Boston High School: Tyler Gibson

Walpole's Arsenault wins inaugural Shot For Life Challenge

August, 4, 2013
8/04/13
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HANOVER, Mass. –- Even Mike Slonina was impressed.

More than two years since the 20-year old Watertown resident hoisted jumpers for 24 consecutive hours and created A Shot For Life Foundation (ASFL) -– a non-profit dedicated to funding brain cancer research at Mass General Hospital and Boston Children’s Hospital -– the former Catholic Memorial School varsity basketball manager was awestruck by his surroundings.

As he stood in the middle of the eight basketball courts that comprise the University Sports Complex in Hanover –- site of Saturday afternoon’s inaugural “A Shot For Life Challenge” – the rising junior from Quinnipiac University pronounced, “The amount of shooting talent in this room is . . . it’s tough to match. And the fact that they’re all doing this, really, to make a good impact on the world, outside of basketball, is awesome. All these kids deserve a ton of credit for this.”

When the two-hour exhibition – which challenged 11 competitors to 20-minute intervals of specific shot types, including mid-range jumpers, free throws and three-pointers – concluded between the Commonwealth’s top marksmen, Scott Arsenault, who will be a senior at Walpole High this fall, was crowned the “Best Shooter in Massachusetts.”

With a large crowd of friends and family looking on, the Rebels two-guard knocked down 90.6 percent of his attempts to better runner-up Shiraz Mumtaz of Brookline High, who finished at an 81.8 percent clip. Newton North’s Tommy Mobley placed third with a shooting percentage of 79.2.

Arsenault, who led throughout, also received a trophy and will have his number retired at future ASLF events.

“I was just trying to hit as many as I could in a row,” he said. “I knew I was going to get tired because it was for two hours. So, I made sure to stay disciplined and not break my form.”

Drawing visions of Jimmy Chitwood -– the lean, smooth-shooting sniper from the film Hoosiers -– Arsenault battled through the final half-hour despite “feeling [his] leg kind of giving out.”

Such physical ailments were commonplace amongst a field that included Ben Judson (St. John’s Prep), Sam Bohmiller (Franklin), Nick McKenna (Danvers), Jake Foote (Duxbury), Ryan Roach (Cardinal Spellman), Mike Nelson (Bishop Feehan), and Tyler Gibson (Rockland), the Massachusetts’ Gatorade Player of the Year who will play at Bentley University next season. Vinny Clifford (Danvers) was a late scratch after injuring his knee during a recent pickup game.

“Extremely tired,” said Mobley in the competition’s immediate aftermath. “I think my right arm is significantly stronger than my left arm now.”

Judson acknowledged similar symptoms.

“It was definitely tough,” said the Plaitstow, NH product. “My arms and legs were so tired halfway through, but I just had to keep pushing.”

Said Bohmiller, who will play at Babson College next season, “My arms are heavy and I’m pretty tired, but I had a lot of fun.”

Despite their collective fatigue, there was a general sense of elation that each competitor had pushed themselves to their physical limits for a worthwhile cause.

And though many were aware that what they had accomplished –- regardless of their final stats -– was significant, they also knew it paled in comparison to Slonina’s 24-hour shooting marathon.

“It seems impossible to do that,” Mobley said of shooting for a full day. “I’m right now very exhausted. I’m probably going to sleep the whole car ride home. And when I get home, I may take a shower and sleep some more. He shot for 12 times longer than I did, so, I mean, doing that 11 more times, back-to-back, I can’t even imagine what it must mean. It’s incredible that he was willing to work that hard for the cause; it’s incredible that there are people out there with that much passion to help others.”

Echoed Bohmiller, “No way, I don’t know how he [did] it . . . Props to him for 24 hours. That’s something special.”
Still, Slonina knows that for now his shooting days are over. He’s traded in his sneakers for wingtips as he focuses on expanding ASFL and its marquee event each year.

“For A Shot For Life to grow in the way that I want it to grow,” he said, “A Shot For Life can’t be synonymous with Mike Slonina. It just can’t be. A Shot For Life needs to outgrow me in that sense. I [received] a big outpouring of support for the 24 hours; that’s great and I appreciated all of it. But I want A Shot For Life to grow to the size of Livestrong. I want A Shot For Life to be nationwide. If it’s about one kid shooting over and over, it can’t do that. The face has to change.”

With Saturday’s one-day event already topping $10,000 in proceeds, Slonina understands that there is more money to collect and donate and additional events to plan.

“Raising money is the part that counts,” he said. “We raised $10,000 without any corporate help whatsoever. In my mind, I think, we can easily turn that into $50,000. That’s with no corporate sponsorship; that’s a really good sign.”

As for the structure of next year’s event, Slonina said, “We’re definitely having a dunk contest, I can guarantee that. We’re almost going to turn it into an NBA All-Star Saturday where they have the skills competition, three-point shootout and dunk contest. That’s what this event will eventually evolve into.”

While Slonina will no longer be doing the shooting, it’s undeniable that the legacy he created and the standard he set with his courageous effort in April 2011 will endure.

Paul Lazdowski can be followed on Twitter: @plazdow

High expectations for A Shot For Life Challenge

July, 23, 2013
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WEST ROXBURY, Mass. -– Mike Slonina has always found solace and strength on the court. In 2010, when he learned that his mother had been diagnosed with brain cancer, the Watertown resident went straight to the Waltham YMCA and shot jumpers for four hours, while trying to process the news. Gratefully, the initial diagnosis turned out to be incorrect and he became determined to try and prevent others from suffering from the hopelessness that he felt that afternoon.

It turned out that basketball would provide more than just a coping mechanism, it also became the method by which Slonina, then a senior at Catholic Memorial High School, would try and fight back.

