tournament and could very well lead the West team to Bay State heroics.

“We look at Cornelius as our key player,” said West head coach Neal Quesnel, who has spent five years as a coach at South Hadley. “He shows up to practice every day and works hard. He’s a silent leader and lets his game do the talking for him. It’s fun to watch him in action.”

Quesnel is close with Labrie, who had nothing but praise for his soon-to-be starting point guard prior to the Bay State Games team selection process. Labrie commented on Tyson’s work ethic and attitude, saying that his state championship breakout was never an "if", but just a "when."

“It took some time but in the second half of the biggest game of the year, he came through and broke out,” Quesnel said. “The other guys on the court just feed of his leadership and energy.”

That energy was crucial to Tyson’s success last season for Central, following his struggles on the court and in the classroom. Once he regained focus, though, the energy and spark Tyson provided off the bench was a key factor Central’s run through regular season -- which included just one blemish, a loss to Connecticut power Windsor at the Hoophall Classic -- and state tournament.

“I think the experience that Cornelius brings our team is huge,” Quesnel said. “This year at Central, he learned how to win big, come from behind against Commerce in the Western Mass. final and in the state semifinal (against St. John’s).

“And he showed he can play well on the biggest stage in the state final.”

This is a crucial year for Tyson and his hopes to play basketball after high school. At this point, the goal is to continue to improve as a senior and lead Central back to the state tournament. After that, the plan is to go to prep school. Tyson considers Wilbraham & Monson Academy and Suffield Academy among his top choices.

ESPNBoston's MIAA All-State Boys Basketball Team

March, 22, 2012
3/22/12
4:59
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THE SUPER TEAM

All-StateGuard – Aaron Calixte, Jr., Stoughton
An exceptional athlete gifted with a tenacious motor, and one of the state's most dynamic scorers, the 5-foot-11 Calixte was the driving force behind the Black Knight's run to the Division 2 Eastern Mass. final, and asserted himself as the state's premier point guard. For his junior season, he averaged 19 points and six assists, and was named a Hockomock League All-Star. Calixte also stands out on the gridiron for the Black Knights' football squad.

All-StateGuard – Tyrese Hoxter, Jr., Charlestown
After playing in the shadows of former All-Stater Akosa Maduegbunam a year ago, the 6-foot-3 Hoxter thoroughly burst onto the scene and had a monster campaign for the Townies, leading them to the TD Garden floor for the first time since 2005 before bowing out to Brockton in the Division 1 Eastern Mass. Final. This season he averaged 19 points, eight rebounds, three assists and two steals.

All-StateGuard – Tyrell Springer, Sr., Springfield Central
After falling short of a state title two seasons ago with New Leadership, the 6-foot-2 Springer led Central to the DCU Center floor this season where the Golden Eagles captured their first Division 1 state title since 1991. The centerpiece of one of the state's most athletic lineups, Springer averaged 15.3 points, 7.5 rebounds, seven assists and 7.3 steals. He is undecided on college plans.

All-StateForward – Jake Layman, Sr., King Philip
The 6-foot-8 Layman was one of the most dominant players in Massachusetts this season, with the ability to score both inside and out, as the Warriors set a school single-season record for wins (18) before suffering a surprise upset in the Division 2 South quarterfinals. In 21 games, he averaged 26.5 points, 16 rebounds, 5.8 blocks, 3.2 assists and three steals. He closes his career with with 1,752 points, 1,098 rebounds and 391 blocks, giving him career averages of 20.6 points, 12.9 rebounds, 4.6 blocks, 2.8 steals and 2.6 assists. This is his second appearance on the Super Team; he also captured the Hockomock League's MVP for the second straight season. Layman, who was named ESPN Boston's "Mr. Basketball" earlier this week, is ranked the nation's No. 62 overall senior by ESPN, and will continue his career next season at the University of Maryland.

All-StateCenter – Sayvonn Houston, Sr., Brockton
A nightly double-double machine, Houston established himself as one of the state's most dominant true centers, making life difficult down low as the Boxers went 23-3 and made their first Division 1 state final appearance since 1985. He saved his biggest performances for the biggest stages, such as his 20-20 night in the Division 1 South semifinals, or his 22-point, 13-rebound effort in Brockton's overtime win over Charlestown in the Division 1 Eastern Mass. Final at TD Garden. Houston is undecided on college plans.

BEST OF THE REST

All-StateJalen Adams, Soph. G, Melrose
Quickly rising as one of the Bay State's most complete scoring guards, the 6-foot-1 Adams took home Middlesex League MVP honors after averaging 21 points per game. He led the Red Raiders to an 18-2 regular season record, before they fell to state runner-up Brighton in the Division 2 North semifinals. Adams has already declared that he will be transferring to Wilbraham & Monson Academy next season, where he will reclassify to the Class of 2015.

All-StateJaylen Blakely, Jr. G, Brockton
Like Houston, the 5-foot-11 Blakely saved some of his best performances for the crunch time in the playoffs, such as his eight-assist performance in the Boxers' win over Catholic Memorial. Blakely distributed evenly to Brockton's talented shooters and post players, as they went 23-3 and reached their first state final appearance since 1985.

All-StateMatt Droney, Sr. F, Catholic Memorial
A terrific shooter, the 6-foot-4 Droney was named the Catholic Conference's MVP after a season of averaging 20.7 points, six assists and five rebounds per game. He also became the eighth player in school history to surpass 1,000 points earlier this season. The Canton resident will be doing a post-graduate season next year at the Taft School in Connecticut.

