Boston High School: T.J. Fitzell

South Hadley's Fitzell takes MVP in All-American game

June, 17, 2014
Jun 17
2:35
AM ET
BOSTON – Two days after the best teams in the state took to Boston University’s Nickerson Field, the best individuals took to the same field in the second annual Bostonlax.net All-American game.

Behind T.J. Fitzell’s (South Hadley) MVP performance (two goals, assist) and four goals a piece from Hunter Arnold (Acton-Boxborough) and Jay Drapeau (Westford Academy), Team Under Armour shook off the early rust and cruised to a 20-14 win over Team Cascade.

But when the final horn sounded, it wasn’t about the final score or the individual performances, but rather soaking in the environment and partaking in a great cause.

All proceeds generated from admission were donated to the Wounded Warrior project.

“It’s for a great cause, it was a great thing to be a apart of and it was at a great venue like BU,” Fitzell said. “To be able to come out and perform it’s quite exciting.”

“It’s a lot of fun, I met a lot of guys, I only knew three or four guys coming down here so I met a lot of guys from the area that have been playing lacrosse so it was a good time, I had a lot of fun.”

Team Cascade jumped out to a 4-1 lead in the first quarter behind a pair of goals from James Burr (Middlesex) to go along with tallies from Danny Seibel (Belmont Hill) and Needham’s Mike Panepinto.

With 31 seconds remaining in the opening quarter, Kevin Bletzer (Catholic Memorial) scored the second Team Under Armour goal that was the front end of a 7-0 run, keeping Team Cascade off the scoreboard for nearly 12 minutes.

Bridgewater-Raynham’s Travis Reid scored back-to-back goals to end the drought and Team Cascade went into the half trailing by three.

Team Cascade cut the lead down to one with a 3-0 run on goals from Morgan Cheek (Nobles), Seibel and Panepinto but pulled away throughout the second half, and igniting an all-star game feel.

With time winding down, Drapeau scored the goal of the night going behind the back to beat Tyler Blaisdell (Thayer Academy) over his right shoulder for the score.

Arnold’s monster weekend: Hunter Arnold was one of three members of the Div. 1 Champion Acton-Boxborough Div. 1 championship team that took to the field Monday night, joining LSM Austin Wolf (Team Under Armour) and midfielder J.T. Kelly.

Arnold scored a goal in the Colonials’ 5-4 double overtime win over Duxbury and went off for another four goals Monday night on the same field.

“Overall the weekend was awesome,” Arnold recalled. “First the state championship game, there is nothing better, nothing better than beating Duxbury. Double-overtime and then today it was fun a lot of great guys out here.”

Arnold wasn’t the only one who took to the Nickerson Field again, as did Division 2 champion Medfield’s John MacLean, Brian Bissell, Blake Frasca, Matt Crowell and goalie Robert Treiber and Division 3 champion Cohasset’s LSM Tim Gillis.

Jelling together: It was the first time that many of these players had met, let alone played on the same team together. Before the game the players got a 20-minute warm-up to find their rhythm.

It didn’t take Team Cascade long to find their offensive stroke scoring four of the first five goals.

“We gelled together pretty quick after passing and catching drills we all came together,” B-R’s Reid said.

It took Team Under Armour a little longer to figure it out, but once they did, they were too much to handle.

“Well we were a little sloppy on offense so we slowed it down a little but got better shots and pumped in some goals,” Fitzell said.

Arnold added: “It was pretty easy to get along with these guys out here everyone knows how to play. We all know how to move the ball well, it was just a bit rusty to begin.”

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

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