“I’m one of those people that, when something goes wrong, I feel like I have to do something,” he recently reflected. “The thing with cancer is that it makes you feel helpless and that’s what makes me so mad. I just wanted to give that hope back and show people that you can make a difference.”

He formed a non-profit foundation, trained for several months, and, on April 9, 2011, took to the Ronald S. Perry gymnasium court and shot jumpers for 24 hours straight. That day, A Shot For Life Foundation (ASFL) raised more than just awareness about brain cancer; it also raised nearly $30,000 for Mass General Hospital and Boston Children’s Hospital.

Two years later, as a rising junior at Quinnipiac University, Slonina has organized another competitive event to further his organization’s mission of funding cancer research.

On Saturday, August 3, at the University Sports Complex in Hanover, 11 of the best shooters in Massachusetts high school basketball -- including Rockland's Tyler Gibson, the state's Gatorade Player of the Year -- will fire jumps shots for two straight hours. The winner of the “A Shot For Life Challenge” (to be determined by field goal percentage) will not only be crowned the “Best Shooter in Massachusetts,” but will also have his number retired for all future ASFL events.

“I think it’s great because you hear so many terrible things happening in youth sports today and here are 11 really tremendous basketball players unselfishly using their talents for a good cause,” said Slonina last week during a break in a youth camp that he is helping to run at his alma mater. “It was so great seeing that many young kids embracing it and realizing the good that they can do with basketball.”

His own basketball career was cut short in seventh grade by a nerve problem in his ankle, which it was later determined was caused by a bone being in the wrong place, but the game remained a huge part of his life. Slonina was the team manager for the CM team that won the 2008 MIAA Division 2 state championship and, when he needed an outlet for his desire to give back, basketball (and his great jump shot) was a natural fit.

He showed up at CM every morning at 6:30 a.m. to shoot, would lift during lunch periods, and then shoot for hours again after school. He demonstrated the same determination off the court, going door-to-door to raise funds for the event. While Slonina admits that ASFL is not yet raising the type of money that will make a huge difference, he firmly believes that every penny counts. He also believes that this is just the beginning for his foundation.

He explained, “That’s what everyone needs to grasp. On a bigger scale, that’s what I was trying to do with the 24-hour thing. People kept saying, ‘But, you’re only one person.’ It only takes one person.”

Following his feat, Slonina’s life changed and the profile of A Shot For Life was at its highest point. He hopes that the foundation, which he loves, can reach that potential again through the August competition and that the players will feel honored to be taking part in the event. There is no question that Slonina is already eyeing the future and placing high expectations on himself and the foundation.

“I want to be the Nike of non-profits,” he said with total sincerity and a contagious enthusiasm for what the future holds for ASFL. The inaugural “A Shot For Life Challenge” is still more than two weeks away, but Slonina is already thinking of ways to make it bigger and better in 2014. He exclaimed, “I can tell you right now that next year is going to have a dunk contest!”

Since his record-breaking effort, Slonina and A Shot For Life have inspired countless people and he can recount numerous examples of people that have shared stories that, he says, nearly bring him to tears. An example was a comment from one of his former teammates from the 2008 state title-winning team, who came back to rebound for him that day.

“[One of the players], who was a senior when I was a freshman, told me, ‘You don’t know how many people you just inspired.’ I look up to him, so him saying that...It just means so much to me,” marveled Slonina. “I don’t want to say a cliché, but it means the world to me.”

After several other tries to put into words just what it meant to read the letters and emails that he received after the 2011 event or to have people tell him how about how he affected their lives, Slonina simply shook his head and laughed, “This is the first time I’ve been speechless in an interview. I don’t know how to word it. It’s awesome.”

The “A Shot For Life Challenge” will take place on Saturday, August 3 at the University Sports Complex in Hanover beginning at 1 p.m. The 11 shooters are: Ben Judson, St. John’s Prep; Sam Bohmiller, Franklin; Tommy Mobley, Newton North; Nick McKenna, Danvers; Jake Foote, Duxbury; Ryan Roach, Cardinal Spellman; Vinny Clifford, Danvers; Scott Arsenault, Walpole; Mike Nelson, Bishop Feehan; Shiraz Mumtaz, Brookline; and Tyler Gibson, Rockland.

To donate to the A Shot For Life Challenge, CLICK HERE.

Gibson granted release from UML, commits to Bentley

June, 25, 2013
6/25/13
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UMass-Lowell spokesperson Chris O'Donnell confirmed to ESPNBoston.com that incoming basketball recruit Tyler Gibson of Rockland High was granted a release from his scholarship to the River Hawks' program yesterday morning.

Following his release, Gibson, Massachusetts' Gatorade Player of the Year for 2013, gave a verbal commitment to Bentley University. He visited the Waltham campus on Sunday, then yesterday visited Merrimack College before making his pledge.

"I feel Bentley would be the best place to succeed," Gibson said. "No disrespect to Merrimack, I just think this is the best choice for my family."

The 6-foot-6 Gibson put in a monster senior season for Rockland, averaging 21.4 points, 15.3 rebounds and 4.8 blocks as the Bulldogs reached the MIAA Division 3 South semifinals. He was named the state's Gatorade Player of the Year and also earned a spot on ESPN Boston's annual MIAA All-State Team. He's also a prolific track and field star, winning a state championship in the high jump earlier this month.

Gibson verbally committed to UMass-Lowell last summer, at the time coached by Greg Herenda, and signed a National Letter of Intent during the early signing period last November. Herenda left for the head coach job at Fairleigh Dickinson in April, and two weeks later Pat Duquette was officially named the River Hawks' new coach.

Last Tuesday, Gibson arrived at school for freshman orientation and finally met the new coaching staff. Several days later, he says Duquette told him and fellow recruit Jack Sullivan of Albertus Magnus High (N.Y.) that "there was no chance of us playing, and that it'd be in our best interest to leave and find somewhere else to go."