All-StateDarien Fernandez, Jr. G, Wareham
The 5-foot-7 waterbug demonstrated a tenacious motor in leading the Vikings to their second Division 3 Eastern Mass. Final appearance in three seasons. Wareham was the state's last unbeaten before losing to state champion Danvers. For the season, Fernandez averaged 24 points, 10 assists, eight rebounds and five steals, and recorded three triple-doubles. He needs just 45 points next season to reach 1,000 for his career.

All-StateRony Fernandez, Sr. G, Charlestown
Fernandez was one of the most outstanding point guards of the MIAA tournament, leading the Townies to a thrilling win over Lexington in the Division 1 North final before bowing out to state runner-up Brockton in the Eastern Mass. Finals. For the season he averaged 16 points and seven assists. He is undecided on college plans, but is currently fielding interest from Division 1 programs such as Maine, Northeastern and Hartford.

All-StateJoey Glynn, Sr. F, Cardinal Spellman
The 6-foot-5 Abington resident did it all this season for the Cardinals, averaging a double-double (18.5 points, 12 rebounds, three steals, 2.2 blocks) as they lost to Eastern Mass. runner-up Wareham in the Division 3 South semifinals. For his career, Glynn scored 1,425 points. He will continue his career next season at Bentley University.

All-StateSteve Haladyna, Sr. G/F, St. John’s Prep
One of two repeat All-Staters, the 6-foot-3 Haladyna was unable to lead the Eagles deep in their Division 1 state title defense, but he still leaves the Danvers campus as one of its most decorated basketball stars. He averaged 22.4 points and 9.5 rebounds per game, both team highs, and for his career he finishes with 1,392 points -- second all-time on Prep's scoring list. The South Hamilton resident will continue his career next season at Tufts University.

All-StateMalik James, Soph. G, Brighton
The 6-foot-1 James elevated his game when the Bengals needed it most, as they made their first state final appearance in school history, falling to Mahar in the Division 2 title game. For the season, James averaged 18.1 points, 8.2 assists and 4.2 rebounds as the Bengals won their first-ever Eastern Mass. title.

All-StateJameilen Jones, Jr. G, BC High
BC High's season came to an unexpected halt as the Eagles loss in the first round of the Division 1 South tournament, but the 6-foot-2 Jones has established himself as one of Eastern Mass.'s premier two-way players. For the season, he averaged 17 points and eight rebounds as the Eagles went 15-6.

All-StateZach Karalis, Sr. G, North Andover
The 6-foot-1 Karalis was one of the driving forces for the Scarlet Knights, who went 21-2 and reached the playoffs an unprecedented 47th straight time. For the season he averaged 15.9 points and shot 46 percent from the field, to go along with 6.5 rebounds, 4.7 assists and 1.8 steals. Karalis will continue his career next season at Worcester Polytechnic Institute.

All-StateKevin LaFrancis, Sr. C, Acton-Boxborough
After a stellar season in leading the 21-2 Colonials to a Division 1 North semifinal appearance, the 6-foot-6 LaFrancis was named the Dual County League's MVP. He averaged 19.5 points and eight rebounds this season, and finishes his career at A-B with 1,012 career points. He is undecided on college plans.

All-StateAlex Lopez, Sr. G, Springfield Commerce
The 5-foot-10 Lopez led the Valley League in scoring for the second straight season, averaging 22.3 points as the Red Raiders went to the Division 1 Western Mass. Finals and took state champion Springfield Central to the wire. He led Western Mass. in field goals made (185) and total points (512). Lopez is currently undecided on college plans.

All-StateDamian Lugay, Sr. G, Weymouth
The 6-foot-2 Lugay led the Wildcats to a second straight 17-win season, before they were bounced in the first round of the Division 1 South tournament. For the season he averaged 18.1 points and just under four assists, and leaves Weymouth as a two-time First Team All-Bay State Conference. Lugay is undecided on college plans.

All-StateGeorge Merry, Sr. C, Danvers
At 6-foot-7, Merry was a force at both ends of the floor for the Falcons, known for his ability to redirect shots as much as his scoring touch. He averaged 16.1 points, eight rebounds and 6.6 blocks as Danvers captured its first Division 3 state championship in school history. Merry is currently undecided on college plans, but showing interest from several schools in Divisions 2 and 3.

All-StateMarcus Middleton, Jr. G, Stoughton
Tasked nightly with locking down the opposition's top scorer, Middleton established himself as one of the state's premier on-ball defenders. Middleton averaged 16 points per game for the Black Knights, who won the Division 2 South title before bowing out to state runner-up Brighton in the Eastern Mass. championship at TD Garden. Middleton also stars on Stoughton's football squad.

All-StateMatt Mobley, Sr. G/F, St. Peter-Marian
One of state's most pleasant late-blooming surprises, the 6-foot-3 Mobley was one of the leading scorers in Central Mass. as the Guardians made it all the way to the Division 1 Central Final. For the season, he averaged 23.2 points in leading SPM to its most successful season under head coach Marcus Watson. Mobley finished his career at SPM with 1,175 points, and will do a post-graduate season next year at Worcester Academy.

All-StateTyler Nelson, Soph. G, Central Catholic
The 5-foot-11 Nelson established himself as one of the state's premier shooters, as the Raiders made it to the Division 1 North semifinals before bowing out to champion Charlestown. He averaged 15.5 points and four assists this season, shot 42 percent from three-point range, and 91 percent from the free throw line.

All-StateColin Richey, Jr. G, Whitinsville Christian
After winning a Division 3 state title a year ago, the 6-foot Richey nearly led them back, as the Crusaders lost in the final seconds to state runner-up St. Joseph Central in the state semifinals. For the seaosn, Richey averaged 16.8 points, 6.7 assist and 6.3 rebounds for the Dual Valley League champions.

