Boston High School: Prince Unaegbu

Our MIAA All-State Boys Hoops Team

March, 26, 2013
3/26/13
4:58
PM ET
THE SUPER TEAM

All-StateG – Malik James, Jr., Brighton
The 6-foot-1 point guard was named ESPN Boston’s “Mr. Basketball” last week after an explosive playoff campaign that saw him average 20 points in six games and deliver the Bengals the MIAA Division 2 state championship, their first state title in school history. James is expected to finish up his high school playing career at a prep school next season.

All-StateG – Darien Fernandez, Sr., Wareham
One of the state’s flashiest lead guards, the 5-foot-7 Fernandez once again took the South Coast Conference by storm with his no-look passes and rainbow jumpers. He averaged 23 points, eight rebounds, seven assists and five steals as the Vikings went unbeaten through the SCC for the second straight year, and returned to the D3 South title game for the third time in four seasons.

All-StateF – KayJuan Bynum, Sr., Springfield Putnam
The 6-foot-3 Bynum was a physical presence on the boards, leading the Beavers in rebounds in the MIAA Division 1 state title game as they downed Mansfield in an overtime thriller. For the season, Bynum led the Beavers in scoring (15.7 points), ranked second in steals (2.5) and rebounds (9.6), and shot 39 percent from three-point range (40-for-103). Bynum is headed to Southern Connecticut State in the fall, where he will play linebacker on the football team.

All-StateF – Chris Bardwell, Sr., North Andover
In one of the most remarkable transformations in years, the 6-foot-5 Bardwell went from a benchwarmer on Central Catholic as a junior last year, to MVP of the state’s most competitive league, the Merrimack Valley Conference, as a senior at North Andover. For the season, Bardwell averaged 21 points, nine rebounds and 1.5 blocks as the Knights reached their first Division 2 North title game in six seasons.

All-StateC – Tyler Gibson, Sr., Rockland
The 6-foot-6 senior lived up to the hype garnered after an explosive summer, leading the Bulldogs to a South Shore League title and D3 South semifinal appearance. He averaged 21.4 points, 15.3 rebounds, 4.8 blocks and 2.1 assists per game while seeing many a double-team. That includes at least eight games with 20 points and 20 rebounds. Gibson is signed with UMass-Lowell for next season.

BEST OF THE REST

All-StateRiyadh Asad, Sr. G, West Springfield
One of the most talented lead guards outside of the Eastern Mass. region, Asad led a deep and talented West Side backcourt to one of the top seeds in Division 1 West, where they lost to eventual state champion Putnam in the semifinals. For the season, he averaged 19.4 points per game.

All-StateJaleel Bell, Sr. G, Wayland
One of the most decorated players in school history, the 6-foot Bell leaves Wayland as a two-time Dual County League Small MVP, and three-time DCL Small champion. The four-year starter led the state in scoring average this season (27.4 points per game), and leaves Wayland with 1,244 career points.

All-StateZack Berman, Sr. G, Wachusett
The Mountaineers won respect around the state with a challenging non-conference slate, taking down squads such as Cambridge and Brockton, and leading the way was the 6-foot Berman. The two-time Mid-Wach A MVP and three-year captain averaged 14 points, six assists and four rebounds as the Mountaineers reached the semifinals of the Division 1 Central tournament.
All-StateJoel Berroa, Sr. F, Central Catholic
One of the state’s premier rebounders, the 6-foot-5 Berroa picked up the slack as injuries piled up for the Raiders, helping them to a second Division 1 North title in four seasons. He averaged 14.6 points, 9.4 rebounds and 2.7 blocks this season. Berroa is currently considering Northeast-10 interest as well as post-graduate options.

All-StateA.J. Brodeur, Soph. C, Algonquin
The 6-foot-8 Brodeur is one of the most promising young stars in Massachusetts, and played a big part in the Tomahawks capturing the No. 1 overall seed in Division 1 Central this season. He averaged 17.5 points, 14.4 rebounds, 8.5 blocks and 4.5 assists; that also includes four triple-doubles of points, rebounds and blocks. Brodeur is headed to NEPSAC powerhouse Northfield Mount Hermon next season.

All-StateStevie Collins, Soph. G, Lynn English
The Bulldogs were one of the state’s most fascinating teams to watch in the second half, and the 5-foot-9 Collins was the catalyst in their run. English’s run to its first D1 North Final since 2009 included a monster 38-point performance from Collins in the semifinals against Everett. For the season, Collins averaged 14.5 points and six assists per game.

All-StateBrendan Hill, Soph. F, Mansfield
Playing in the competitive Hockomock League, the 6-foot-5 Hill came away as the league’s MVP as just a sophomore, as the Hornets made their first Division 1 state final appearance in school history. He averaged 13.4 points and was the league’s leading rebounder. Hill is also a standout wide receiver on the Hornets’ football team.

All-StateFreddy Hogan, Jr. G, Lynn English
The Bulldogs’ most consistent player from the get-go, he averaged 20 points per game over the first 12 games of the season before English hit full throttle en route to the D1 North finals. For the season Hogan led the team in scoring (16.9 points), and also averaged six assists.

