Boston High School: Newton North

Volleyball: Newton North, Hopkinton, Frontier claim state titles

November, 16, 2014
Nov 16
12:04
AM ET
FITCHBURG, Mass. -- Newton North seemed to be heading down a road that was all-too-familiar. After reaching and falling in the Div. 1 Championship each of the last two years, the Tigers once again found themselves in familiar territory, trailing Andover 2-1 entering a potential clinching fourth set.

But rather than face defeat one last time, seniors Tess Simmons, Madeleine Lundberg and Kristin Copley rallied the rest of their Tigers team behind them and lead Newton North on a 15-1 run to capture a swift victory in the fourth set to force a deciding fifth game.

Riding the wave of momentum and taking advantage of a handful of unforced Golden Warrior errors, Newton North pulled through with a 15-10 victory, lifting two years of championship defeat off their shoulders.

“It's one of the most incredible feelings I’ve ever had,” Lundberg said. “To watch from the bench the last two years and watch the team fall apart and lose it’s a really hard feeling, I really feel for Andover because they played so well but to finally be on this side, words cannot describe how I feel.”

It was Lundberg’s block that clinched the Tigers Div. 1 title. Andover’s top-hitter Wyllie Boughton was set up for the kill but a well-timed leap from Lundberg sent the ball back over the net to seal the win.

“I think I went up and I could feel it hit my hands,” Lundberg recalled. “You know what is going to happen based on how it hits your hand. But it went off a wrist and it went down.”

Andover looked well-polished in the opening set, quickly down the Tigers 25-12 behind an impressive offensive performance from Boughton. The junior logged five kills in the opening set as the Golden Warriors raced out to a 9-1 lead and never looked back.

With the Golden Warriors threatening to run the Tigers out of the building early, Newton North gathered themselves and responded with a hard-fought 25-21 second set victory thanks in large part to a pair of aces down the stretch from Lundberg.

“Andover played the perfect game in that first set, they served everything, the dug everything, they blocked everything,” Tiger coach Richard Barton said. “No team can be that good. At some point we realized that they cant be that good.”

Tied at 18 in a pivotal third set, Andover used their defense and quickly turned it around into offense. Cece Root and Colleen Mullins along with Boughton shined down the stretch as Andover landed seven of the final 10 points to take the all-important 2-1 lead but never replicated that success in the final two sets.

“Confidence, we just lost our confidence,” Andover coach Jane Bergin said. “You know kids are kids and they are not at the college level where they haven’t had that success and haven’t been on this stage.”

While no one on the Andover team had reached the State Championship game, they have had plenty of experience on the big stage. Each of the last two years the Golden Warriors won the North Sectionals, just to fall short in the state semi-finals.

That extra bit of experience was the difference maker in the fourth and fifth sets as Barton’s Tigers stayed focused until the final block from Lundberg.

“It's so emotional but you can’t give out any emotion throughout the whole tournament until right now,” Barton said. “You can’t get excited, have to stay calm and keep everyone prepared but its such an accomplishment if you can keep your team centered and focused.”

Division 2: Hopkinton 3, Weston 0

Volleyball tends to be a game of runs, but in Saturday’s Div. 2 title game, all those runs went in favor of Hopkinton.

After both teams shook off early jitters, the Hillers put together three lengthy runs that ultimately topped the Wildcats in straight sets, capturing the Div. 2 title with 25-17, 25-22 and 25-14 victories.

With a senior-laden lineup, the Hillers were all in for a championship run this season. Hopkinton had failed to break through the ranks of the Div. 2 Central sectionals the last three years but this season had a special feel to it after the Hillers cruised through tournament play.

“I feel like we have been right on the brink of this moment for quite a few years and this year everything came together, Hopkinton coach Margie Grabmeier said. ”We had a lot of seniors on this team and it really does make a difference with senior leadership.”

Tied at nine early in the first set, the Hillers put together a 7-0 thanks in large part to Hanna Engstrom’s three aces from the service line. After an even exchange the rest of the way, Engstrom sealed the win with a kill, giving Hopkinton a 25-17 opening victory.

After failing to find any sort of rhythm in the opening set, Weston began to key their offensive game plan around sophomore Athena Ardila in the second set. The Wildcats opened up a 20-13 lead thanks to nine kills from Ardila but form that point on, nothing went in favor of Weston.

Unforced errors allowed the Hillers back into the game, while Holly Adams supplied the offense and Hopkinton unleashed a 12-2 win to stun the Wildcats and take a 25-22 win to grab a 2-0 lead.

“That’s the thing I’m most proud of,” Grabmeier said. “We can come back from a deficit even when were on the verge of potentially losing a game, the seniors know what they are doing. They don’t have the word “lose” in their vocabulary.”

After seeing their second set lead evaporate in front of their eyes in a must-win situation, Weston had little left in the third set. The Wildscate never strung together more than two consecutive points and the Hillers utilized a 15-1 run and quickly downed the Wildcats to clinch the Div. 2 title.

“Every single player, on the court and off contributed and we feed off the fans,” Adams said. “Everyone put in 100 percent today.”

Weston had no answer for Adams’ offensive production as the senior captain notched 13 kills in the win but was a force on both side of the ball.

“Over six feet of hitting power for one thing but she’s a complete package, Grabmeider said. “That’s why she’s all-league MVP and all-state player.”

Division 3: Frontier 3, Case 1

Frontier coach Sean MacDonald and his Redhawks were gunning for their fifth consecutive Division 3 title, but win or lose he figured he was playing with “house money.”

The Redhawks survived a five-set scare in Thursday’s state semifinal win over Lynnfield, fending off five-consecutive match points to advance to the title game.