"I didn't really feel too bad," Gibson said. "As soon as I heard the news I knew I had to be quick. I didn't have time to be upset or anything like that. I simply moved on."

UMass-Lowell is preparing to make the jump from Division 2 to Division 1. The school is set to join the America East Conference on July 1, replacing Boston University, which is leaving for the Patriot League.

Of the conversation he had with Gibson, Duquette said, "Tyler and I had a very open and honest discussion about his future and what his options are. After that conversation he asked for his release."

Asked if he felt any ill will about the sudden turn of events, Gibson says he harbors none.

"Not at all," he said. "I kinda understand it's a business decision. He wants his own guys with the coaching change, that’s how it works. It's a business. New management comes in and the old people leave. Nothing personal, it's all good."

Gibson said he is still in the process of applying to Bentley, but should have "all my stuff set by tomorrow".

Final Thoughts from 2012-13, and looking ahead

March, 27, 2013
3/27/13
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Some final thoughts as we put a close on the 2012-13 high school basketball season...

***

A FLU SHOT HE'LL NEVER FORGET

After committing to Vanderbilt last August, Lynn English's Ben Bowden told ESPNBoston.com he was leaning towards not coming back out for basketball his senior year, saying "it delayed my pitching", that he lost "alot of interest" from some colleges "because I didn't throw hard as they wanted me to."

"I'm leaning that way so I can be fully prepared, because we've got the [MLB] draft and everything," Bowden told us at the time. "Where it's at right now, I don't see myself playing. But it was fun while it lasted."

Bowden, a 6-foot-4 lefty flreballer, is one of the state's most heralded prospects following his junior season, which started with a perfect game against Marblehead and ended with a spot on ESPN Boston's All-State Team and whispers of draft potential. He was 10 minutes away from spending his winter in the gym sharpening his craft, on his own; but a chance encounter on the first day of basketball tryouts changed all that.

The school was conducting flu shots that day, and the location just happened to be near basketball coach Mike Carr's office. As Bowden's girlfriend was getting her shot, Carr light-heartedly ribbed him about spurning one last winter with the team. After Bowden wished Carr good luck and the two parted ways, Bowden bumped into a half-dozen Bulldogs players, who gave him even more ribbing.

Bowden went home, thought about it, and by 5 p.m. had changed his mind.

And boy, was he glad. The Bulldogs captivated the City of Lynn over the second half of the season and throughout their sudden run to the MIAA Division 1 North finals, with Bowden starting at power forwrad, drawing fans from all four of the high schools to come see their wildly-entertaining brand of run-and-gun. He called the Bulldogs' wild 94-87 win over Everett in the D1 North semifinals "the best atmosphere I've ever played in any sport", and doesn't regret a minute of his time this winter.

"It got me into very good shape, obviously I have no regrets at all," he said. "Even if I got hurt, I wouldn’t have regretted playing at all. It was an awesome experience."

Vandy head coach Tim Corbin encourages multi-sport activity out of his high school recruits, a sentiment many high school baseball coaches support for a multitude of reasons -- primarily, that it encourages competitive spirit, and also works different muscle groups to keep the body in prime shape.

Carr heavily emphasized conditioning this year with his team, concluding practice each day with a grueling 10-minute session up and down the school's four flights of stairs, and it's paid off for Bowden. Headed into his first start of the spring, currently slated for April 10, he says this is the "best I've ever felt going into a baseball season."

"I feel my legs are stronger, I'm pushing off the mound better," Bowden said. "My core has gotten stronger. Everything we did for basketball has helped me in a positive way for baseball."

Talking about keeping his arm loose, he added, "I feel the best I've ever felt going into a baseball seasons, and I think it's because I've lost quite a bit of weight. I'm feeling a lot better and a lot lighter, and also because I was throwing more...By the time baseball started [this season] I was on my seventh week of throwing. I was a lot more ready than I was in any other season. I was smart about my decision to play basketball because I knew I had to get throws in."

As basketball becomes more individualized at younger and younger ages in this AAU-ized era of specialization, we sometimes forget that these sports can bleed into each other. Notre Dame hoop coach Mike Brey first heard about Pat Connaughton after a tip from the Irish's baseball coach. Soccer prowess helped Danvers' Eric Martin and Melrose's Frantdzy Pierrot become more elusive runners in the open floor. And some are quietly wondering if football may end up being the meal ticket for Wakefield super-sophomore Bruce Brown, who excels with the Boston Amateur Basketball Club (BABC) but also turned in a pretty nice campaign last fall at wide receiver. Same with another budding BABC star, Brendan Hill of Mansfield.

Unless you're one of the top players in the country at your position, I'll never understand why some physically-mature high school guards don't at least give an additional sport a try -- but that's a probably a topic for a whole other day. Know that for as much accolades as we've all poured on English's talented trio of guards, Bowden may have played the most important position of all -- the Joey Dorsey, the rock-solid post player down low counted on for rebounds that can keep possessions alive, and facilitate a whip-quick fast break going the other way.

And to think, if his girlfriend hadn't gone to get a flu shot that first day of tryouts, we might be talking about a whole different story in Lynn.

***

MORE THAN JUST 'WANTING IT MORE'

You have to think long and hard to find the last time a kid in the Merrimack Valley Conference went from benchwarmer on one team in one season, to league MVP on another team the next.

Chris Bardwell's transformation from garbage-time go-getter at Central Catholic in 2012 to an ESPN Boston Super Team selection at North Andover in 2013 is one that will be held up as a model example of will power. At least, that was the rhetoric being told this winter -- that if you want it bad enough as Bardwell, if you train hard enough, you can make the jump.