All-StateJameilen Jones, Sr. G, BC High
Another returning All-Stater, the 6-foot-3 Jones navigated the Eagles through a tough Catholic Conference en route to one of the top seeds in Division 1 South. For the season, Jones averaged 18 points, seven rebounds and five assists as the Eagles took a surprise first round exit in the playoffs. Jones will be pursuing post-graduate options for next season.

All-StateEric Martin, Sr. G, Danvers
One of several point guards making the list primarily for their distribution, the 6-foot Martin was the Northeastern Conference’s MVP this season after averaging 8.8 points, 7.2 assists and 3.7 steals per game. The two-time NEC All-Star led the Falcons to their second straight MIAA Division 3 state championship this season, and also has over 100 career goals for the Falcons’ soccer team, good enough for best all-time in the school.

All-StateTommy Mobley, Soph. G, Newton North
One of the state’s premier shooters made headlines throughout the season for his marksmanship, hitting 94 three-pointers and twice hitting nine in a game. He was named MVP of the Bay State Conference’s Carey division after averaging 18.4 points and five rebounds per game. He was also named to the All-Tournament Team of the Comcast IAABO Board 27 Classic.

All-StateBrian Mukasa, Jr. G, Sharon
The 6-foot Mukasa navigated the Eagles through a wide-open Division 2 South, losing to district champ Scituate in the semifinals. For the season, he was the Hockomock League’s leading scorer at 18.1 points per game, to go along with 4.7 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 1.9 steals.

All-StateDavid Murrell, Jr. F, Springfield Putnam
An athletic slasher, the 6-foot-3 Murrell was another defensive stalwart for a Beavers squad that earned their first MIAA Division 1 state championship in school history. For the season, he averaged 14.9 points and a team-best 10 rebounds, and also shot 53 percent from the field.

All-StateIsaiah Nelsen, Sr. F, North Andover
The 6-foot-6 post leaves North Andover as a two-time All-Star, and one of the program’s all-time leading scorers and rebounders. For his senior season he averaged 18.9 points, 10.1 rebounds and two blocks as the Knights made their first D2 North Final appearance since 2007. Nelsen is signed with St. Anselm College for next season.

All-StateTyler Nelson, Jr. G, Central Catholic
Another one of the state’s premier shooters, and one of several returning All-Staters, Nelson shot 41 percent from three-point range as the Raiders captured their second Division 1 North title in four seasons. For the season, he averaged 17.2 points and 4.7 assists, and shot 89 percent from the free throw line.

All-StateFrantdzy Pierrot, Jr. G, Melrose
The Red Raiders were the state’s final remaining unbeaten before they fell to state champ Brighton in the D2 North semifinals, and the 6-foot-3 Pierrot was the catalyst. He was named MVP of the Middlesex League after averaging 21 points, 11 rebounds and five assists; that number includes averages of 18 points, 10 rebounds and four steals in the playoffs, with an injured ankle. Pierrot is also a highly-regarded soccer player for Melrose during the fall.

All-StateKamari Robinson, Sr. F, Springfield Central
Another returning All-Stater, the 6-foot-5 Robinson slid over to the wing position after leading the Golden Eagles to a Division 1 state championship in 2012 as a power forward. The move produced dramatic results, as he averaged 20.8 points per game and was named the Western Mass. Player of the Year.

All-StateElijah Rogers, Jr. G, Brookline
The 6-foot Rogers controlled everything for the Warriors in surprise blowouts of New Bedford and Marshfield, en route to the program’s first Division 1 South semifinal appearance since 2004. For the season he averaged 14.9 points, 5.4 assists and 3.4 rebounds. Rogers has been receiving varied amounts of interest across Divisions 1 and 2.

All-StateNick Simpson, Jr., Brighton
In his first run through the Division 2 playoffs, the 6-foot-5 Simpson was instrumental, helping the Bengals earn some dramatic wins throughout the tournament. For the season, he averaged 25 points, eight rebounds and three assists as the Bengals won their first Division 2 state title in school history.

All-StateJustin White, Jr. F, Holyoke
Also a star quarterback for the football team, the 6-foot-3 White brought that toughness underneath to impressive results, as the Purple Knights reached the Division 1 West semifinals. For the season, White averaged 16.3 points, 13.2 rebounds and 2.5 blocks.

DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
All-StateJoel Berroa, Central Catholic
As injuries to key frontcourt players continued to pile up, Berroa saddled up and took on the brunt of the duties down low, marking the best forwards and keeping them in check. He was one of the Merrimack Valley Conference’s leading rebounders (9.4 per game) as the Raiders reached their second Division 1 Eastern Mass. Final in four seasons.

COACH OF THE YEAR
Mike McVeigh, North Andover

Long a Cape Ann League stalwart, the Knights began their first season in the state’s best league, the Merrimack Valley Conference, and made their presence felt immediately by capturing a share of the MVC Large title. The Knights also reached their first Division 2 North final since 2007 in the process, putting a nice bow on what has been a storybook career for the long-time coach. After 31 years on the sideline, one of the truest class acts in the game is calling it a career, with an overall record of 497-176 and a playoff appearance in every season.