All-StateKamari Robinson, Jr. F, Springfield Central
The 6-foot-5 Robinson was a rock underneath for the Golden Eagles, who captured their first Division 1 state title since 1991 and third overall. He was a nightly double-double threat this season, averaging 13 points, 11 rebounds, four steals and three assists, as Central went undefeated in Massachusetts.

All-StateMichael Thorpe, Sr. G, Newton North
The Tigers went run-and-gun this season, and the 5-foot-11 Thorpe kept them thoroughly going. One year after reaching the Division 1 South finals, he nearly led them back, before losing to state runner-up Brockton in the semifinals. He was named the Bay State Conference's MVP, with averages of 15 points and four assists. Thorpe will continue his career next season at Emerson College.

DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
All-StateMARCUS MIDDLETON, STOUGHTON

The kind of on-ball pressure Middleton provided nightly to some of the state's premier scorers can take its toll physically, but he was routinely up to the task. As teammate Aaron Calixte saw a barrage of double-teams and box-and-one's, Middleton did his part at the other end, hedging off screens and staying one one's hip, chasing them all over the floor. As much praise as Calixte will get in this unprecedented season for the Knights, an equal amount must be thrown Middleton's way.

ALL-DEFENSIVE TEAM
G – Marcus Middleton, Jr., Stoughton
G – Anthony Hodges, Sr., Holy Name
G – Darien Fernandez, Jr., Wareham
F – Jake Layman, Sr., King Philip
C – George Merry, Sr., Danvers

COACH OF THE YEAR
All-StateHUGH COLEMAN, BRIGHTON

The Bengals lost their best player before the start of the tournament, and backpedaled into the playoffs with uninspiring losses to Acton-Boxborough and Madison Park. Yet in the end, they were one step away from the school's first-ever state title. Coleman is an unabashed disciple of the legendary Jack O'Brien, and staples of those historic Charlestown squads are sprinkled all over the program. Not only has Coleman done a remarkable job bringing the team to heights never before reached in his three seasons at the helm, but this is a program that will be dangerous for the next few years.

RUNNERS-UP:
Paul Connolly, Newton North
Dean O'Connor, Franklin

FINALISTS:
Kevin Brogioli, Wareham
John Gallivan, Stoughton
Reggie Hobbs, Lexington
Malcolm Smith, East Boston
Chad Softic, Mahar
John Walsh, Danvers
Dennis Wilson, Madison Park

Central remains No. 1 in final hoop poll

March, 21, 2012
3/21/12
5:01
PM ET
Division 1 state champion Springfield Central remains the No. 1 team in our final MIAA Top 25 poll of the 2011-12 season, which we updated this afternoon, but there is plenty of movement elsewhere.

Divsion 1 runner-up Brockton and Division 1 Eastern Mass. runner-up Charlestown move up to the second and third spots, respectively, while St. John's (Shrewsbury) and Central Catholic round out the top five.

Danvers makes the biggest jump up in the poll, coming in at No. 6 after capturing the Division 3 state title. The biggest plummet is North Andover, which falls to No. 21 after getting upset in the Division 2 North semifinals.

Elsewhere, Mahar enters the poll for the first time in its history, at No. 12, after capturing the Division 2 state championship in a surprise upset of Brighton. Springfield Commerce (14), St. Peter-Marian (17), Lexington (18), St. Mary's of Lynn (23) and Whitinsville Christian (25) all make returns to the poll, while Wakefield (19) and St. Joseph Central (24) make their debuts.

We thank you for following along with us throughout the high school basketball season. And as always, any questions or comments can be left in the comments section below, or by emailing Brendan Hall at bhall@espnboston.com

Video: Breaking down the D2 boys' final

March, 17, 2012
3/17/12
8:57
PM ET
WORCESTER -- ESPN Boston High Schools editor Brendan Hall and correspondent Tom Layman break down Mahar's surprising victory over Brighton in Saturday's Division 2 boys' basketball state final at the DCU Center:

Video: Mahar vs. Brighton highlights

March, 17, 2012
3/17/12
8:47
PM ET
WORCESTER, Mass. -- Mahar claimed the MIAA Division 2 boys' basketball championship in its first-ever final appearance with a 45-41 victory over Brighton.

Here are the highlights as collected through videographer Greg Story's lens:

Div. 2 Boys Final: Mahar 45, Brighton 41

March, 17, 2012
3/17/12
7:30
PM ET
WORCESTER, Mass. -- Brighton coach Hugh Coleman may have never heard of Mahar Regional before today, but it did not take long to learn the Senators' name on Saturday.

After rolling out to an early fifteen point lead, Mahar weathered a wave of Bengals comeback attempts on way to a 45-41 win the MIAA Division 2 state championship, in its first-ever state final appearance, at the DCU Center.

“We have not played a team as skilled or athletic as Brighton,” said Mahar coach Chad Softic. “We were not going to go beyond the three-point line (defensively). We came out sharp, and that allowed us later in the game to withstand a couple runs from them.”

Only trailing twice in the game, the Senators (22-3) pulled ahead for good in the third off a pair of sidelines treys by seniors Phil DiPhillipo and Darwin Duncan to go up 33-30 with 1:53 left.

The Bengals (21-4) had six opportunities to tie the game in the final 40 seconds, but were unable to hit the equalizer. Sandwiched by a pair of missed 3-pointers, junior Prince Unaegbu threw up the Bengals' closest effort down 43-40 with a falling back lob that rolled in-and-out in at 20 seconds.