Sure, some of this transformation has to do with the mental element. But Mansfield wanted it just as bad as Putnam in the Division 1 state title game, and was unable to prevent the Beavers from continuously leaking out for some uncontested fast break points. Scituate wanted to just as bad as Brighton in the Division 2 Eastern Mass. title game at the Garden, but couldn't cleanly escape on-ball pressure from Nate Hogan long enough to prevent Malik James' last-second heroics.

I think of Bardwell -- also a lefty pitcher with reportedly mid to high-80's velocity -- and I think back to my first months at ESPNBoston.com, in the summer of 2010, when St. John's Prep star Pat Connaughton was one of the hottest names nationally on the recruiting front. In basketball, he was an ESPN 100 prospect with a lengthy list of suitors east of the Mississippi. On the mound, he was an overpowering righty with first five round potential, named by Baseball America as one of the nation's top 100 high school prospects.

Connaughton had big hype, and in turn put in a legendary summer workout regimen to back it up, sometimes putting in eight hours of training a day -- quite literally, treating it like a 9-to-5. After signing with Notre Dame, the results spoke for themselves -- a state championship, All-State recognition in both sports, and a Day 3 selection by the San Diego Padres.

OK, so Bardwell's not Connaughton. The point is, situations like Bardwell's are the product of both opportunity and preparation, and all that will power is for naught if you're not training right. Bardwell came into the last offseason more determined, but he also upped his daily cardio, played more basketball, and changed his diet, cutting out junk and carbonated beverages and increasing his protein intake. Training for both basketball and baseball certainly helped him stay sharp.

Let's not forget had Bardwell stayed at Central, he would have been battling for playing time among a deep stable of forwards, duking it out with the likes of Doug Gemmell, Nick Cambio, Joel Berroa and Aaron Hall. At North Andover, he could fit in snugly as a terrific compliment to one of the state's best bigs in Isaiah Nelsen -- though in the end, obviously, Bardwell turned out to be the star of the show.

Success stories come from anywhere. Just take a look at another former Central Catholic baseball product, Dennis Torres, who was cut four times by the varsity during his high school years yet was drafted by the Orioles last June after walking-on at UMass.

Like Bardwell, he wanted it badly. Clearly, Torres was sick and tired of being sick and tired. But as usual, it's never as simple as pure will power and mental maturation. There's a method, and Bardwell played it right.

***

RE-BIRTH OF THE RUN?

When you think of the MIAA's most dominant running teams of the 21st century, there are two programs that come to mind. One is the Charlestown juggernaut of the early 2000's, ranked nationally by USA Today and led by electric scorers like Rashid Al-Kaleem, Tony Chatman, Ridley Johnson and Tony Lee. The other is Newton North, winners of back-to-back D1 state titles behind one of the East Coast's best backcourts in Anthony Gurley and Corey Lowe.

Not about to call it a renaissance, but if there's one thing I'll take away more than anything else from this MIAA season, it's the return of quality running teams to the upper echelon. The two best running teams we saw this season represented two different styles.

There was Lynn English, pushing a white-knuckle pace, using more than 15 seconds of the shot clock only sparingly, and blitzing the opposition coming the other way with in-your-grill, full court man-to-man pressure. It took about half a season for Mike Carr's unique system to click -- but once it did, they were firing on all cylinders. The Bulldogs' backcourt of Freddy Hogan, Stevie Collins and Erick Rosario was as good as any in the state the second half of the season, with the former two earning ESPN Boston All-State honors earlier this week.

With just one real post pivot, senior Ben Bowden, the Bulldogs relied on their guards to generate transiton by forcing turnovers, sometimes flat out ripping the ball out of players' grips for easy fast break points. Carr's emphasis on conditioning was well-known, the the Bulldogs never looked tired.

Many will point to Central Catholic's stark rebounding advantage as to why they were able to lay a dump truck on English in the D1 North Final (they held a 28-7 advantage at the half), but -- follow me here -- that was practically by design. The Bulldogs flat out bailed on offensive possessions once the shot went up, surrendering the advantage and forcing Central's guards to make plays (they did, and did often).

That philosophy stood in contrast to what I felt was the state's best running team this year, Division 1 state champion Putnam. They seemed to play a physical brand of basketball in the City of Springfield this year, and nobody exemplified this better than the Beavers, who made up for lack of height with plenty of linebacker-like bulk in forwards KayJuan Bynum and David Murrell, both ESPN Boston All-State selections.

Throughout the season, Putnam coach William Shepard demonstrated enough faith in Bynum and Murrell's ability to get defensive rebounds that the Beavers' guards could continually leak out of possessions early to get fast break after fast break (Bynum and Murrell combined for 11.4 defensive rebounds, and 19.6 overall, per game this season). When an opposing team's shot went up, guards started strafing up the sidelines in anticipation of a long outlet pass. This led to a slew of production in the D1 state title game from guards Ty Nichols, Dizel Wright, Ki-Shawn Monroe and Jonathan Garcia.

Best of all, these two squads return a ton of talent to keep them in Top 10 consideration for the next two seasons. Both teams must find a replacement for their best big (English with Bowden, Putnam with Bynum), but feature a slew of talented backcourt and wing players to keep the tempo frenetic and the opposition uncomfortable.

***

INTERVIEWS OF THE YEAR

My personal favorites for interviews of the year. First, the short category...



And now, the long category...



***

WILL JACK EVER COME BACK?

After Brighton won its first ever state title, Bengals coach Hugh Coleman held court in the media room at the DCU Center, dedicating the state title trophy and season to his lifelong mentor, legendary former Charlestown boss Jack O'Brien.

Anyone familiar with the bond between O'Brien and Coleman knows it is strong. O'Brien came into Coleman's life at a very hectic time -- being born when his mother was 20, becoming the man of the house at just 6 years old, and watching a number of his family members get rung up on drug arrests. He was under supervision of the Department of Social Services when he first met O'Brien as a freshman at Charlestown in 1993.