All-Defensive Team
Lucas Hammel, Sr. G, Central Catholic
Joel Berroa, Sr. F, Central Catholic
Prince Unaegbu, Sr. F, Brighton
Tyler Gibson, Sr. F/C, Rockland
Obi Obiora, Jr. C, Brookline

All-Shooters Team
Tommy Mobley, Soph. G, Newton North
Tyler Nelson, Sr. G, Central Catholic
Tim Dufficy, Sr. G, Whitinsville Christian
Tyler Desrosiers, Sr. G, Agawam
Daivon Edwards, Sr. G, Brighton

Justin White photo is courtesy of MassLive.com and the Springfield Republican

Brian Mukasa photo is courtesy of HockomockSports.com

D2 Boys Final: Brighton 59, South Hadley 41

March, 17, 2013
3/17/13
2:09
AM ET


WORCESTER, Mass. -– After a season that at many points could have been compared to a roller coaster ride, Brighton left nothing for question in their most important game of the year.

Behind 16 points from point guard Malik James, Brighton (21-6) captured the Division 2 state championship, knocking off Western Mass. champion South Hadley (17-8), 59-41.

James saved some of his best performances for the biggest stages -- take, for instance, his storming comeback in the state semifinal game against Scituate, Tuesday night at TD Garden. Today, he was unstoppable in the second and third quarters thanks to his ability to get to the rim and hit mid-range jumpers.

Brighton got out to a quick lead in the first half, something that hasn’t often been said this year about the Bengals. Known for their slow starts and ability to turn it on in the fourth quarter, Brighton jumped out to a 19-10 first quarter lead, and never looked back. South Hadley made their runs in the second half, but the Bengals were always there to slam the door shut.

A year after the heavily-favored Bengals came up short in the state title game, and months after many question Brighton’s toughness and hunger to want to get back to the state finals, they did just that -- sending James, who scored his 1000th point in today’s game, off in style to finish his career at prep school.

“It feels awesome to leave on a good note...and to just leave with a state championship and a ring,” James said. "It was more about being more mature...[last year] we were young-minded, we really didn’t know what to do on the court. We just listened to our coach, and everything was good.”

James’ progression: Bengals coach Hugh Coleman said James’ leadership is a big reason why the Bengals were able to make a run to the state title game. Teammate Jason Jones said after the Boston City League championship game, a game Brighton won, that James’ business-trip type attitude was infectious to the rest of the team -— giving them motivation and helping them focus on beating New Mission for the Boston City League title.

It was a comment that had Coleman glowing, and a factor that made the coach reflect on James’ progression as a leader.

“A lot of times I’ve been wondering how much he’s listened to me, how much he’s growing off the court," Coleman said. "What I’ve realized from this season and these playoffs is that he takes it in, but it shows a lot more on the court. That’s meant everything for us.

"His maturity has come so much more on the court. I’m proud of him for that—he’s a special, special young man.”

Coleman still expresses his appreciation for getting the Brighton job four years ago. James enrolled at Brighton by chance, the same year that Coleman began his duties as the head-man of the Bengals.

“I lucked up and got the job at Brighton four years ago, I probably wasn’t supposed to get it, but I did," he said. "A lot of people recruited him out of middle school to go to different schools, but he ended up at Brighton with me.

"I’m glad I’ve been able to be a part of his life, and him a part of my life -- he’s made me a stronger person, and I hope I was able to rub off on him.”

Learning from O’Brien: Coleman announced after the game that he would be dedicating the victory to his good friend and mentor Jack O’Brien, the famed former Charlestown coach who won five Division 2 state championships over a period of six seasons from 2000 to 2005. Coleman’s squad this year was the first team since O’Brien’s 2003 Townies team to win both the Boston City League title and the state title. Coleman was an assistant on O’Brien’s staff for that unprecedented run, while his younger brother Derek was a captain on that 2003 squad.

“He should be coaching," Coleman. "In my opinion he’s the best coach in the state of Massachusetts. Not just because he won games, he changed the lives of so many of us young men at Charlestown."

Coleman and his coaching staff constantly express their pride in having the opportunity to shape young men. Forward Nick Simpson (11 points), who failed off the team last year, is now the Bengals’ best student -— making the honor roll in each of the first two quarters of this year. James, a player with tons of talent whose motor has sometimes been questioned, played better in the state tournament than almost any other player in the state.

“My coaching staff...the Bengal five: those guys, we strategize after every game, we talk about not just basketball, we talk about what’s going on with these guys in their lives off the court," Coleman said. "It was really special to accomplish those things, but it never would have happened without the hard work of those guys."

O’Brien was long known for being a father-figure in the lives of his players—whether it was making sure they were fed, getting on them about their grades, teaching them about integrity, or introducing his players to goal-setting, his example is one that Coleman energetically replicates at Brighton.

“What I learned from Jack O’Brien at Charlestown was winning was a compliment to the young men [becoming] better people," Coleman said. "That’s my passion, helping these young men become better people—and through that process, we were able to be successful today. I’m very, very proud.”

Tale of the Tape: Brighton vs. South Hadley

March, 14, 2013
3/14/13
11:34
PM ET
MassLive.com online sports producer Jay King and I break down each of the three MIAA boys basketball State Championships taking place Saturday at the DCU Center in Worcester. I'll be providing Eastern Mass. perspective, while Jay handles Western Mass.