After trading a point off free-throws, junior Theo Oribhabor (12 points) set up a final fade-away behind the arc, but the leading Bengals' scorer was blocked by senior Phil DiPhillipo.

“We were going to make (Malik) James show us he could shoot,” said Softic. “If they were going to beat us they were going to have to knock down some shots to beat us.”

Mahar was lead with strong guard play from its senior, including 16 points from leading scorer Jesse LaCroix and 12 from DiPhillipo. The senior guards helped the Senators open strong with runs of eight and nine, respectively, during the first quarter.

DiPhillipo stole the rock in the lane and rushed it to the opposite boards to open the scoring for the Western Mass champs. A few minutes later LaCroix stepped around a screen for an open jumper and a 8-2 lead at 2:30 in the first.

Straddling the initial break with a nine point streak, LaCroix lobbed a rebound across the court for two then forced a three-point play under the basket for a 17-3 spread at 6:50.

“They were quick so they had quick hands and feet,” said LaCroix. “It was definitely different going in, but I just tried to use the same moves and check the ball better.”

After tallying five straight from freshman Keyon Jones to end the half, Brighton outscored Mahar 15 to 4 to open the third. Speeding up the tempo entering the half, teammates junior Daivon Edwards and Oribhabor hit a pair of fade-aways for three at 5:30.

The Bengals grabbed their first lead in twenty minutes with a 29-27 spin around ace from junior Dwayne Harper at 3:40 in the third.

“We were talking about dropping so we would not just give up layups,” said Coleman. “(We needed) more ball pressure to create turnovers. We got rolling, but they made some big shots.”

Softic, who is in his fifth year at the helm of Mahar, is the first coach to drive the Senators past the regional semifinals in school history.

ESPN Boston's Hall on MassLive podcast

March, 16, 2012
3/16/12
1:23
PM ET
ESPN Boston High Schools Editor Brendan Hall was a guest this afternoon on MassLive.com's Championship Edition Podcast, breaking down the five basketball state championships tomorrow that involve schools from the West district.

In a nearly hour-long discussion with MassLive's esteemed Online Producer Ben Larsen, Hall offers some insight on the Eastern Mass. teams scheduled to face teams in the site's coverage area. Hall and Larsen also make their picks and go in-depth on the day's most anticipated game, the Division 1 boys title game between Eastern Mass. champion Brockton and ESPN Boston's No. 1 team in the land, Springfield Central.

You can find the podcast between Larsen and Hall by clicking here.

ESPN Boston's MIAA State Championship Picks

March, 16, 2012
3/16/12
8:24
AM ET
The MIAA will crown six state champions in boys and girls basketball on Saturday at Worcester's DCU Center. Here are my thoughts on how those six games will play out:

DIVISION 3 GIRLS: PENTUCKET (22-4) VS. SABIS (21-5)
Pentucket Players to Watch: Tess Nogueira, Jr. C; Leigh McNamara, Sr. F; Sarah Higgins, Sr. F; Nicole Viselli, Jr. G; Alex Moore, Jr. G; Kelsie McNamara, Fr. G
Sabis Players to Watch: Jazmine Collins, Jr. G; Janaiya Sanchez, Fr. G; Shyanne Washington, Jr. F; Madison Sinkfield, Fr. F; Casie Thurber, Soph. C.
Analysis: After coming close the last couple of years, Sabis finally got over the hump in their competitive Western Mass. bracket, to land here at the DCU Center. Plain and simple, these Lady Bulldogs are on a mission; and led by a core that includes the dynamic Collins, this is a well-oiled machine. Unfortunately (and this will be the operative word for many of my picks), they run into a Pentucket team that is quite simply swarming on defense. The Sachems' lineup =is among the best in Division 3, and they're on a roll. Pentucket is also motivated -- the last time they were here, in 2010, the Sachems were penned as a favorite, only to run into a gritty Lee team that, quite frankly, pressed like kamikazes. Hall's Pick: Pentucket over Sabis

DIVISION 3 BOYS: DANVERS (20-4) VS. ST. JOSEPH CENTRAL (20-5)
Danvers Players to Watch: George Merry, Sr. C; Nick McKenna, Jr. G; Nick Bates, Jr. G; Eric Martin, Jr. G; Jon Amico, Sr. G.
St. Joe's Players to Watch: Taverick "Tank" Roberson, Jr. G; Mike McMahon, Sr. F; Joe Wiggins, Sr. F; Lavante Wiggins, Jr. G; Jon Bianchi, Jr. G
Analysis: Credit to St. Joe's for playing an ambitious non-league schedule, which included a rockfight of a bout with Holy Name back in December, and get ready to be introduced to the spunky power that is Roberson -- in my opinion, he's every bit of a tank as his nickname suggests. But after putting in arguably its best performance of the year Monday night in the Eastern Mass. Finals against Wareham, I'm convinced Danvers will come out on top in this one. the 6-foot-7 Merry can step out on the perimeter and facilitate offense for shooters like McKenna and Bates, as much as he can take it inside. Danvers coach John Walsh goes with some of the same offensive principles as his cousin Watertown head coach and two-time D3 state champ Steve Harrington. And if you thought Harrington's four-out, drive-and-kick, dribble drive-oriented motion offensive was frustrating enough, imagine what it's like with size.
Hall's Pick: Danvers over St. Joseph Central