O'Brien is probably most known for his run of five D2 state titles in six seasons from 1999-2005 at Charlestown, and Coleman was an assistant on the last three. It's worth noting the 2003 squad, which Coleman's brother Derek captained, was the last squad to win both a city and state championship before Brighton did it this year.

"The way Jack O’Brien came into my life...He never recruited me, no one ever said I was going to Charlestown, I ended up going there by chance, he ended up going to Charlestown and it was special," Coleman said. "I lucked out and got the Brighton job four years ago. I probably wasn’t supposed to get it, but I did. A lot of people recruited him out of middle school to go to different schools, but he ended up at Brighton with me. So I think that’s such a great blessing. I’m glad that 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 that I was able to rub off on him. He led us to victory this entire season, including today.

"I definitely want to dedicate this to Jack O’Brien. He should be coaching. He should be coaching, and I have no idea why he’s not coaching in the state of Massachusetts. In my opinion, he is the best coach in the state of Massachusetts. He is, and not just because he won games. He changed the lives of so many of us young men at Charlestown during that time. We went on to go to college. We went on to be great men, fathers, husbands, and you know what? It’s because of what he helped us do from the inside out. He helped us to be great men.

"I’ll be honest with you, I coach and I took the coaching job because he’s not coaching. I couldn’t allow that to...When they said he couldn’t coach, or they wouldn’t allow him to coach for whatever reason, I said I’ve got to keep the legacy going. He’s healthy, he’s a 10 times better man, whatever lesson I guess he was supposed to learn. It’s a shame he’s not coaching, because he is all that and then some."

Wherever he has gone, O'Brien has had dramatic results, producing McDonald's All-Americans at Salem High and nationally-ranked squads at Charlestown. But he has remained out of coaching since his 11th-hour departure from Lynn English hours before the first practice of the 2006-07 season. His name has been linked to jobs throughout Eastern Mass. over the years, most notably Somerville in 2008, but it's unclear when he'll return to coaching.

Still, with 400-plus wins, six state titles, some of the Bay State's most captivating running teams of the last quarter-century, and his age (he just turned 55 last month), there remains faith that he will turn up somewhere. Just where is anyone's guess.

***

HALL'S TOP 10 FOR 2013-14

1. Mansfield
Hornets lost just one senior from their 2013 Division 1 state championship run and return the most talent of anyone in the state, including reigning Hockomock MVP Brendan Hill. A healthier Michael Hershman should bolster an already-deep lineup featuring Rocky DeAndrade, Michael Boen, Ryan Boulter, Kevin Conner and Kyle Wisniewski.

2. Lynn English
The returning backcourt of Freddy Hogan, Stevie Collins and Erick Rosario, along with wing Danny Lukanda, makes this team a preseason Top 5. Key will be the development of promising 6-foot-6 sophomore Johnny Hilaire, whose pogo-like leaping ability has begun to draw comparisons to former All-Stater Keandre Stanton.

3. St. John’s (Shrewsbury)
Pioneers return arguably the state’s best backcourt in Davon Jones and Adham Floyd, along with a dynamic frontcourt of T.J. Kelley, Drew Vittum and Charlie Murray. Next year gets interesting in D1 Central, with stalwarts such as Franklin, Westford and Acton-Boxborough joining the fray.

4. Central Catholic
A returning core of Tyler Nelson and Nick Cambio makes the Raiders one of the premier perimeter teams in Eastern Mass once again. Six-foot-6 junior Aaron Hall has big shoes to fill in the frontcourt, with the graduation of center Doug Gemmell.

5. Brookline
If all goes as planned and everyone returns, you’re looking at a coach’s dream. Elijah Rogers is a virtuoso at the point, and a supporting cast of Obi Obiora, Anthony Jennings, Tyler Patterson and Mark Gasperini makes them a formidable foe on size and skill alone.

6. Springfield Putnam
Beavers stand a legitimate chance at going back-to-back as D1 state champs as long as they can find an able replacement for graduating senior post KayJuan Bynum. By season’s end this was the best running team in the state –- who knows what another season of David Murrell, Dizel Wright, Jonathan Garcia, Ty Nichols and Ki-Shawn Monroe will bring?

7. Brighton
All signs point to Malik James having played his last game as a Bengal in the state championship game, but freshman Javaughn Edmonds shows promise to potentially fill the point guard role. Should All-State forward Nick Simpson return, you’re looking at a front line of Simpson and 6-foot-5 sophomore Jason Jones that is as good as any across Division 2.

8. Melrose
Scary as his junior season was, reigning Middlesex League MVP Frantdzy Pierrot could turn in an even more monstrous senior campaign in 2013-14 for the Red Raiders. With realignment shifting many teams in the North, and a quality stable of underclassmen led by freshman point guard Sherron Harris, next year is as good a time as any to strike.

9. Wakefield
Sophomore Bruce Brown is expected to return next season, and that alone makes the Warriors a favorite in D2 North. The question will be whether they can turn their early-season promise into deep playoff production, and whether they can get past the semifinal round.

10. Springfield Central
The Golden Eagles are not without talent, with one of the state's most promising big men in sophomore Chris Baldwin. The question will be if the guards and forwards can get on the same page, and we think after some growing pains this year, cousins Ju'uan and Cody Williams will make this team sharper coming off a disappointing Division 1 state title defense.