“Whether we deserve to be here or not, we probably don’t after Thursday but we are here,” MacDonald said. “We’ve been given a second chance and we are going to make the most of it. It felt like we we’re playing with a free roll and house money so lets make the best of it.”

Saturday’s state championship victory was much easier on the nerves of Frontier, as they took the final two sets 25-14 and 25-17 to clinch a ring for the thumb.

Cassidy Ciesluk was instrumental in the Redhawks victory, tallying 14 kills in the win, leading the charge early in the clinching fourth set with four quick kills as Frontier built an early 12-3 lead.

“We knew that we could win that set, we didn’t want to go into a fifth one,” Ciesluk said. “We wanted to show people that we could win and show we could five peat.”

After a back-and-forth battle to begin the first set, the Redhawks found their rhythm and built up a 22-8 lead. Case refused to go quietly however, notching 10 of the game’s final 13 points but ultimately fell to Frontier 25-18.

That momentum carried over to the second set for Case, as they overcame an early five-point deficit and behind an excellent offensive performance from Kaitlyn Kopecky, captured the second set 25-22.

“It was huge, I think that is a testament of our mental strength to be down that much in the first set and come back and win the second,” Case first year coach Michaela Goncalves said. “Any team could have crumbled after that.”

With the match deadlocked at 1-1, MacDonald was confident with his team moving forward as long as they cleaned up their play.

“We made 12, 13, 14 errors in that second set and we only lost by three so I said guys if we cut them in half we win. Lets just serve the ball and play.”

Frontier did just that, putting forth their best effort of the day and closing the set on an 11-2 run to take the pivotal third set.

Case battled back from another early deficit in the fourth set, but a pair of aces from Remi Quesnelle with the game tied at four launched Frontier ahead for the final time, closing the book on their fifth title.

“It never gets old,” MacDonald said. “Everyone talks about winning five in a row, but these teams are different so it’s a whole different thing every year.”

Kicks for Cancer returns Sept. 27

September, 2, 2014
Sep 2
3:33
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The Kicks for Cancer tournament will return for its eight year on Saturday, Sept. 27, with some of the state’s best high school soccer sides competing while raising money for cancer research.

An enlarged field of 16 teams (12 boys’ and 4 girls’) will participate in this year’s event held at Concord-Carlisle High School’s Doug White Fields. Since its inception, Kicks for Cancer has raised more than $130,000, including more than $33,000 during last year’s event, for the Dana Farber Cancer Institute. The event began in 2007, after Lois Wells, mother Concord Carlisle assistant coach Steve Wells, succumbed to cancer.

“Kicks for Cancer is a true grass roots event that began when the kids just wanted to do something for Coach Wells,” Concord-Carlisle boys’ soccer head coach Ray Pavlik wrote in a release sent to local media on Monday, “but it’s grown into an important benefit. The soccer is always great, but obviously, it’s about so much more than that.”

The schedule of game action is as follows:

11:30 a.m. - Reading vs. Woburn
11:30 a.m. – Acton-Boxborough girls vs. Bedford girls

2:00 p.m. - Lexington vs. Wakefield
2:00 p.m. - Bedford vs Boston Latin

4:30 p.m. – Lincoln-Sudbury girls vs. Concord-Carlisle girls
4:30 p.m. - Brookline vs. Newton North

7:00 p.m. – Lincoln-Sudbury boys vs. Concord-Carlisle boys
7:00 p.m. – Acton-Boxborough vs. Wayland

Admission to see all games is $5 for children and $10 for adults.

For those who are unable to attend the event, but still wish to make a donation directly to the Dana Farber Institute and the Jimmy Fund on behalf of Kicks for Cancer, please use our donation web page www.myjimmyfundevent.org/2014/kicksforcancer.
Baseball America released its final Top 50 national high school rankings for the 2014 season. To view it, CLICK HERE.

Two Massachusetts teams made their way into the back end of the final poll, Division 1A state champ Newton North and Division 1 state champ Leominster.

Newton North finished No. 1 in ESPNBoston.com's statewide poll, a spot they'd held since mid-May, after finishing 23-1 and capturing the inaugural MIAA Division 1A "Super Eight" championship. The Tigers rank No. 49 in Baseball America's final poll.

Leominster finished No. 9 in ESPNBoston.com's poll after capturing their first state title in nearly two decades, finishing the season 21-4. The Blue Devils rank No. 42 in Baseball America's final poll.

North's Sbordone is ESPN Boston's Super 8 MVP

June, 9, 2014
Jun 9
11:51
PM ET
ESPNBoston.com and its high school sports staff are pleased to announce that Dylan Sbordone, senior righthanded pitcher for the Newton North High School Tigers, has been named its Most Valuable Player of the inaugural MIAA Division 1A "Super Eight" tournament.

[+] EnlargeDylan Sbordone
Brendan Hall/ESPNESPN Boston has named Dylan Sbordone MVP of the Super 8 baseball tournament after he recorded two wins and two saves.
The Super 8 MVP award was chosen by a panel of staff and correspondents who responsible for coverage of the tournament throughout its entirety. Sbordone will be presented the award at a later date.

"We are pleased to present Dylan Sbordone with the first-ever Super 8 MVP award," said editor Brendan C. Hall, who coordinates all of the site's high school baseball coverage. "Dylan's pitching line reflects what the Super 8 should be all about -- persevering on short rest, and laying it all on the line. He slammed the door shut on three of North's four victories in the tournament."

Sbordone appeared in all four games for the No. 1 seed Tigers as they went a perfect 4-0 to capture the first state title for long-time head coach Joe Siciliano. He picked up two wins and two saves, including the state title-clinching save in Monday night's Super 8 Final victory over Bay State Conference rival Braintree. For the tournament, he threw 11 complete innings, striking out 12, walking one, allowing one unearned run and just two hits.