DIVISION 2 GIRLS: READING (24-0) VS. TYNGSBOROUGH (23-1)
Reading Players to Watch: Olivia Healy, Jr. G; Morgan O'Brien, Jr. G; Melissa DalPozzo, Sr. F; Katie Clements, Sr. G; Katherine Callahan, Sr. G.
Tyngsborough Players to Watch: Lauren Iadarola, Jr. F; Amanda Hogan, Jr. G; Helena Hamilton, Sr. F; Morgan Mitchell, Jr. C.
Analysis: The Mid-Wach C champion Tigers avoided a clean sweep of Central Mass. on Wednesday with a dominant 50-35 win over Palmer out in Springfield, getting quality production out of Iadarola, Hogan and Hamilton along the way. But Reading has had the tougher route here, putting away stalwarts Wachusett, Bishop Feehan, Arlington Catholic (twice) and Scituate to get to DCU Center floor. Look for Healy to get hers, but most crucial in the Rockets' overtime defeat of Scituate on Tuesday night was the play of O'Brien, who scored 33 points. Look for her to be the X-factor in this one.
Hall's Pick: Reading over Tyngsborough

DIVISION 2 BOYS: BRIGHTON (21-4) VS. MAHAR (21-3)
Brighton Players to Watch: Malik James, Soph. G; Theo Oribhabor, Jr. G; Daivon Edwards, Jr. G; Prince Unaegbu, Jr. F; Jerard Mayes, Sr. F; Tre Dowman, Sr. C
Mahar Players to Watch: Travon Godette, Sr. F; Jesse LaCroix, Sr. G; Phil DiPhillipo, Sr. G; Josef Whitman, Jr. F; Nate Martin, Sr. C; Darwin Duncan, Sr. F.
Analysis: The relationship between Brighton coach Hugh Coleman and his mentor, legendary Charlestown coach Jack O'Brien, is well-documented. There are ripples of O'Brien's system and tactics sprinkled throughout the Bengals; and we can assure you, there are tons of coaches in Eastern Mass. rooting for Coleman, as good a guy as they come, on Saturday. That aside, the Bengals figure to be favorites in this one. Godette, DiPhillipo and LaCroix combined for impressive whipping of St. Bernard's on Tuesday, but they haven't seen anything like Brighton. Hardened by a brutal schedule, the Bengals lost their best player, sophomore Nick Simpson, before the playoffs, yet somehow haven't dropped off. There's plenty to like -- a frustrating extended 2-3 zone, a swarming press, and a gifted shooter in Edwards -- and I think this will be another big one for promising sophomore point guard Malik James.
Hall's Pick: Brighton over Mahar

DIVISION 1 GIRLS: ANDOVER (26-0) VS. HOLYOKE (22-2)
Andover Players to Watch: Nicole Boudreau, Sr. G; Ally Fazio, Sr. G; Devon Caveney, Sr. G; Angelice Gonzalez, Jr. G; Jackie Alois, Jr. F; Rebecca Alois, Soph. F.
Holyoke Players to Watch: Monique Heard, Sr. G; Alison Littles, Sr. C; Kirsy Segarra, Jr. G; Nyomi Walker, Jr. F; Selena Yates, Sr. G.
Analysis: Our friend and Pioneer Valley legend Adam Harrington is getting giddy over this "dream matchup", Western Mass.'s premier point guard versus, quite frankly, the best female guard to come through Massachusetts in over a decade. We think the crowd on hand will be impressed with Heard, but the Golden Warriors -- despite usually being undersized -- have proven again and again to be unstoppable. It just seems whatever the score is going into the fourth quarter, the Warriors simply turn around and take ownership of it. When you have a team of athletes that get up and down as quickly as these girls, plus a superstar with NBA range, that's a vicious combination.
Hall's Pick: Andover over Holyoke

DIVISION 1 BOYS: BROCKTON (23-2) VS. SPRINGFIELD CENTRAL (23-1)
Brockton Players to Watch: Jaylen Blakely, Jr. G; Drew Fiske, Sr. F; Jahleel Moise, Sr. F; Jean Thomas, Sr. F; Will Baker, Sr. G; Sayvonn Houston, Sr. C; Jamal Reuben, Sr. F; Jarrod "Bubba" Shelby.
Springfield Central Players to Watch: Tyrell Springer, Sr. G; Lee Turner, Sr. G; Chris Prophet, Sr. G; Kamari Robinson, Jr. F; Jevaughn McMillian, Sr. C; Trevor Bacon, Sr. F; Cornelius Tyson, Sr. G.
Analysis: This might be the best matchup of the day. I picked Springfield Central to win it all before the tournament started; and since the Eagles are still in it, I'm sticking with the pick. The X-factor here might be the health of McMillian, a game-changing 6-foot-7 shot-swatter who injured his ankle in Tuesday night's thrilling semifinal win over St. John's (Shrewsbury). If he can't go or is less than 100 percent, that could make the matchup down low with Brockton's 6-foot-6 Sayvonn Houston -- by many accounts, one of the state's most efficient true five -- very interesting. Yet it seems the Golden Eagles thrive on adversity -- in the Western Mass. Final, with Springer and Prophet fouled out -- Robinson held his own to stave off a furious Commerce comeback bid. On the flip side, the Boxers have been on a mission since getting trounced by nearly 20 by Charlestown right before the start of tournament play. Blakely has been one of the best point guards of the tournament, and the Boxers have gotten crucial shooting out of Baker, Fiske and Reuben. Look out for Moise, an athletic shot swatter with quality defensive skills.
Hall's Pick: Springfield Central over Brockton

Video: Breaking down 'Super Saturday'

March, 16, 2012
3/16/12
8:23
AM ET
ESPN Boston High Schools Editor Brendan Hall was joined yesterday by BeantownHoops.com founder and editor Rob Sarmiento, as the two took a look at Saturday's six MIAA basketball state championship matchups:


Saturday's MIAA Hoop State Championships

March, 15, 2012
3/15/12
2:56
PM ET
The MIAA will crown six state champions in boys and girls basketball on Saturday at the DCU in Worcester. Be sure to stick with us throughout the day for an all-day live chat, along with video highlights and breakdowns for the games.