Others to watch: Acton-Boxborough, Andover, Braintree, Boston English, Catholic Memorial, Danvers, Haverhill, Holyoke, New Bedford, New Mission, Newton North, St. John’s Prep, Wachusett, Watertown

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

Rockland's Gibson named Gatorade Player of the Year

March, 21, 2013
3/21/13
12:56
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RocklandBrendan Hall/ESPNBoston.com Rockland senior center Tyler Gibson was named Massachusetts' Gatorade Player of the Year on Thursday after averaging 21.4 points, 15.3 rebounds and 4.8 blocks per game.
In its 28th year of honoring the nation’s best high school athletes, The Gatorade Company, in collaboration with USA TODAY High School Sports, today announced Tyler Gibson of Rockland High School as its 2012-13 Gatorade Massachusetts Boys Basketball Player of the Year. Gibson is the first Gatorade Massachusetts Boys Basketball Player of the Year to be chosen from Rockland High School.

The award, which recognizes not only outstanding athletic excellence, but also high standards of academic achievement and exemplary character demonstrated on and off the court, distinguishes Gibson as Massachusetts’s best high school boys basketball player. Now a finalist for the prestigious Gatorade National Boys Basketball Player of the Year award to be announced in March, Gibson joins an elite alumni association of past state boys basketball award winners, including Dwight Howard (2003-04, SW Atlanta Christian Academy, Ga.), Chauncey Billups (1993-94 & 1994-95, George Washington HS, Colo.), Jason Kidd (1991-92, St. Joseph Notre Dame HS, Calif.), Paul Pierce (1994-95, Inglewood HS, Calif.) and Chris Bosh (2001-02, Lincoln HS, Texas).

The 6-foot-6, 200-pound senior center averaged 21.4 points, 15.3 rebounds, 4.8 blocks and 2.1 assists per game this past season, leading the Bulldogs (19-4) to the Division 3, South Region semifinals. A two-time Brockton Enterprise All-Scholastic selection and the 2013 South Shore League MVP, Gibson had eight games this season with at least 20 points and 20 rebounds. He concluded his high school basketball career with 986 points.

Gibson has maintained a 3.32 GPA in the classroom. He has volunteered locally as a youth basketball coach and has also donated his time as an elementary school mentor.

“Tyler Gibson is certainly a game-changer and a hell of a player,” said Jim Willis, head coach of Cohasset High. “He was definitely the No. 1 reason Rockland won the league this year and went as far as they did. Defensively, he just changed every game he was in because of his size and jumping ability.”

Gibson has signed a National Letter of Intent to play basketball on an athletic scholarship at the University of Massachusetts at Lowell beginning this fall.

Gibson joins recent Gatorade Massachusetts Boys Basketball Players of the Year Rene Castro (2011-12, Worcester Academy), Pat Connaughton (2010-11, St. John's Preparatory School), Nate Lubick (2009-10 & 2008-09, St. Mark's School), Stevie Mejia (2007-08, Lawrence Academy), and Mike Baldarelli (2006 – 07, Holy Name Central Catholic) among the state’s list of former award winners.

D3 South: Wareham 61, Rockland 55

March, 5, 2013
3/05/13
12:56
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BROCKTON, Mass. -– Darien Fernandez is getting more out of his high school basketball career than most players do.

Literally.

The 5-foot-7 star point guard led the way as his No. 1 Wareham team slipped past No. 4 Rockland, 61-56, at Brockton in a Div. 3 South Sectional Semifinal match-up, guaranteeing Fernandez and the Vikings will make their straight trip to the sectional finals.

Fernandez piled up 26 points to go with 11 rebounds, five assists and three steals as Wareham advanced to a repeat of last season’s finals match-up as they’ll take on No. 7 Martha’s Vineyard on Saturday at UMass-Boston.

“You really can’t stop a kid like that,” said Rockland coach Fred Damon. “He initiates contact, he gets us in foul trouble and he distributes the ball. We knew he was going to do what he was going to do, the key was we just didn’t want to be able to make everyone else better. We also wanted to be able to limit their threes.”

For the most part, Rockland (19-4) succeeded to limit the damage done by Fernandez’s supporting cast. It was the 3-pointer, however, that sent them home -– largely because Fernandez was able to find his guys open from distance.

“Darien’s been unselfish all year,” said Wareham coach Kevin Brogioli. “He loves to penetrate, but if there’s open players he’ll hit them. He’s done it all year. He leads our teams in points and assists and that’s a pretty potent combination.”

Wareham (22-1) knocked down eight 3-pointers in the game, led by Sam Brogioli who poured in four of them. Each one of his came from way downtown, beyond the range of Rockland’s coverage. He sealed the game with a fourth quarter heave nearly 10 feet beyond the arc.

“That one from about 25-feet away -– man, the backyard blacktop paid off on that one,” said coach Brogioli of his son. “I was happy for him because he struggled a bit early. He had open looks early too, and he wasn’t afraid to keep shooting his shot. He hit them down the stretch.”

Added Damon: “Give the kid credit -– those weren’t even just high school threes, they weren’t just college threes, they weren’t even NBA threes. They were even beyond that, and they were all nothing but net.”

Brogioli’s 14 points paired him with Fernandez in double-figures, but offense was harder to come by last night for Wareham than it had been in the first two rounds of the tourney.

“Their defense is good. I’d never seen that,” Fernandez said. “They really tried to take my shoes away so I couldn’t really drive and kick like I wanted to and like I like to do, so I just had to get to the rack.

Added Brogioli: “Their defense is very tough –- but we held them to 56. We knew what they’re capable of –- we knew that was the Rockland way. Ever since Bobby Fisher, and now Fred Damon does it. They’ve got tough kids.”

As Wareham, the defending South Sectional champs, advanced to the title game for the third straight year, they also got strong showings from Quintin Silveria (six points, four rebounds, three blocks), Mason Vasconcellos (eight points) and Latroy Hariston ( six rebounds).

EMOTIONAL GOODBYE FOR BULLDOGS
With the loss, Rockland also had to say goodbye to South Shore League MVP and UMass-Lowell bound Tyler Gibson.

A three-year varsity player who scored 986 career points, Gibson helped the Bulldogs win 54 games during his time there – an average of 18 per season.