In the fall, Sbordone will continue his baseball career at Southern New Hampshire University.
FRANKLIN, Mass. -- ESPN Boston High Schools editor Brendan C. Hall and correspondent Chris Bradley share their thoughts from tonight's MIAA Division 1A "Super Eight" Tournament selection meeting, at MIAA Headquarters:

Newton North softball junior pitcher Liv Sloane has committed to Holy Cross, her father, Todd, told ESPN Boston on Wednesday.

A two-time Bay State Conference All-Star and league MVP last season, Sloane is 4-0 with a 0.94 earned run average and a .625 batting average this season. For her sophomore season, she was 9-4 with a 0.96 ERA with a .552 batting average for the Division 1 North finalists.

An honors student at Newton North, Sloane also plays for the Polar Crush 18U Gold travel team.

Comcast: Brookline, Franklin advance to boys final

February, 16, 2014
Feb 16
10:22
PM ET
WELLESLEY, Mass. -– Miles Morris scored just one point for the Brookline boys basketball team on Sunday afternoon in the first round of the IAABO Board 27 Comcast Classic, but no one played a bigger role for the Warriors as they cruised past Newton North, 50-40, to advance to Monday’s title game against Franklin.

The senior guard spent the game causing fits for Newton North star Tommy Mobley, limiting the explosive scorer to just 14 points.

“That’s not an easy thing to do because Mobley’s a tough cover,” said Brookline point guard Elijah Rogers. “He can shoot it and he can get to the line well. When we have Miles playing like that on defense, that’s when we’re at our best because everyone feeds off his energy.”

Added Brookline coach Luke Day: “We haven’t really changed the game plan against Tommy in three games. We basically put Miles on him, and we have a few other guys we sub occasionally. We just told him to keep hounding him. We’ve changed a few things we do on screens and we made one adjustment from the last game but nothing major.

"The other night, Mobley hit two or three 3’s right in Miles’ face, and tonight he didn’t make those. It’s a really slim difference in the game.”

Throughout the night, Brookline’s defenders limited the open looks for the high-powered Tigers. A team that traditionally piles up points from beyond the 3-point line, North connected on just four 3’s in the loss.

“It starts with Miles, but it really was a complete team effort,” said Day. “It wasn’t our best offensive night, but the defense was great tonight.”

With Morris handling Mobley and the impressive defensive effort they faced all over the floor, the Tigers weren’t able to mount much of an attack on the offensive end. Jack Boucher (10 points) was the only other North player with more than four points in the loss.

“We played a little bit tentative,” said North coach Paul Connolly. “I wasn’t happy with our effort happy in terms of our energy and in terms of how we played today. We held them to 50 points, I can live with that. We can be a pretty good defensive team. Teams try to take away Tommy, and they did it, and that was pretty much the game.”

Brookline’s offense was bottled up most of the game, but Elijah Rogers finally got into rhythm in the fourth, scoring eight of his game-high 17 points to put the game away in the rubber match for these two Bay State rivals.

The Warriors also got seven points, eight rebounds and six blocks from big man Obi Obiora and eight points and five rebounds from forward Tyler Patterson.

Foul play slows pace as Franklin claws past Belmont: As the clock clicked under seven minutes remaining in the other boys game, Belmont center Adam Kleckner fouled out of the game, and Franklin took advantage. With Kleckner out, the Panthers went on an 11-0 run and earned a 61-50 win to advance to the championship game.

That wasn’t the first instance in which a foul changed how things were played on the court, as 48 fouls were called in all during the contest. Both teams reached the double bonus in both halves, and 53 free throws were taken before the final horn sounded.

“Both offensively and defensively, it can be kind of hard to get into a flow with that many fouls,” said Franklin coach Dean O’Connor. “I’m not complaining, both teams just had to adjust. The thing is, you have to be able to play to however the game is being officiated. It didn’t have any impact on winning and losing, it just affected how we both had to play though. There wasn’t a lot of flow to this game, but we committed some very dumb fouls away from the basket that contributed to it.”

One of the only players seemingly not affected by the slow pace of play was Panthers senior captain Chris Rodgers. He poured in a game-high 21 points to go with six rebounds and four steals.

“He’s our best player and that’s kind of what he does,” said O’Connor. He’s great in the open floor and very tough to guard. He’s long for his height, so on the boards and getting to the rim, he can elevate over people.”

The Panthers (15-5) also got 11 points and eight rebounds from Pat O’Reilly and 10 points, 12 rebounds and three blocks from Marcus Giese in the win.

Matt Kerans paced the Marauders with 16 points and five rebounds, Kleckner finished with 11 points and Cole Bartels chipped in with nine points for Belmont, which takes on Newton North in the consolation game to kick off action on Monday.

Video: Needham upsets No. 5 Newton North

February, 16, 2014
Feb 16
4:36
PM ET
Unranked Needham delivered a big upset on Friday night, taking down Bay State Conference rival Newton North. Matt Glenn scored the winning basket with just seconds left to give the Rockets a 50-49 thriller over the No. 5 Tigers.

Courtesy of The Needham Channel's Mike Dermody, here are the video highlights of one of Friday's most thrilling finishes:

IAABO Board 27 tourney field set

February, 9, 2014
Feb 9
11:31
PM ET
The 24th annual IAABO Board 27Arbella /Comcast Basketball Classic will be played Feb. 16-17 at Babson College in Wellesley.