Tomorrow, ESPN Boston High Schools Editor Brendan Hall will offer his predictions for each of the six games. Later today, BeantownHoops.com founder Rob Sarmiento will join us in studio to analyze each matchup in a video package.

From the MIAA's website, here is Saturday's lineup:



Division 3 Girls
Pentucket (22-4) vs. Sabis (21-5), 10:45 a.m.

Division 3 Boys
Danvers (20-4) vs. St. Joseph Central (20-5), 12:30 p.m.

Division 2 Girls
Reading (24-0) vs. Tyngsborough (23-1), 2:15 p.m.

Division 2 Boys
Brighton (21-4) vs. Mahar (21-3), 4 p.m.

Division 1 Girls
Andover (26-0) vs. Holyoke (22-2), 5:45 p.m.

Division 1 Boys
Springfield Central (23-1) vs. Brockton (23-2), 7:30 p.m.


MIAA Sectional Hoop Finals: Picks Reset

March, 9, 2012
3/09/12
6:22
PM ET
Last month, prior to the MIAA Basketball Tournament seedings, I listed a number of teams in each division to be considered true contenders for the state championship. One week later, on the first day of the MIAA tournament, I went a little deeper and made my predictions for each of the 14 boys basketball brackets.

Conveniently, this has been one of the wildest MIAA tournaments in recent years. Last night, No. 1 seeds Central Catholic and North Andover went down in their respective brackets; that adds to a number of other contenders getting knocked out, including King Philip, Cardinal Spellman, Falmouth, Catholic Memorial, BC High, Holy Name and Manchester-Essex.

The next 48 hours figure to be just as crazy. We'll be covering all 12 of Saturday's North and South sectional finals, as well as Sunday's Division 1 Central final between St. John's (Shrewsbury) and St. Peter-Marian, so be sure to stick with us throughout the weekend.

For now, I've gone back and hit the reset button on my pre-tournament picks. Here's how I think Saturday and Sunday's slate will turn out.

(NOTE: Division 4 Finals are being played tonight)

BOYS PICKS

Division 1 North
Charlestown (19-4) vs. Lexington (17-7)
Nobody could have predicted this for a final -- and if you did, I have a time warp I'd like to sell you. After some early struggles, the Minutemen have picked up the slack under second-year coach Reggie Hobbs, beating Boston Latin, Westford and Acton-Boxborough in succession to get here. But with Central Catholic and A-B out of the way, the Townies have a clearer path. Expect another big game from Tyrese Hoxter and Co. Pick: Charlestown

Division 2 North
Wakefield (17-6) vs. Brighton (19-4)
Reports of Brighton's demise have been greatly exaggerated. Once thought to be stumbling following the loss of star forward Nick Simpson and subsequent early exit from City Championships, the Bengals have roared to life behind Daivon Edwards and Malik James. Ditto for Wakefield, which came into this tournament a mystery, but has suddenly put the state on notice after knocking off No. 1 overall seed North Andover last night. Pick: Brighton

Division 3 North
Danvers (18-4) vs. Saugus (14-9)
I said this was Danvers' bracket to lose at the beginning of this tournament, and the Falcons have done nothing to prove me otherwise. Saugus beat red-hot Arlington Catholic by 16 last night to advance to the finals, but I still think George Merry will provide too much of a matchup problem. Pick: Danvers

Division 1 South
Brockton (21-2) vs. Madison Park (19-2)
True, the MP Machine is the No. 2 seed in this bracket, but how many predicted the Cardinals would make it this far? Brockton has had some close calls, such as Wednesday's semifinal win over Newton North. But as they showed in their quarterfinal against Catholic Memorial, they can turn it on in a snap. The key here might come down to depth, where I think the Boxers hold an advantage. Excited to see the big-man matchup between Brockton's Sayvonn Houston and MP's Dakim Murray -- two true post players who are among the region's most physical. Pick: Brockton

Division 2 South
Stoughton (19-4) vs. Hopkinton (17-6)
Beware Hopkinton's dribble-drive motion. Just ask King Philip, which succumbed to the Hillers in last year's D2 South Final and again in this year's quarterfinals. We all know about Stoughton's athletic prowess, spearheaded by one of the state's best backcourts in juniors Aaron Calixte and Marcus Middleton. But do not sleep on the Hillers' point guard Barrett Hanlon, a two-time Tri-Valley League MVP who has been terrific this postseason. Pick: Stoughton

Division 3 South
Wareham (23-0) vs. Martha's Vineyard (21-2)
Between Wareham's dogged waterbug point guard Darien Fernandez and Vineyard's electric junior Jack Roberts, this could be one of the day's fastest games. The Vikings are constantly uptempo -- and have one of the state's best lead guards in Fernandez, to do the damage -- while the Vineyarders can run off points in bunches pretty quickly. The key might come down to foul trouble -- Tyler Gomes was the star for Wareham in the semifinals, but they can't afford to have Fernandez on the bench for long stretches again. Pick: Wareham