***

DIVISION 2: BRIGHTON VS. SOUTH HADLEY

School: Brighton
Record: 20-6
Region: North

Boy, do the Bengals have a flair for the dramatic. In Tuesday night’s Eastern Mass. Final with Scituate, at TD Garden, Brighton trailed by 11 with four minutes to go, then took the lead with 1.8 seconds left after Malik James scooped up a Nate Hogan deflection and converted a three-point play. James’ fourth-quarter effort – 14 of his 21 points, all with four fouls – is something they’ll be talking about for years. And yet, it was just the latest episode of one of the most dramatic playoff runs in years, scoring last-second victories in wins over Burlington, Melrose and North Andover en route to that Scituate win.

The Bengals were a heavy favorite over Mahar in last year’s state final, but fell behind 17-3 in the first quarter before losing by four. Yet here they are again, supercharged behind James and getting added boost from wing Nick Simpson, who was ruled academically ineligible shortly before last year’s playoff run.

Should Brighton win on Saturday, the Bengals would be the first team from Boston Public Schools to win both a Boston City Championship and MIAA State Championship in the same season since 2003. That, of course, was one of Jack O’Brien’s five state title squads at Charlestown. The legendary O’Brien is a lifelong mentor to Brighton head coach Hugh Coleman, who was also an assistant on those nationally-ranked Townies squads.

-- Brendan Hall

Key Players:
Malik James, 6-2 Jr. G (21 points, eight assists) – When in his element, simply the best point guard in the MIAA. His 14-point fourth quarter with four fouls at the Garden, punctuated with his steal and game-winning layup, was something of beauty.
Nick Simpson, 6-4 Jr. G (16 points, seven rebounds) – Ruled ineligible shortly before the 2011-12 postseason, some wonder if he could have been the difference in the Mahar game last year.
Prince Unaegbu, 6-6 Jr. C (12 rebounds, seven blocks) – Also a menace as a two-way edge player in football, Unaegbu is the muscle down below. Also the cousin of future UMass defensive end Peter Ngobidi.
Daivon Edwards, 6-0 Sr. G (13 points) – One of the state’s best long-distance shooters, has hit 92 three-pointers so far this season. Give him an inch, it will feel like a mile.

Road through the playoffs
North First Round: beat Burlington, 62-60
North Quarterfinal: beat Salem, 82-61
North Semifinal: beat Melrose, 65-62
North Final: beat North Andover, 64-59
Eastern Mass. Final: beat Scituate, 55-52

***

School: South Hadley
Record: 17-7
Region: West

When South Hadley dropped to 7-5 with a 26-point loss to Sabis at the Hoophall Classic in mid-January, coach Jeff Guiel kept the team in the locker room for about a half an hour. He told his players they needed to be mentally tougher. He implored them to use their assistant coaches, former South Hadley players, as examples. He didn’t really know what else to do. He felt his team could play much better, but he saw an underachieving bunch sitting in front of him.

South Hadley lost its next two games after that speech (maybe drawing similar ones), but hasn’t lost since. The Tigers won their last six regular season contests, captured a Western Mass. title with three more victories, and then beat St. Bernard’s by 15 points in the Division II state semifinals.

Underachieving no more. Not even close.

-- Jay King

Key players:
Evan Marcus, 5-11 Sr. G (16 points) – Depending when you pay attention during a game, Marcus will either be: shooting a 3-pointer, posting up, doggedly chasing an opponent, quarterbacking the South Hadley offense or slashing to the paint for two. So yes, he provides quite a bit. And yes, at least during the latter stages of the Western Mass. tournament, South Hadley’s Mr. Everything wore his hair in a mullet.
T.J. Fitzell, 5-10 Jr. G (11.3 points) – Fitzell’s like that bad movie about an underground fight club starring Sean Faris –- he’ll Never Back Down. Capable of extended hot streaks, he hit five 3-pointers in the first quarter against St. Bernard’s and leads South Hadley with 46 triples on the season.
Avon White, 5-10 Jr. G (10.7 points) – South Hadley’s quickest player and best ball-handler, White is adept at breaking down defenses with the dribble.
Anthony Bullough, 6-2 Sr. F (8.2 points) – Though he scored 14 points in the Western Mass. final, Bullough isn’t one to post impressive numbers. What he does provide for South Hadley, though: toughness and a bit of length for a team mostly devoid of the latter.

Road through the playoffs
West Round 1: beat Belchertown, 73-51
West Semifinals: beat Sabis, 52-40
West Final: beat Greenfield, 55-49
State Semifinals: beat St. Bernard’s, 63-48

Roundtable: Midseason All-State, Superlatives

January, 25, 2013
1/25/13
3:46
PM ET
At the midpoint of the MIAA basketball season, we've asked our panel of experts to submit their picks for ESPN Boston All-State, as well as Mr. and Miss Basketball along with a number of superlatives:

***

Brendan Hall
ESPN Boston High Schools Editor


All-State Super Team
G – Tyler Nelson, Jr., Central Catholic
G – Darien Fernandez, Sr., Wareham
G – Jameilen Jones, Sr., BC High
G/F – Kamari Robinson, Sr., Springfield Central
F/C – Tyler Gibson, Sr., Rockland

Second Team
G – Jaylen Blakely, Sr., Brockton
G – Nick McKenna, Sr., Danvers
F – Nick Cambio, Jr., Central Catholic
F – Brendan Hill, Soph., Mansfield
F – Isaiah Nelsen, Sr., North Andover