Here's a look at this year's competition:

Sunday, Feb. 16

1:30 p.m. – Belmont HS vs. Franklin HS boys

3:00 p.m. – Newton North HS vs. Brookline HS boys

4:30 p.m. – Archbishop Williams HS vs. Medfield HS girls

6:00 p.m. – Braintree HS vs. Westford Academy girls

Monday, Feb. 17

1:30 p.m. –Boys’ Consolation

3:00 p.m. – Boys Championship

4:30 p.m. – Girls Consolation

6:00 p.m. – Girls championship

A player from each team will receive a scholarship. Since starting the tournament in 1990, IAABO Board 27 has awarded over $80,000 in scholarships and Gifts to the many different high schools throughout Eastern Massachusetts.
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.

'Cloud nine' moment for Newton's Durkin

January, 26, 2014
Jan 26
12:54
AM ET
BOSTON -- As the final seconds ticked off the clock at the 2014 Good Sports Invitational, Newton North’s Brendan Durkin raced through the paint at TD Garden, took a pass from a Tiger teammate and sank a buzzer beating jump shot to cap off a win.

The Tiger fan base erupted in the stands behind the basket and his Newton North teammates all huddled around to celebrate their team manager turned hero.

[+] EnlargeDurkin
Brendan Hall/ESPNNewton North team manager Brendan Durkin held an unforgettable press conference after scoring the final points in the Tigers' rout of Newton South.
“This was my first time doing this. I’ve never been on the court before. I’ve been managing for about seven years now, and this feels really nice,” Durkin said. “I haven’t played much really. Playing tonight, here at the Celtics, this was really a lot of fun. Playing for my first coach, coach Connolly, he’s so supportive of me. He looks up to me, my team looks up to me.”

Durkin, a special needs student with Down Syndrome, might only stand about 5-foot tall, but he looked like a giant knocking down that shot to cap off Newton North’s win over crosstown rival Newton South.

“It was awesome,” said Tigers teammate Tommy Mobley. “Brendan comes to practice every day and suits up with with us. He’s got a practice jersey just like the rest of us. It says ‘play hard’ on the back. He’s one of the guys. He gets some shots up sometimes in practice, and today he had the opportunity and he seized it.”

Added Newton North coach Paul Connolly: “I asked him if he was ready and he immediately took the lanyard off and got ready to go in. Hitting a shot like that today, at the Garden, just really topped it for us. That was terrific.What a great way to end it.”

Durkin was already well-known at school before making his big basket. He received a certificate from the school two years ago, and is currently part of Mass. Bay Community College’s transitional program, as well as North’s Connections Program. A friend to everyone at North better known as "B-Wonder", he’s been known to perform his own rap songs at halftime of home games, and has always served as someone who knew how to fire up the Tigers’ crowd during a contest.

“The kids in our school love him,” said Connolly. “They see him in the hallway every day, and he loves being a part of the school. He loves going up to the cafe every day and getting his chicken wrap.”

He leads the Tigers on the floor for lay-up lines before the game, and takes part in their taking charge drills at practice, his wide smile never fading from his face. Teammate Brett Stanton picks him up each day and drives him home when practice ends -- Durkin truly is just one of the guys. He never ceases to support hit Tigers’ teammates, and after his big night they’re returning the favor.

“He’s on cloud nine. His family -- his mom and dad are pretty proud right now,” said Connolly. “My kids all embrace him -- did you see how fast those guys raced down to the press room when they found out he was speaking after the game?”

And it was there in his postgame press conference that Durkin, fueled by the success found on the parquet at TD Garden, sent a message to the rest of his team, knowing the Eastern Mass. Finals would be at the Garden, and a possible state championship game would be played at the DCU Center in Worcester.

“We’re 11-1 now, but it’s starting to get hard,” Durkin said. “We just have to play hard and get back to the Garden and then to DCU. Let’s get that championship trophy, and let’s go home.”

Good Sports: No. 5 Newton North 81, Newton South 49

January, 26, 2014
Jan 26
12:01
AM ET
BOSTON -- Tommy Mobley may have about his scoring a little bit differently than he usually does for the No. 5 Newton North basketball team at the TD Garden on Saturday night, but the results were very much the same as he piled up points and guided the Tigers past crosstown rival Newton South, 81-49, in the finale of the inaugural Good Sports TD Garden Invitational.

Normally a guy who racks up points primarily as a sniper from beyond the three-point line, Mobley repeatedly took to handling the ball and driving to the hoop in the early going, connecting on jumpers inside the paint and lay-ins to tally some first half points.

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Brendan Hall/ESPNTommy Mobley stole the show for Newton North, scoring 35 points in a rout of city rival Newton South.
“The Newton South guys -- I’m really good friends with a lot of them,” Mobley said. “I know them really well, they know me really well. They know I like the three-point game. I’ve been working on getting the mid-range going a little bit this season, and it’s been kind of off and on. Tonight was the first time it was really on.”

Mobley eventually took his game back out beyond the arc, knocking down six 3-pointers as part of his 35 point attack -- one that ended after North was in control at the end of three quarters. The junior guard finished 14-for-20 from the field, including an impressive 6-for-11 on threes.

“When Tommy gets going, it’s fun to watch,” said North coach Paul Connolly. “I don’t know how many he finished with tonight, but he had eight last night. He’s a terrific three-point shooter.”

Added South coach Joe Killilea: “Tommy played out of his head again, and I thought we did a fair job on him. No matter what we did, he had an answer. Credit to him.”

Perhaps his most impressive shot of the night was a crisp jumper he unleashed from five feet behind the NBA three-point line on the Celtics' court, as time expired in the first quarter.

“That was just kind of a shot that I hit a couple times in the driveway, or in a gym on a Wednesday afternoon at 4:30,” Mobley said. “Just something where you’re imagining you’re playing for the Celtics, there’s five seconds left and you gotta go the length of the court and just pull for a deep one. Geoff (Gray) played great defense, and that shot was luck.”