Division 1 Central
St. John's of Shrewsbury (18-5) vs. St. Peter-Marian (19-5)
If St. John's wins again, for an unprecedented fifth straight Central Mass. title, they may have to rename this tournament the Bob Foley Memorial Bracket. Again and again, Foley's troops have proven that no matter the personnel, bodies graduated, or overall record, they can win out as long as they get in. SPM's Matt Mobley will likely command a sophisticated defensive look, which is why the Guardians' bigs like Steve Flynn and Brian Foley are going to need to be in peak form. Pick: St. John's

Division 2 Central
Quabbin (20-3) vs. St. Bernard's (14-10)
Once one of the state's few remaining unbeatens, Quabbin lost three games but won the Clark Tournament to give themselves some momentum headed into this bracket. It's paid off, as the Panthers have beaten opponents by an average of 24 points in the tournament. Either way, this should be a terrific coaching matchup, between Quabbin's Dennis Dextradeur and St. Bernard's Mark Pierce. Pick: Quabbin

Division 3 Central
Whitinsville Christian (16-5) vs. Littleton (18-6)
Another bracket where I initially pegged a top seed as an overwhelming favorite, and nothing has convinced me to think otherwise. Sorry Littleton, but WC has been playing some of its best basketball, beating each of its opponents by 17 points or more in this tournament. Pick: Whitinsville Christian

Division 1 West
Springfield Central (21-1) vs. Springfield Commerce (16-6)
In these two teams' first matchup, Central survived a tough one, 52-43. When they met three weeks ago, Tyrell Springer nailed four 3-pointers in the second quarter and Central blew out the Red Raiders by nearly 40. I don't think that will happen again, but like Brockton, Central can turn it up in a hurry -- just ask West Springfield, which led Central by three after the first quarter of Wednesday's semifinal, only to lose by 27. Pick: Springfield Central

Division 2 West
South Hadley (13-9) vs. Mahar (19-3)
South Hadley's nine losses are misleading. They earned the No. 2 overall seed in this field, and beat their first two opponents by an average of 17 points. Can Mahar, which survived an overtime thriller to get here, buck the Tigers' trend? Pick: South Hadley

Division 3 West
St. Joseph Central (18-5) vs. Lee (18-5)
This is a St. Joe's team that nearly beat Holy Name back in December, and while I admit I haven't seen too much of this field, I like their chances. An average margin of victory of 26 points so far in this tournament backs this assertion up. Pick: St. Joseph Central

GIRLS PICKS

Division 1 North
Andover (24-0) vs. Masconomet (20-3)
Again, as good as Masco has been in this tournament -- getting Super Team production out of William & Mary signee Brooke Stewart, and great complimentary play from junior Claudia Marsh -- the freight train that is Andover and All-Everything guard Nicole Boudreau will continue to roll its way through. But unlike some of the Golden Warriors' earlier tournament results, I expect the Chieftains to throw haymakers and take the Warriors to the ropes. Pick: Andover

Division 2 North
Reading (22-0) vs. Arlington Catholic (21-3)
Another juggernaut matchup in the fold here. Both teams have gone through some dominant stretches, and AC is the defending state champion here. But the Rockets are a year wiser after last season's disappointing end, and behind Olivia Healy and Morgan O'Brien this team rattles off points in bunches. Pick: Reading

Division 3 North
Pentucket (20-4) vs. Ipswich (18-4)
Win or lose, this is a major step forward for the Ipswich program under head coach Mandy Zegarowski. Unfortunately, their reward is running into the Pentucket machine. Sachems are rolling on defense, allowing just 28 points per game in the playoffs with an average margin of victory of 27 points. So tell me...what's new? Pick: Pentucket

Division 1 South
Franklin (21-2) vs. Braintree (21-2)
Led by senior Paige Marshall, Braintree is playing arguably the state's most inspired defense. Consider the Wamps allowed just eight points -- that's eight points total -- in their first-round win, and are allowing just 22.6 points per game and the playoffs. Will that be enough for Catie Phelan to overcome, or are the defensive stats misleading? Pick: Braintree

Division 2 South
Scituate (23-0) vs. Natick (18-5)
Will Lady Luck run out on Natick, or are the Red and Blue better than we projected? Either way, this is one tough Scituate squad they're about to encounter. The Lady Sailors haven't allowed an opponent to get out of the 30's in nearly a month, and routinely pick up 40 or more rebounds a game. Pick: Scituate

Division 3 South
Archbishop Williams (20-5) vs. Fairhaven (21-2)
Kara Charette will get her points for Fairhaven, but we have to wonder if it it will be enough to overcome Archies' size, which is among the state's biggest. The Bishops are green, but talented, and are playing some terrific defense right now. Pick: Archbishop Williams

Division 1 Central
Holy Name (22-0) vs. Wachusett (17-5)
After some close calls, Holy Name's magical season lives on. The Mountaineers might be Holy Name's toughest opponent to date, and are one of the region's longest. Look for the Naps to key on Bri Schnare and Shannon Holt. Pick: Wachusett

Division 2 Central
Tyngsborough (21-1) vs. Nashoba (20-2)
The top two seeds of this bracket go head-to-head, and it's hard to tell which team has been more dominant so far. The Tigers, who have allowed just 30 points a game in this bracket; or Nashoba, which has had an easier path but has won each game by double-digits. Probably can't go wrong with this one. Pick: Tyngsborough

Division 3 Central
Sutton (19-4) vs. Hopedale (18-4)
Another matchup that is even on paper. But when you knock off Quaboag, that's big points in my book. Pick: Sutton

Division 1 West
Holyoke (20-2) vs. Longmeadow (15-7)
5-foot-2 point guard Monique Heard is the most exciting player nobody in Eastern Mass. is talking about, and a potential Super Team candidate for Holyoke. I like a good story as much as the next scribe. Let's keep this one rolling. Pick: Holyoke