Third Team
G – Riyadh Asad, Sr., West Springfield
G – Juwan Gooding, Soph., New Mission
F - Sam Dowden, Sr., Andover
C - Dakari Wornum, Sr., Dorchester
C – Chris Baldwin, Soph., Springfield Central

Girls Super Team
G - Infiniti Thomas-Waheed, Jr., Newton North
G - Donnaizha Fountain, Sr., Cambridge
F - Olivia Healy, Sr., Reading
F - Caitlyn Abela, Sr., Oliver Ames
C - Molly Reagan, Soph., Braintree

Mr. Basketball Finalists
Tyler Nelson, Jr., Central Catholic – WINNER
Darien Fernandez, Sr., Wareham
Jameilen Jones, Sr., BC High
Tyler Gibson, Sr., Rockland
Kamari Robinson, Sr., Springfield Central

Defensive Player of the Year – Drew Healy, Lowell
Coach of the Year – John Walsh, Danvers
Best Shooter – Tyler Nelson, Central Catholic
Biggest surprise (player) – Dakari Wornum, Dorchester
Biggest surprise (team) – St. Peter-Marian
Most underrated (player) – David Stewart, Madison Park
Most underrated (team) – Melrose

All-Defensive
G – Tyree Weston, Soph., New Bedford
G – Marcus Middleton, Sr., Stoughton
F – Isshiah Coleman, Sr., New Mission
F – Prince Unaegbu, Sr., Brighton
C – Drew Healy, Sr., Lowell

All-Shooters
Tyler Nelson, Jr., Central Catholic
Tommy Mobley, Soph., Newton North
Daivon Edwards, Sr., Brighton
Giulien Smith, Soph., Catholic Memorial
Ben Judson, Soph., St. John's Prep

Second half sleepers to watch

Dorchester
The Bears are a streaky team, but also a gritty one, as shown in their 58-57 loss to East Boston on Wednesday. Dakari Wornum has been one of the breakout stars of the first half of the season, but a number of athletic shooters -- including Jeduan Langston, Khalil Newson, Ceejae Agnew-Carter and Dean Lee -- can make this team explode at any moment. The expected return of 6-foot-7 junior D'Bryant Coraprez should bolser the frontcourt too.

Sharon
We knew junior point guard Brian Mukasa (18.8 points per game) was good, and we though he had potential to be this good, but we had questions about the Eagles' supporting cast. Jimmy Fritzon (14.2 points per game) has some answers.

Waltham
Hawks are my favorite to win the Dual County League's Large division, in a year of parity across the board. Keep an eye on Mike Gelineau, one of the area's more underrated shooters.

Case
Most expected Wareham to run away with the South Coast Conference (again), but guess who's sitting at 11-2 and 8-1 in the league? The Cardinals are allowing a league-best 46 points per game, and face Wareham on Wednesday for a first-place battle in the SCC. Keep an eye on 6-foot-8 senior center Matt Plante.

***

Chris Bradley
ESPN Boston correspondent


All-State Super Team
G - Darien Fernandez, Sr., Wareham
G - Tyler Nelson, Jr., Central Catholic
F - Jameilen Jones, Sr., BC High
F - Kamari Robinson, Sr., Springfield Central
C - Tyler Gibson, Sr., Rockland

Second Team
G - Jaylen Blakely, Sr., Brockton
G - Riyadh Asad, Sr., West Springfield
F - Nick Simpson, Sr., Brighton
F - Nick Cambio, Sr., Central Catholic
F - Brendan Hill, Soph., Mansfield

Third Team
G - Nick McKenna, Sr., Danvers
G - Rod Milton, Sr., Worcester South
F - Sam Dowden, Sr., Andover
F - Isaiah Nelsen, Sr., North Andover
C - Chris Baldwin, Soph., Springfield Central

Girls Super Team
G - Kayla Burton, Sr., Newton South
G/F - Donnaizha Fountain, Sr., Cambridge
G/F - Olivia Healy, Sr., Reading
F - Morgan Lumb, Sr., North Andover
C - Molly Reagan, Soph., Braintree

Mr. Basketball Finalists
Tyler Nelson, Central Catholic - WINNER
Darien Fernandez, Wareham
Jameilen Jones, BC High
Tyler Gibson, Rockland
Kamari Robinson, Springfield Central

Defensive Player of the Year - Isshiah Coleman, New Mission
Coach of the Year - Sean Connolly, St. John’s Prep
Best Shooter - Tyler Nelson, Central Catholic
Biggest Surprise (Team) – Wachusett
Biggest Surprise (Player) – KayJuan Bynum, Springfield Putnam
Most Underrated (Player) – Sam Dowden, Andover
Most Underrated (Team) – Dorchester

All-Defensive
G - Marcus Middleton, Sr., Stoughton
G/F - Nate Anderson, Sr., New Mission
F - Isshiah Coleman, Sr., New Mission
C - Alex Cooper, Sr., Wachusett
C - Drew Healy, Sr., Lowell

All-Shooters
Tyler Nelson, Jr., Central Catholic
Tim Dufficy, Sr., Whitinsville Christian
Tommy Mobley, Soph., Newton North
Zack Berman, Sr., Wachusett
Jaylen Blakely, Sr., Brockton

Second-half sleepers:

Andover
If Connor Merinder is back in time for the tournament, then consider Andover a favorite in Division 1 North. Central Catholic has clearly separated themselves from BC High, St. John’s Prep, Lowell, and Andover so far, but if Andover gets a healthy, productive Merinder back, they will make a run to the Division 1 North final. The Golden Warriors have gone 10-2 thus far without the 6-foot-5 forward, who is considered one of the MIAA’s best in a loaded 2015 class. Sam Dowden has done a great job of leading Andover so far, but getting a healthy Merinder makes them a legitimate contender to be at the DCU Center come March.