Triple Tiger Attack: The three-pointer was part of Newton North’s game plan from the get-go, and it wasn’t just Mobley connecting on the long range shots.

“We really do drill that,” said Connolly. “We have some weapons. Earlier this year in a 32 minute scrimmage, I think we had 17 three’s, so it is something we’re good at and it’s part of our arsenal.”

By the time the last second had clicked off, the Tigers (11-1) had buried 14 triples in all, as Sam Jefferson added three himself, Jack Boucher and Thomas Maguire each chipped in two, and Elliot Sackman had hit on another one.

“That’s just too many points to give up,” said Killilea. “ If they hit that many 3’s, they’re impossible to beat.”

It took North a few minutes into the game to click on offense, especially with the long ball. Once they did, the Tigers never looked back.

“At the beginning we were kind of jittery and a little bit nervous, but we settled in and really got it going,” said Mobley. “Jack Boucher hit back-to-back threes and Sam Jefferson shot the ball great. A lot of those 3’s are because we have Liam (Bruno) and (Ezekial Francisco) inside, bringing the defense in and letting us get open shooters outside.”

Lucky Lions: While the score may have turned out differently than Newton South had hoped, the Lions still weren’t discounting their experience on the parquet at the Garden.

“This was a fabulous experience,” said KIllilea. They treated us unbelievably well from the minute we got her to the end. For a high school kid, it really can’t get any better.”

Added South junior Mark Karmiy: “The whole experience, I’m going to remember it for the rest of my life.”

It was Karmiy who shined brightest on the court for South, pouring in a team-high 11 points. Alex Kiristy added seven points while Geoff Gray, Phil Levine-Caleb and Sasha Hoban each had six points in defeat for the Lions (4-6).

Video: Brendan Durkin addresses the media

January, 25, 2014
Jan 25
10:48
PM ET
BOSTON -- Newton North concluded Saturday's inaugural Good Sports TD Garden Invitational with an 81-49 win over rival Newton South, capped by an explosive shooting performance from All-State junior guard Tommy Mobley (35 points). But the night will most be remembered for the final 14 seconds, in which North team manager Brendan Durkin was inserted into the game. Durkin, who has Down's syndrome, scored the Tigers' final basket as time expired.

In a press conference following the game, joined by Mobley and coach Paul Connolly, Durkin discussed the moment and made a bold statement, declaring that North will play for the MIAA Division 1 State Championship in March.

For anyone in the Will McDonough Press Room during Durkin's press conference, it was an amazing moment to experience:



Mobley and Connolly also talked about Durkin's shot, and what he means to the team:

Roundtable: Midseason Boys Hoop All-State

January, 25, 2014
Jan 25
1:01
AM ET
Brendan C. Hall
ESPN Boston High Schools Editor


FIRST TEAM

G – Tyler Nelson, Sr., Central Catholic
He’s always been one of the state’s premier shooters, but his game has evolved this season as he continues to fight through box-and-one's. He has grown up quite a bit in terms of toughness.

G – Dizel Wright, Sr., Putnam
One of the state’s best on-ball defenders and the humble kid on an otherwise very vocal team, he sets the tone at both ends of the floor for the state’s undisputed No. 1 team.

F – Tyonne Malone, Soph., Putnam
One of several prep school transfers that arrived with plenty of hype, the 6-foot-3 slasher has been an integral force on the wing for the Beavers. Long with plenty of athleticism to get to the rim at will, there’s a lot of upside to be excited about.

F – David Murrell, Sr., Putnam
It’s an MMA fight at times trying to battle on the boards with the Beavers, and the returning All-State forward sets the tone for one of the state’s best rebounding teams.

C – Anthony Green, Sr., North Quincy
One of the best revelations of the 2013-14 season, the late-blooming 6-foot-9 center has showed marked improvement from where he was at this time a year ago. And the Red Raiders have been a large benefactor.

SECOND TEAM

G – Tommy Mobley, Jr., Newton North
Some folks would like to see him become more assertive on the glass, but there is no denying Mobley’s shooting ability. He might be the most automatic three-point marksman in Massachusetts.

G – Makai Ashton-Langford, Soph., St. Peter-Marian
If you haven’t seen him yet, you are missing out. He is the Guardians’ most talented lead guard since Naadir Tharpe, and has backed up the mound of hype behind his high-major potential in this first half of the season.

G – Aahmane Santos, Jr., Catholic Memorial
Santos returned from prep school a much more aggressive –- and visibly faster –- player. At times it seems like he is operating at a different speed than the other nine players on the floor, and that’s one of the bigger reasons why the Knights are averaging upwards of 86 points per game so far.

F – Asante Sandiford, Sr., New Mission
Franklin Pierce commit proved a lot to me with the way he battled one of the nation’s top big men, Karl Towns Jr., at the Shooting Touch Shootout. The Titans have been absolute piranhas on defense this season, with Sandiford at the forefront.

F – Tyree Robinson, Jr., Durfee
It’s been a few years since the Hilltoppers were this good, and I’m not sure how competitive they’d even be without landing this Notre Dame Prep transfer.

THIRD TEAM

G – Giulien Smith, Jr., Catholic Memorial
Like seemingly a half-dozen other Knights, Smith can shoot it. But it’s his ability to create his own shot that makes him and Aahmane Santos one of the most dangerous backcourts.

G – Rocky DeAndrade, Sr., Mansfield
The Hornets started the season down three starters to injury, yet they haven’t skipped a beat. Credit that to DeAndrade, who has become faster after a diligent offseason.