Division 2 West
Mahar (21-1) vs. Palmer (18-4)
Another matchup pitting the bracket's top two seeds against one another. Mahar has survived some gutsy close calls to get here, but beware of Palmer's stingy defense, which is allowing 32 points per game. Pick: Mahar

Division 3 West
Lenox (18-4) vs. Sabis (19-5)
Sabis no doubt has revenge on its mind -- and some unfinished business -- after coming up short in this bracket last year following a dominant regular season. But any time you knock off Lee -- the region's top seed, and the golden standard for Western Mass. small-school basketball since the 1980's -- that's big points in my book. Pick: Lenox

2012 Hoophall Classic schedule set

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

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

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

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

Here is the complete schedule for the weekend:

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday's Bay State Games results

July, 17, 2011
7/17/11
10:26
PM ET
Courtesy of Bay State Games media relations director Peter Cohenno:

BASKETBALL
Emmanuel College – Boston, MA
Boys Scholastic 11/12 Grade
Gold Medal Game
Coastal 106, West 104

Coastal came back from a double-digit deficit in the fourth quarter led by Nelson Baptiste (Falmouth, Falmouth HS) who had 42 points on the way to the gold medal with a 106-104 win over West. Coastal also got 20 and 19 points from Tyler DeMelo (East Freetown, Apponequet) and Chris Green (Taunton, Taunton HS), respectively. West had three players with 20 points or more including Jose Allen (Amherst, Amherst HS) with 23, Phil DePhilips (Orange, Mahar HS) with 22, and Jesse LeCroix (Orange, Mahar HS) with 20.

Boys Scholastic 9/10 Grade
Gold Medal Game
Coastal 58, Southeast 52

Coastal hung on to edge Southeast 58-52 and capture the gold medal. Tony Pires (Carver, Carver HS) led the winners with 17 points and Tucker Bouchard (Kingston, Silver Lake) chipped in with 11. Southeast’s Rory Donovan (Canton, Cardinal Spellman HS) netted 14.

Girls Scholastic
Gold Medal Game
West 60, Northeast
50
Alexis Chappell (Springfield, Sabis HS) and Jill Ritrosky (Pittsfield, Pittsfield HS) both scored 19 points to help West capture the gold medal with a 60-50 victory over Northeast. Carlene Kluge (Reading, Reading HS) 20 points was not enough to lift Northeast.

FIELD HOCKEY
Waltham High School – Waltham, MA
Southeast 3, Central 0

Southeast’s Maggie Travers (Scituate, Scituate HS) had a goal and assist to lead her squad over Central, 3-0. Emily McColgan (Walpole, Southfield HS) and Mackenzie Hudson (Stoughton, Stoughton HS) collected the other markers. In net, Carolyn Cook (Medfield, Medfield HS) and Katie Kelley (Walpole, Walpole HS) combined for their third shutout of the tournament.

Coastal 1, West 1
West claimed the bronze medal with a 1-1 tie against Coastal. Emily Medeiros (Wilbraham, Minnechaug Reg. HS) netted the score for West, while Katherine Sypek (Hingham, Notre Dame) tallied the equalizer for Coastal.

Gold Medal Game
Metro 2, Southeast/Coastal 1
Metro took home the gold medal with a hard-fought 2-1 victory against Southeast/Coastal. Alexa Baumgartner (Newton, BB&N) and Nicole Woods (Beverly, Beverly HS) netted the scores for the winners. Caroline Feeley (Walpole, Walpole HS) scored Southeast/Coastal’s lone goal.

LACROSSE
Boys Scholastic
Wentworth Institute of Technology – Boston, MA
Bronze Medal Game
Coastal 5, Metro/Southeast 0

The Coastal defense and goalie Ryan King (Lakeville, Apponequet Reg. HS) posted a rare shutout to help their squad to the bronze medal with a 5-0 win over Metro/Southeast. Coastal’s offense was led Brett McAvay, who netted a pair of goals.

Gold Medal Game
Northeast 9, West 4

The Northeast squad took home the gold medal with decisive 9-4 win over West. Brian Walsh (Lowell, Lowell HS) continued his hot streak, by leading Northeast with four goals. In addition, Brendan Gilgun (Woburn, Woburn Memorial HS) scored two goals and had an assist to help lift Northeast over West.

Girls Scholastic
Waltham High School – Waltham, MA
Bronze Medal Game
West 15, Northeast/Central 8

West’s Nicole Beliveau (Westfield, Westfield HS), Alexa Allen (East Longmeadow, East Longmeadow HS) and Alicia Busco (Agawam, Agawam HS) had three goals apiece to pace their squad to the bronze medal with a 15-8 win over Northeast/Central. Isabella Gitto (Leominster, Leominster HS) and Micaela Sanborn (Chelmsford, Chelmsford HS) each had two goals in the losing effort.

Gold Medal Game
Southeast/Coastal 15, Metro 9

Southeast/Coastal captured the gold medal with a 15-9 victory over Metro. Kristen Hickey (Dedham, Ursuline Academy) and Madison Hughes (Oak Bluffs, Martha's Vineyard Reg. HS) had three goals each for the champions. Metro freshman Shannon Fitzgerald (Newton, Newton North) completed a strong debut in Bay State Games with four tallies, and teammate Michelle Kudlate (Waltham, Waltham HS) added a pair.

Final Standings
1. Southeast/Coastal
2. Metro
3. West
4. Northeast/Central

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