Worcester South
South became the first team to finally knock off previously undefeated Wachusett in Central Mass. The Cononels, who with the win moved to 8-2, did so without junior point guard Kasheen Cunningham, one of the area’s best outside shooters. South has the best scorer in Central Mass. in Rod Milton, a strong young big man in Khalil Bryan-Robinson, and a constant threat from outside in Cunningham—with Central Mass. Division 1 as up in the air as it has been in years, look for South to make a run to the Division 1 finals at WPI.

***

Ryan Kilian
Founder and Editor-in-Chief, Mass. Prep Stars (www.massprepstars.com)


Boys Super Team
G - Tyler Nelson, Jr., Central Catholic
G - Jameilen Jones, Sr., BC High
G - Malik James, Jr., Brighton
F - Brendan Hill, Soph., Mansfield
C - Chris Baldwin, Soph., Springfield Central

Girls Super Team
G - Morgan Lumb, Sr., North Andover
G/F - Alana Gilmer, Soph., Archbishop Williams
G/F - Donnaizha Fountain, Sr., Cambridge
F - Olivia Healy, Sr., Reading
C - Molly Reagan, Soph., Braintree

Mr. Basketball
Tyler Nelson, Jr., Central Catholic

Miss Basketball
Olivia Healy, Sr., Reading

Defensive Player of the Year
Boys: Kendall Hamilton, Sr., Wakefield
Girls: Infiniti Thomas-Waheed, Jr., Newton North

Coach of the Year
Boys: Mike Kasprzak, Melrose
Girls: John McNamara, Pentucket

Best Shooter
Boys: Tyler Nelson, Jr., Central Catholic
Girls: Morgan Lumb, Sr., North Andover

Biggest Surprise
Boys: Frantzdy Pierrot, Jr., Melrose
Girls: Molly Bent, Soph., Barnstable

Most Underrated Player
Boys: Doug Gemmell, Sr., Central Catholic
Girls: Tess Noguiera, Sr., Pentucket

Most Underrated Team
Boys: Melrose
Girls: Ipswich

Second Half Sleepers

Boys: Wakefield – They have been hanging in the wings with a few losses and have battled some injuries but with a healthy Bruce Brown and continued improved play of Kendall Hamilton, Mikol Blake-Green and others they should be back in the title hunt by the end of the regular season.

Girls: Westford Academy – Westford Academy has played a very difficult schedule, losing to Bishop Feehan, Wachusett and Billerica by a combined five points. They have wins over Lincoln-Sudbury and Arlington Catholic as resume boosters and can play with any team in the state. Juniors Sam Hyslip and Hannah Hackley lead the Grey Ghosts in most statistical categories.

***

Rob Sarmiento
Founder and Editor, Beantown Hoops (www.beantownhoops.com)


First Team
G - Jameilen Jones, Sr., BC High
G - Darien Fernandez, Sr., Wareham
F - Sam Dowden, Sr., Andover
F - Tyler Gibson, Sr., Rockland
F - Doug Gemmell, Sr., Central Catholic

Second Team
G - Jaleel Bell, Sr., Wayland
G - Jaylen Blakely, Sr., Brockton
G - Malik James, Jr., Brighton
G - Tyler Nelson, Jr., Central Catholic
F - Isaiah Nelsen, Sr., North Andover

Third Team
G - Giulien Smith, Soph., Catholic Memorial
G - Juwan Gooding, Soph., New Mission
G/F - Bruce Brown, Soph., Wakefield
F - Brendan Hill, Soph., Mansfield
F - Nate Anderson, Sr., New Mission

Girls Super Team
G/F - Donnaizha Fountain, Sr., Cambridge
G/F - Olivia Healy, Sr., Reading
G/F - Molly Bent, Soph., Barnstable
G/F - Morgan Lumb, Sr., North Andover
F - Sarah Hope, Sr., Medway

Mr. Basketball - Jameilen Jones, BC High
Miss Basketball - Olivia Healy, Reading
Coach of the Year - Mark Antonelli, Somerville
Best Shooter - Tyler Nelson, Central Catholic
Biggest Surprise (player) - Molly Bent, Barnstable (Girls)
Biggest Surprise (team) - North Reading
Most Underrated (player) - Jaleel Bell, Wayland
Most Underrated (team) - Melrose

All-Shooters
Tyler Nelson, Jr., Central Catholic
Sam Dowden, Sr., Andover
Sam Bohmiller, Sr., Franklin
Tommy Mobely, Soph., Newton North
Mike Gelineau, Sr., Waltham

Second Half Sleepers

Boys: Franklin - Well-coached and playing in a tough conference will make them battle ready come playoff time. Plus, they have a player who can make threes in bunches with Bohmiller.