G – Elijah Rogers, Sr., Brookline
You can make the case for Rogers to be a lot higher on this list. The Warriors had a tough start to the season, but they may have hit their stride. When Rogers is on, it is a spectacle.

F – Gary Clark, Jr., Everett
Arguably the best two-way player on one of the state’s most tenacious defenses.

F – Fred "Bam" Rivers, Sr., New Mission
This might be the Titans' best squad since 2010-11, and as the nickname implies, this fearless, wide-bodied 6-foot-4 post is one of the primary reasons. There isn't a player in Massachusetts he's afraid to make uncomfortable. Oh, and he can step out and shoot it, too.

Coach of the Year: Kevin Barrett, North Quincy
A few other names here could fit the bill, such as Mansfield’s Mike Vaughan, Fitchburg’s Jack Scott or North Andover’s Paul Tanglis. But a year ago at this time, Anthony Green was a timid kid who moved gingerly and couldn’t stay on the court without getting fatigued or racking up fouls. Now, he’s become the Raiders’ own “Nerlens Lite”, and the biggest reason for their 11-0 start. And while we’re at it, raise your hand if you'd heard of Eftham Butka at this time last year (Don’t lie). Now, he’s the Raiders’ most dangerous scorer. All of this speaks to Barrett’s commitment to player development, a trait that sometimes feels like a lost art in today’s AAU-ficated grassroots culture. That shouldn’t be overlooked.

***

Chris Bradley
ESPN Boston correspondent


FIRST TEAM

G - Dizel Wright, Sr., Putnam
The most complete player on the state's most complete team. A built, athletic point guard who can guard a variety of positions and put up double-figure rebounding totals, Wright should be considered a serious contender for Mr. Basketball, as should these next four candidates.

G - Tommy Mobley, Jr., Newton North
The state's most lethal shooter has turned into one of it's best overall scorers. Mobley has lit some of the state's best teams up this year, averaging 20 points per game as Newton North has emerged as one of the best teams in Division 1.

G - Guilien Smith, Jr., Catholic Memorial
In terms of pure scoring ability, there may be no better player in the state than Smith. Smith has deep range on his three-point shot, the quickness to get to the hoop off the dribble, and now the upper body strength to finish. He's a big reason why CM is 12-1.

F - David Murrell, Sr., Putnam
Wright may be Putnam's best player, but Murrell is the glue guy for the state's number-one ranked team. Averaging double-figure points and rebounds, he makes for a superior duo with sophomore Tyonne Malone.

F - Anthony Green, Sr., North Quincy
North Quincy has been one of the state's most pleasant surprises this year, and their do-it-all 6-foot-9 center hes led them every step of the way. Several scholarship-level college programs and prep schools have shown interest in Green in recent weeks.

SECOND TEAM

G - Makai Ashton-Langford, Soph., St. Peter-Marian
His 26 point outbreak against St. John's on Friday night is just another reminder why the 6-foot sophomore is considered to be one of New England's best talents. Ashton-Langford has been the guy who makes the Guardians go this year, averaging 17 points a game.

G - Aamahne Santos, Jr., Catholic Memorial
Santos has had several games where he he never reached double-figure scoring totals, yet he seems to have as much of an impact on a game as any point guard in the state. A super athlete who is also lightning-quick with the ball in his hands, Santos is the key behind Catholic Memorial's high-powered offense.

G - Tyler Nelson, Sr. Central Catholic
Much was expected out of Nelson this year, and for the most part, he has delivered for 11th-ranked Central Catholic. The Fairfield University commit has been the main focus of opposing defenses all year long, yet still manages to hit shots at a high clip.

F - Tyonne Malone, Soph., Putnam
Malone struggled at first to find his fit in an extremely talented Putnam rotation, but he has emerged as one of their best reliable players the past few weeks in wins over Woodstock Academy (Conn.), Springfield Cathedral, Springfield Central, and Northampton. A gifted athlete at 6-foot-3, Malone is already on the radar of several mid-major and high-major Division 1 programs.

F - Tyree Robinson, Jr., Durfee
The transfer from Notre Dame Prep has immediately helped turn things around at Durfee -- a team starving for a playoff appearance after several years of relative anonymity. A standout 6-foot-4 athlete who plays AAU for the Boston Amateur Basketball Club (BABC), Robinson's rebounding motor and elite athleticism have made him well worth the price of admission.

THIRD TEAM

G - Elijah Rogers, Sr., Brookline
Rogers has been the catalyst all year long for Brookline, a team who is 7-3 and looking to build off of last year's playoff run. An athletic point who can also make plays for others, he has proven to be one of the top pure point guards in the state.

G - Erick Rosario, Jr., Lynn English
It has been on Rosario to do a lot of the heavy lifting offensively with counterpart Stevie Collins out injured. A quick, clever combo guard, Rosario has proven to be one of the state's best pure offensive threats--whether it's knocking down outside jumpers or finishing acrobatic lay-ups around the rim.

G - Ryan Boulter, Jr., Mansfield
The lone blemish on the Hornets' 12-1 record is Thursday's three-point loss to Hockomock foe Attleboro, and Boulter has been a big reason why. With star forward Brendan Hill out for the year, Boulter has manged to pick up a lot of the slack offensively for Mike Vaughan's Hornets.

F - Gary Clark, Jr., Everett
Everett has been one of the state's best teams, now at 10-0, and Clark's inside-out offensive attack has helped bring some balance to a high-scoring offense. Playing alongside a loaded Everett backcourt, Clark has excelled playing down low: rebounding at a high-rate and finishing shots in the paint.