The Bulldogs’ success this season could’ve have taken a hit if Gibson would’ve put himself ahead of the program. Last spring, prep schools sought out the 6-6 forward with promises of increased chances for a college scholarship.

Instead, Gibson chose stay Rockland for a chance to add something to the impressive basketball legacy there.

Gibson, who finished with 25 points and 21 rebounds, nearly added another chapter alongside Matt Nicholson (14 points, seven rebounds) and Bryan Tavares (14 points) before the Bulldogs fell just short on Monday night.

The scholarship offers came anyway –- he had one from Merrimack in addition to UMass-Lowell, all without having to leave a town he calls home.

“There’s no place like Rockland, and I’m serious when I say that,” Gibson said. “It’s the tradition; we’re just one big family. That’s why I stayed.”

During his career, he blossomed from a physically gifted athlete into something much more.

“I’ve grown up a lot since sophomore year -– all because of this program,” Gibson said. “Coach Damon, the whole coaching staff and my teammates and I can’t give them enough credit.”

While Gibson’s play blossomed on the court, it was his non-basketball skill that impressed his coaches most.

“Your blessed when you get players like that,” said coach Fred Damon. “Totally blessed. Those type of kids only come along every so often. You look at his stats -– and they’re tremendous -– but it’s much more than that. It’s his personality, it’s how hard he works, it’s everything.”

Roundtable: Midseason All-State, Superlatives

January, 25, 2013
1/25/13
3:46
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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. 21 Rockland 78, Mashpee 51

January, 9, 2013
1/09/13
12:16
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ROCKLAND, Mass. -– Not all games are created equal. Some of them, like when the Rockland boys basketball team hosted South Shore League rival Mashpee on Tuesday night, just feel bigger.

“This was our fourth statement game –- Scituate, Norwell, Abington and this game here,” said Rockland coach Fred Damon. “We wanted to send statements. If we want people to take us for real, we need to win these types of games. We want to set ourselves as a team that can be a force in division three.”

That message was sent loud and clear on Tuesday, as No. 21 Rockland rolled to an easy 78-51 over the formerly unbeaten Falcons (8-1) in front of a sellout and raucous crowd.

UMass-Lowell signee Tyler Gibson got Rockland (9-0) on the board with a pair of free throws on the first possession, but senior point guard Bryan Tavares was the driving force behind the Bulldogs (9-0) forging an early lead, finishing the first quarter up 15-11.

Tavares notched 21 of his 26 points before halftime on a ridiculous 8-for-9 shooting. Even more impressive was that he did it all while battling the flu, twice leaving the court to throw up.

“I honestly don’t know how I did it,” Tavares said. “I practiced a lot over the summer and I can feel the improvements now. It all kind of came together tonight.”

Tavares knocked down three five 3-pointers in the second, sparking a 16-point quarter for him as the Bulldogs extended their lead to 44-28 at the half.

“Bryan’s the floor general of the team, so he basically controls everything,” said Gibson. “He gave us a boost scoring by hitting those 3-point shots early.”

Added junior Matt Nicholson: “It’s awesome to have a guy like. He’s been pretty consistent for us too -– other than the Cohasset game, he’s been like that every single game for us.”

Still, even a 14-point lead at the break wasn’t satisfactory for the Bulldogs.

“We like to keep teams around 20 (first half points),” Damon said. “We came into the locker room and I was not happy at halftime. I said they cannot stop us offensively, there’s no doubt and we ran sets like crazy in the second half. We had to pick it up defensively and they got seven points in the third quarter. We went from up 14 to up 26 –- that’s the game right there.”

Nicholson made sure the offense kept pouring it on as he tallied 11 points in the third quarter before adding nine in the fourth en route to a game-high 28 points, to go with six rebounds, two blocks and four steals.

Considering how both took over the game, it’s not clear which one was better against the Falcons.

“That was an absolute two-headed monster, so I really don’t know,” said Rockland coach Fred Damon. “I probably would have to say Tavares because he put us ahead and then extended the lead, and Nic kept us there. Bryan was just unconscious tonight. It was ridiculous. You cannot stop him when he’s shooting like that.”

Gibson finished with 13 points, five rebounds, three blocks and two steals and sophomore Liam Ball chipped in five rebounds, three points and two steals for Rockland.

Mashpee had a strong showing from Nakia Hendricks, who tallied 19 points, six rebounds, four blocks and three steals, as well as 12 points from Dean Feliciano and 10 points and seven rebounds from Malik Lee. But those individual showings weren’t enough to overcome Rockland’s impressive attack.

“What can I say, they just beat us,” said Mashpee coach Rick Boulrisse. “They shot the ball real well –- I think they hit seven 3’s in the first half. It’s hard to overcome something like that. Rockland just outplayed us.”

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

Rockland's Gibson commits to UMass-Lowell

October, 2, 2012
10/02/12
10:27
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ROCKLAND – Rockland High stand-out basketball player Tyler Gibson might not have realized when he was on his official visit to UMass-Lowell that he would wind up committing there, but it didn’t take long for him to reach the decision once he returned home.

"The night I got home from the official visit, I just remember lying in bed and thinking to myself, 'UMass-Lowell is the right fit for me,'" said Gibson. "I loved the team aspect there, everyone just seemed like one big family. Getting to see the entire campus and working out with the guys and seeing their style of play just really made me feel like this was the place for me."

The 6-foot-6 forward/center also held an offer from Merrimack, and had planned to visit Assumption in the coming weeks, originally planning to make his decision by the early signing date in November.

His trip to UMass-Lowell, though, changed his plans.

"I'm committing to UMass-Lowell," Gibson said. "I just believe it's the best fit for me. Not just basketball, but the school aspect as well. They have a new business building that will be built in the next year or two, and I want to study finance so it'll be good for me."