Girls: Arlington Catholic - Seem to always make a run and their style of play is tough to prepare for. They are young in some key positions, but first half of the season experience will show during the playoffs.

Recap: No. 12 Brighton 52, No. 15 Eastie 43

January, 15, 2013
1/15/13
11:14
PM ET


BOSTON -- New Mission and Brighton stepped firmly into the power position for Division A's two City League tournament spots on Tuesday.

Despite the two squads falling in the semifinals to finalist Madison Park and East Boston last year, No. 12 Brighton boys' basketball (5-3, 3-1) slid itself even with division leader and former South rival No. 2 New Mission (6-3, 3-1) last night as it rolled host No. 15 East Boston (6-4, 1-3), 52-43, in the programs' first matchup as division foes.

Both squads have now defeated each of the former finalists once this season.

“We hope to make the cities (and) ultimately the state tournament so every game counts.” said Brighton coach Hugh Coleman. “It is important for us to get the league wins and to stay up there.”

Senior shooting guard Daivon Edwards lead the Bengals with 23 points (including five 3-pointers) and nine rebounds, while junior forward Nick Simpson added 16 points and five rebounds in the win.

Edwards sealed the victory for the defending Division 2 Eastern Mass champs with three treys to open the third, that helped prompt a 15-0 run. Edwards hit a top-corner three at 6:20 in the third quarter to start the tear at 33-22.

After a trey by Eastie sophomore Marcus Shaw, Edwards stole the ball and quickly nailed a shot from behind the arc to settle the Bengals at 41-27 with 4:20 left in the quarter. Edwards tallied 11 points in the third, while Simpson scored the remaining four as the Bengals lead 45-27 entering the fourth.

“(Coach) tells me all the time if I have a little bit of space just to take the shot,” said Edwards. “We do dribble penetration and kick out (to) look for me so I can get open and get reps. Sometimes I stay after practice just to work on my shot.”

Brighton, who lead all but the first 2:40, never trailed as it score nine straight points between the first and second quarters to break away from a slim 13-11 lead with 1:24 remaining in the first quarter. The Bengals scored six quick baskets in the final minute of the first quarter, including a steal by Nick Simpson turned into an open court dunk by senior Prince Unaegbu for a 19-11 advantage at the break.

Simpson lost his defender with a crossover dribble and nailed a three at the top of the arc to give Brighton a 22-11 lead seconds into the second quarter.

“This is the first game I think we have played from start to finish,” said Coleman. “It was isolation plays to get either our shooter an open shot or our swing guy a shot situation or a one-on-one.”

Senior forward Xavier Green led the Jets with 11 points, while sophomores Shaw and Dion Knight both tallied nine points.

Green put back in a pair of offensive rebounds, then pitched a defensive rebound under the Bengals' basket to force a free throw score by teammate sophomore Kevin Sinatra, to cut the deficit to 49-36 with 1:32 remaining in the game

Shaw nailed Eastie's first shot of the game on a jumper from behind the arc at 6:55 and swung around the top of the arc to hit a planted three-pointer to cut the Jets' deficit to 13-10 with two minute left in the first quarter.

“It is just about confidence,” said East Boston coach Shawn Brown. “We have not been at full strength. Once we get back to full strength, I think we will be OK.”

East Boston struggled from the foul line as it hit only four of 12 in the first half and nine of 19 total.

“We run a lot of practice because of missed free throws,” said Brown. “We spend literally hours (on free throws).”

Breaking Down the Defenses: The Bengals switched between man and zone defenses throughout the game in hopes of forcing outside shooting from the Jets.

East Boston tried to push Brighton away from the three point line with its man-to-man defense. The Bengals tallied seven three-pointers with all efforts coming from Edwards or Simpson.

“We know they struggled shooting a bit so the zone helped us out,” said Coleman. “We played good defense from start to finish.”

“We tried a zone one time and it resulted in three points so we went away from it,” added Brown.

Incomplete Eastie: East Boston has been missing key players throughout the season.

Senior Kenny Ramos played limited time on Tuesday due to an ankle injury, while former sophomore leading scoring Rasheed Bell is expected to miss the remainder of the season with an injury. Senior Pat Santos also did not dress for the game.

“Kenny is day to day,” said Brown. “He has been getting physical therapy. We gave it a shot today and he did not look good out there so we are just going to play it game by game.”

Junior Malik James, who is one of Brighton's top scorers, did not dress for personal reason, but is expected to return on Thursday.

Scrimmage Slants: Brighton vs. North Andover

December, 2, 2012
12/02/12
10:12
PM ET
NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. -– Brighton and North Andover scrimmaged on Sunday afternoon in a battle between two of the top Division 2 teams in the state. Both teams proved why they could start the year high in our MIAA Top 25 poll.

A few notes and observations:

Nelsen the key for NA: North Andover will go as far this year as senior forward Isaiah Nelsen, a St. Anselm signee, will take them this year. The 6-foot-6 Nelsen is one of the best big men in the state, but his athleticism and offensive versatility are what make him stand out. Nelsen is going to be a nightmare for opposing defenses this year, because of how well he runs the floor and how deep his range is on his outside shot. On several occasions he showed that he can score off the dribble, but he was also unstoppable around the rim, where he had no problem finishing through contact.