F - Fred "Bam" Rivers, Sr., New Mission
Rivers may not look the part of a gifted athlete, but to his credit, he has proven just the opposite so far for Cory McCarthy's Titans. At 6-foot-4, Rivers has the foot speed to guard multiple positions, he has shown that he is one of the best rebounders in the state, and he can even stretch the defense with his feathery three-point touch.

Coach of the Year: Cory McCarthy, New Mission
With a few star players in Franklin Pierce-bound forward Asante Sandiford, sharpshooter Shaquan Murray, and do-it-all forward Fred "Bam" Rivers, McCarthy has been able to build around that trio with one of the state's deepest rotations and stingiest defenses -- giving up just 47 points a game. The 11-1 Titans are as tough an out as any team in the state and they appear to be the favorite statewide in Division 2 midway through the season. Catholic Memorial's Denis Tobin, St. John's Prep's John Dullea, and Mansfield's Mike Vaughan should all be in the conversation for this one, but at this point in the year nobody has gotten more out of their team than McCarthy.

***

John Botelho
ESPN Boston correspondent


FIRST TEAM

G - Dizel Wright, Sr., Springfield Putnam
He’s been the best player on the best team in the state all year, and only seems to be getting better.

G - Tommy Mobley, Jr., Newton North
The junior is the best shooter I’ve seen this year, or in recent memory for that matter. Everyone know the ball is going to end up in his hands and still no one seems to be able to stop him. Has a shot to reach 1,000 points this year with another deep tourney run for the Tigers.

G - Aamahne Santos, Jr., Catholic Memorial
The leader of an explosive CM offense that leads the state in points, Sanots has done a little bit of everything for the Knights. Known for his premier offense, his defense might be even better as he’s caused fits for Catholic Conference point guards all year.

F - Fred "Bam" Rivers, Sr., New Mission
He’s capable of scoring, rebounding, or playing solid defense on other bigs down low for No. 3 New Mission. Combining with Shaquan Murray and Asante Saniford, Rivers has helped make Mission the team to beat statewide in division two.

F - Ryan Boulter, Jr., Mansfield
Unbeaten Mansfield has looked unstoppable early on despite losing returning All-Stater Brendan Hill for the year to a knee injury, and Boulter might be the biggest reason why. The junior has led an explosive offense -- averaging more than 17.6 per game on a team with four guys in double figures

SECOND TEAM

G - Tyler Nelson, Sr., Central Catholic
Pushing him to the second team was one of the hardest calls to make, but I think it speaks more to the impressive guard play statewide this season than anything else. Nelson is one of the most dynamic players in the state, and a second half surge could push him onto the first team.

G - Rocky DeAndrade, Sr., Mansfield
Second for the No. 2 Hornets in scoring behind Boulter, DeAndrade is capable of taking over games and can score from anywhere. He’s poured in over 16 per game so far as the Hornets have cruised to an 11-0 mark.

G - Elijah Rogers, Sr., Brookline
The returning All-Stater has taken his game to another level this year, guiding an offense that can run with anyone. He went off for 28 points to hand Bay State rival Newton North it’s only loss, and finding a player in the state who elevates his game for big opponents would be a tough challenge.

F - David Murrell, Sr., Putnam
Returning All-Stater gives Putnam arguably the best 1-2 punch in the state with Wright, and is a major reason they’ve been atop the rankings all season. He was tremendous at the Hoop Hall Classic last week, netting 27 and grabbing 12 rebounds against rival Springfield Central before going off for 15 points and 15 rebounds against defending Connecticut Class L champ Woodstock.

C - Obi Obiora, Sr., Brookline
The big man averaged nearly a double-double a year ago, and looks like he’s headed for one this season. A total game changer on the defensive end, he’s also capable of taking some focus off of Rogers on offense.

THIRD TEAM

G - Jack Loughnane, Soph., BC High
His offensive game is an impressive one, and he’s among the best 3-point shooters in Eastern Mas. He’s the catalyst for the Eagles’ offense, and is a major reason they’re ranked No. 10 in the state.

G - Markus Neale, Sr., Dorchester
The Bears don’t have much in the way of height, but Neale plays taller than his 6-foot-2 frame would suggest. He’s a playmaker on both ends of the floor, can score from beyond the arc or by going to the hoop, fights for rebounds and bolsters an athletic Dorchester defense.

G - Ryan Roach, Sr., Cardinal Spellman
A Stonehill commit, Roache has been tasked with running a Cardinals offense that features several players who would be the “go-to” guy on a lot of teams. None of the Cardinals are averaging crazy point totals, but the team is unbeaten in league play. Their only losses have come against Mansfield, Franklin and No. 24 St. Bernard’s.

F - Matt Nicholson, Sr., Rockland
Tyler Gibson swallowed up a ton of the publicity for Rockland a year ago, but Nicholson gave the Bulldogs a second very good scoring option. This year, with Gibson and Bryan Tavares graduated, Nicholson has been tasked with being the guy for Rockland, and he’s delivered to the tune of 22 points and eight rebounds per game for the 7-3 Bulldogs.

C - Anthony Green, Sr., North Quincy
The 6-foot-9 big man for the unbeaten Red Raiders makes his biggest impact in something that isn’t quantifiable through statistics, as the number of possessions he changes on the defensive end is staggering. Coach Kevin Barrett said earlier this year that he was blocking seven shots per game during the tourney last year, and altering at least as many. That means he’s single-handedly effecting the outcome of more than 10 possessions per contest, and that doesn’t include the way the rest of the Red Raiders defense can play in the faces of their opponents, knowing he’s back there as a last line of defense.