Gibson, who also received interest from several other Northeast-10 schools as well as NCAA Div. 1 Bryant and Hartford, went from relatively unknown to bona fide college prospect in less than a year.
After starring for the Bulldogs at Rockland High last winter (he helped them to an 18-3 mark averaging a double-double along the way), Gibson really broke out this summer while playing AAU for the Boston Warriors.

After earning All-Tournament Honorable Mention honors at the Hall of Fame National Invitational in Springfield, Gibson averaged a double-double at AAU Nationals, after which his recruiting really took off.

"Last year at this time, no colleges were looking at me,” Gibson said. “It shows how far I've come and how much my hard work paid off."

Following his success on the hardwood for the Bulldogs last winter, Gibson fielded another kind of recruiting interest. Prep schools came calling, trying to sell Gibson on the idea that they could offer him a better recruiting opportunity than Rockland could.

Gibson ultimately passed, deciding to Rockland for his senior year.

"I'm 100 percent sure I made the right choice," Gibson said. "I wanted to stay and earn a scholarship playing for home town. I didn't want to be remembered as someone who left for prep school just so he could play in college. I want to be remembered as someone who stayed at Rockland, and went to play in college after contributing to the program before I left."

And being able to contribute to the Bulldogs on the court is the biggest reason Gibson didn’t wait to make his decision.

"I feel like I've got a monkey off my back," Gibson said. "Now I can just focus all my efforts toward winning basketball games this season."

Big week at AAU Nationals for Bridges, Gibson

July, 28, 2012
7/28/12
9:47
AM ET
As another day of basketball begins at 11th Grade AAU Nationals in Orlando, Boston Warriors coach Mark Papas sends along some impressive information regarding two of his most outstanding players.

Point guard Greg Bridges, an incoming sophomore at New Mission playing with the 17-and-under squad, had an explosive effort for the Warriors' "Blue" team last night in an 86-69 win over Altamonte (Fla.) in the Division I tournament. The 5-foot-7 waterbug hit 11 three-pointers, as part of a 42-point effort. For the tournament this week, he is averaging 32 points per game.

Meanwhile Tyler Gibson, an incoming senior at Rockland High, has been putting up surreal numbers with the Warriors' "Black" club in the Division II bracket. For the week he is averaging 18 rebounds per game -- including 23 last night against Boo Williams (Va.) -- to go along with 15 points and five blocks. A handful of low-major Division 1 and Northeast-10 schools are expressing interest in the 6-foot-5 forward.

Also playing well this week for the Warriors have been Medway's Matt Ozzella (15 points per game), Danvers' Nick McKenna (15) and Staples (Conn.) guard Pete Rankowitz (13 points).

Div. 3 Boys: Spellman 62, Rockland 60

March, 2, 2012
3/02/12
11:57
PM ET
ROCKLAND, Mass. — Michael Downing made a promise to his teammates at halftime to be a factor in the final 16 minutes of the Div. 3 South quarter-finals after early foul trouble kept him on the bench in the first half.

The 6-foot senior guard was chomping at the bit to get back into action as the back-and-forth matchup between Cardinal Spellman and Rockland started to get real interesting in the fourth quarter. Downing returned in a big way defensively, as he came up with three steals in the fourth quarter, and the game-saving block at the buzzer to help the No. 5 Cardinals (19-5) down No. 4 Rockland, 62-60, in the final game ever in the “Dog Pound” at Joseph Cogan Memorial Gymnasium.

The exuberance of the moment was all over an emotional Downing’s face after the game, as the Cardinals will now move on to play Wareham in the Div. 3 South semifinals.

“I really felt I let my team down,” said Downing. “I felt that if I could get back in the game then I’m not going to let them down again. I knew that I had to help my team win this game. We are all brothers on this team and we had to do it for everybody.”

The Cardinals were in the midst of a 10-2 run when Downing came up with a big theft at center court and raced down for a lay-in to cut the deficit to 56-55. Downing picked off a Bulldogs (19-3) pass on the next possession and got the ball to Paul Preziosi, who was fouled and sent to the line.

Preziosi hit both of his free throws to give the Cardinals a one-point lead with four minutes remaining left in the ball game.

“We got a couple turnovers off their guards, which helped us out in that little bit of a run,” said Cardinals head coach Mike Perry. “I was happy with the way they played tonight.”

Downing kept his best defensive stand for last. Joey Glynn missed two free throws that would have sealed the game with 4.9 seconds remaining in the game. Ricky Witt grabbed the rebound and tried to get a halfcourt shot off that would win the game at the buzzer, but the lengthy Downing got his hand on is and swatted the ball away to secure the victory.

“When I tipped that ball and I knew that game was over I honestly wanted to cry,” said Downing.

Free Throws a Factor: Fred Damon didn’t want his season to end at the free throw line, but that’s exactly where it did. The Bulldogs were 10-of-26 from the line and missed several clutch free throws.

Tyler Gibson scored 15 points and grabbed 13 rebounds on the night, and was a major reason why the Bulldogs were able to build an 11-point lead in the third quarter. However, he struggled with free throws all night, going 1-for-10 from the line and missing two that would have tied the game in the game’s final seconds.

“It’s a very simple game,” said Damon. “I told them that we didn’t want to end the season on missed free throws.”

End of an Era in Rockland: People showed up in packs to get into the “Dog Pound” for its last game, and on the walk into the gym people were leaving before the game with sad looks on their face as police and security had to cut off the crowd with bodies seemingly in every inch of the gymnasium.

The Cardinals seemed to weather the storm, but with the inbounds near the Bulldogs’ fan section, some Cardinals players could feel the the Bulldogs faithful doing their best Cameron Crazies impressions.

“It was really tough because the fans were right there,” said Glynn. “It was tough.”

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