Simpson ready to star: Junior guard Malik James gets a lot of the headlines for Brighton, and understandably so, but 6-foot-4 forward Nick Simpson showed to have a great nose for the ball and an impressive offensive repertoire. Simpson knocked down several three-pointers, but also gave the Bengals the type of consistent presence that they’re going to need in order to make a long run in Division 2. Keep an eye on Prince Unaegbu as well; he’s going to be one of the best rebounders in the deep Boston City League this year.

Bardwell, Collins provide support: Isaiah Nelsen isn’t the only dual post threat that North Andover has in the lineup. Senior Chris Bardwell, a transfer from Central Catholic, will provide a great complimentary role to Nelsen this year. Bardwell can score using a variety of moves on the low block, but like Nelsen, he runs the floor exceptionally well for a big man. With the type of athletic forwards that the Knights have, they’re going to be able to score on the fast break, or off a set in the half court.

Derek Collins, who missed the majority of last season because of back surgery, showed why he will be one of the most dangerous shooters in the state. He came out with a bang to start off the scrimmage, nailing two three-pointers in the opening minutes to help the Knights develop an early lead.

The day's signature play involved both of these players. Off a turnover in transition, Collins heaved a long bounce pass 50 feet down the court to Bardwell, who quickly dropped the ball behind him for the trailer to score an easy layup.

Shooting woes for James: There's a lot of buzz around James as one of the most promising talents to be seen in the MIAA this year, after the scoring combo guard led Brighton to the Division 2 state finals last March. James sat out the first half today for skipping a practice earlier in the week, and because of that he had a hard time getting anything going offensively once he got into the game. He was one of the better scorers in Eastern Mass. last year, especially off the dribble, so despite his not hitting shots today against North Andover, expectations of the type of season he has the potential to have shouldn’t waver.

Roundtable: Preseason MIAA hoop primer

November, 25, 2012
11/25/12
1:34
PM ET
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

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 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

Recap: No. 15 Brighton 69, No. 12 Brookline 60

December, 27, 2011
12/27/11
11:59
PM ET



BROCKTON, Mass. -– No. 15 Brighton pulled out a less than stellar 69-60 victory of No. 12 Brookline last night to open up the 38th Annual Rotary Club of Brockton Holiday Tournament.

“I think we were able to get it together a little quicker than them, and I think that made the difference,” said Brighton head coach Hugh Coleman, who noted that that both teams were slow out of the gate after taking the holiday break off from game play.

The teams volleyed single-digit leads throughout the first half, with turnovers and missed shot opportunities abound. With the score 29-28 going in the break, it was anyone’s game, as neither team had shown they were ready to seize the opportunities that the other was affording them.

That changed in the third quarter when Brighton was able to pull up for a 10-point lead with 2:47 left in the quarter. They stretched the lead to as much as 13 (47-34) with 1:51 left in the quarter, but themselves could not put on a significant offensive run after early third-quarter contributions from sophomores Mark Mojica (5 points) and Nick Simpson (18 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists), and entered into a nearly shot-for-shot contest for the rest of the match. Brookline was able to close it down to within seven early in the fourth at 53-46, but extended slowly until the Bengals were back up by 13 with 1:09 left in the game.

Mental Toughness: Although he didn’t have a triple double, or a double anything, Brighton’s Prince Unaegbu was a presence for the Bengals in the post, grabbing five rebounds, taking one steal and scoring two points. By the look of those statistics, the numbers are not impressive, but what he brought to the Brighton game tonight cannot be counted by numbers, but from a mentality and access point of view Unaegbu was a force.

“Really raw in talent, but athletic,” is the way that that Coleman described the 6-foot-5 junior. Unaegbu played football this past fall for the Bengals, and Coleman believes that Unaegbu’s antagonism is going to be key in his career for the Brighton basketball team.

“For him to get in there, take up some space and be aggressive, I think it’s important for the other team to see that, for him to get in there and bang around," Coleman said.

Bench Depth: Late in the game, Brookline had some opportunities to score off of Brighton’s missed shots, passes that didn’t make it to their intended targets and rebounds that were simply taken out of the Brighton players’ hands -– but they could not score off many of these opportunities.

This tactic, of putting in bench players such as seniors Tre Dowman and Anderson Teneus, as well as underclassmen like Mojica and Nate Hogan, is a building exercise and is a risk that Coleman carefully calculated.

“We’re trying to balance, making sure that we get our guys in and making sure that we’re developing guys that are on our bench. We can’t expect to go deep into the season or in the playoff and not have a solid bench and role players to get in there with confidence,” Coleman said.

Déjà Vu: The last loss Brookline took was at the hands of BC High, 53-58, on December 19th. During that game, as with tonight’s loss, the Warriors were unable to play well in the third quarter and never recovered.

“Brighton took it to the basket more during that stretch and our guys didn’t responds as well as I’d like to see,” said Brookline coach Mark Fiedor. “After the third it ended up playing out even."

Unfortunately for the Warriors, when you are behind you need to play better than the other team to overcome them, not as good. Brookline boasts a mostly junior squad, and suited up played three seniors tonight. Fiedor hopes that this scenario does not become a regular showing for his team as they are preparing for league play.

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