Coach of the Year: Bo Ruggiero, Cohasset
An argument could be made for plenty of guys this year, and people like Cory McCarthy at New Mission and Mike Vaughn at Mansfield (being unbeaten despite losing Hill is pretty impressive) certainly deserve some consideration. That said, Ruggiero has put together one of his finest coaching performances, which is saying a lot when you consider he’s got more than 500 career wins on the sidelines. The Skippers graduated a 1,000 point scorer a year ago in Shane Haggerty, and lack a star to lean on this season. Guys like Chris Haggerty, Rocco Laugelle, Henry Brown and Joe Buckley have just come together to play good fundamental hoops. They’ve gone all in on defense, and are allowing a South Shore League best 39 points per game this year. At 10-0, they have to be considered among the favorites, if not the favorite, to capture the MIAA Div. 4 crown this year.

Recap: No. 5 Newton North 68, Wellesley 54

January, 25, 2014
Jan 25
12:02
AM ET
NEWTON, Mass. -- Early on, Newton North star Tommy Mobley just couldn’t get into rhythm shooting the basketball. The junior missed his first five shots and finished just 3-for-14 shooting in the first half.

Even with the slow first half start, Mobley still connected on a trio of 3-pointers before halftime, including a buzzer beating heave from about 60 feet as time expired in the second quarter. He added for free throws before the break, and went to the half with a game-high 13 points and the Tigers leading 25-23.

“Jack (Boucher) and Liam (Bruno) were giving me great passes in the first half,” said Mobley. “I had good looks, the shots just weren’t falling. I got fouled on a three, and then hit that lucky three-quarter shot, and that kind of took me into the second half with some confidence.”

The three-quarters court bank shot to end the first half seemed to ignite something inside of Mobley, who stroked a three-pointer in the opening minute of the third. On the next possession, he slid out to NBA range and knocked down another, this time with a hand in his face, to kick-start a second half surge that would Newton North cruise to a 68-54 win over their Bay State Conference foe.

“He struggled shooting early, but he kept shooting and I told him to keep shooting,” said Newton North coach Paul Connolly. “He’s done it before for us, and tonight was a great example of why we want him to keep shooting.”

He made five of his six third quarter field goals, including going 4-for-4 from three-point land, as he tallied 14 of his game-high 32 points for the Tigers (10-1). Before all was said and done, Mobley made eight 3-pointers in the win.

“I don’t think we could have defended him any better,” said Wellesley coach Glen Magpiong. “He hit some really tough 3’s out there -- shots that were contested. He had one, maybe two open looks, and he just hit the shots.”

With Mobley catching fire in the second half, Wellesley (8-3) had to go all in on trying to stop him.

“It really opened things up for them,” said Magpiong. “One play, you try to go face guard, and now it becomes a four-on-four game, and they’re smart enough to run sets that play right into that. That’s not how we like to play defense though. We don’t play defense clinging, so after he hit another we wanted to go back to how we usually play defense.”

As the Raiders tried to figure out the best defensive schemes, Newton North point guard Liam Bruno went to work making them pay. Bruno, who finished with seven assists, made sure Wellesley wouldn’t forge any kind of comeback as he repeatedly found the open Tiger.

“I think Tommy is the best shooter in the state, so when he gets hot, you really just have to get him the ball,” Bruno said. “It opens up a ton of floor space because they’re throwing at least two defenders at Tommy or play box-and-one on him. Our coach says if another teams goes box-and-one on Tommy, that it’s disrespectful to our other players and that’s our chance to step up.”

Added Boucher: “When they go box-and-one, it’s like ‘OK, it’s time to make them pay.’”

Often times that open Tiger was Ezekial Francisco, who poured in all 10 of his points after halftime. When Wellesley tried to slow Francisco down low, Bruno found a wide open Sam Jefferson, who buried a pair of second half threes as part of a 10 point night.

The Tigers, who qualified for the Sectional tourney for the 25th straight year with the win, also got a solid contribution from Boucher (seven points, six rebounds) on both ends of the floor.

“Jack and Liam did a great job penetrating,” Mobley said. “Ezekial was huge in the second half. Zeke was just like me, he had a hard time finishing in the first half, but he finished everything after halftime. Sam Jefferson was another guy who was huge for us because he gives us another guy who can really hit the three. Sometimes, the guy out face guarding me, doesn’t even see Sam’s 3-pointer go in.”

Raiders Rising: While Mobley’s hot hand may have Newton North to a double digit win, everyone in the gym took notice of how well Wellesley played them.

“To be down two at half after he hit that half court shot, it was anyone’s ball game,” said Magpiong. “That’s a good team right there and I’m really proud of how tight my guys played them tonight.”

Added Connolly: “That team is tough. They’re a force and they’re one of the best teams in our league. This was a typical Bay State rock fight early. We got some momentum at halftime with Tommy hitting that 60-footer from beyond halfcourt.”

Joe Roberts tallied 12 points to go with a game-high 14 rebounds.

“That kid absolutely plays beyond his height,” said Magpiong. “That kid has come a long way. He’s a guy who a ‘B’ player, if you will, all through youth and now he’s an ‘A’ player. Could you imagine if we had all kids like Joey?”

Added Mobley: “He works his butt off. That kid is animal out there.”

Point guard Aidan James had a strong showing for the Raiders as well, netting 19 points to go with four steals and four assists. He was held without points for the entire third quarter (but scored nine in the fourth), allowing North to expand it’s lead.
“At halftime, we spoke and coach asked us what we thought of Aidan James and I think at the same time we all responded ‘very good player,’” said Mobley.

Added Boucher: “The key was stopping the ball early because he’s like to push the ball right away and get down low with it. We wanted to push him to one side and have good help defense.”

Both teams will be back in action Saturday at the Good Sports Invitational at TD Garden, with Wellesley tipping off against St. John’s Prep at 11:30 a.m., and Newton North squaring off against cross town rival Newton South at 7 p.m.

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