Boston High School: Whitinsville Christian

Brady Bajema named new hoops coach at Whitinsville

April, 20, 2013
4/20/13
12:17
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Former Whitinsville Christian star Brady Bajema has been named the new head boys basketball coach at his alma mater, the school officially announced on Friday afternoon.

Bajema -- who teaches health, history, and physical education at the school -- will take over for his father, Jeff, who helped build the program into one of the state's most consistent across Division 3. The Crusaders won three consecutive Central Mass. Division 3 championships from 2010 to 2012, including a state championship in 2011 with the elder Bajema at the helm. Jeff Bajema was also Rick Martin’s assistant in 2005, when the Crusaders won their first state title -- with Bajema’s sons, Mitch and Brady, as the starting backcourt.

Brady matriculated to Gordon College, in Wenham, where he scored over one-thousand career points and led the Fighting Scots to the 2010 NCAA Division 3 tournament. Following his playing career, he spent two years at Gordon as a graduate assistant to head coach Tod Murphy before starting his career as a teacher at Whitinsville. This past season, he coached the Crusaders’ middle school team.

Speaking to ESPNBoston.com on Friday night, he expressed his excitement towards building his own program, but also continuing the winning tradition at Whitinsville.

"I’m pretty excited, I care about this school a lot -- it’s a special place," Brady said. "The basketball program has a great tradition...I appreciate the support from players, coaches, administrators. I’m excited about the group of guys that we have at WCS."

Brady and Athletic Director Leonard Krygsman met with members of the team during lunch hour on Friday afternoon, where he had an opportunity to talk to players and briefly lay down expectations.

"I got some good feedback from them. There are some tremendous leaders in this group," he said.

He received plenty of congratulations from his father as well, and said he will certainly draw from his father’s experience as he takes over a program that has been of the MIAA’s most storied over the course of the last decade.

"He’s been great," Brady said. "He’s willing to help in any way that I’d like him to help. But we both understand it’s my call now, that’s the way it needs to be, and I’ll definitely go to him for advice on certain things.

“It’s where I’m supposed to be. I understand the work and time [my dad] put in, and I’m willing to do the same to keep the basketball tradition [at Whitinsville].”

Our MIAA All-State Boys Hoops Team

March, 26, 2013
3/26/13
4:58
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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

Mansfield new No. 1 in boys hoop Top 25

February, 4, 2013
2/04/13
6:25
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We updated our statewide MIAA Top 25 boys basketball poll this afternoon, and for the first time in six weeks we have a new No. 1 team in the land. To view the complete poll, CLICK HERE.

A few notes and observations about this week's poll:

Mansfield takes over top spot: For the first time in six weeks, there is a new No. 1 team in the land. Mansfield takes over the top spot in our poll following Central Catholic's surprise losses to North Andover and St. John's Prep in five days. The Hornets have but one blemish on their resume -- a loss to No. 12 New Mission in December's Shooting Touch Shootout -- and have quality wins over BC High, Brockton, Taunton, Franklin and Amityville (N.Y.).

Mansfield currently stands unbeaten in the Hockomock League, but three pivotal games are on the horizon -- Milford (Tuesday), followed by rematches with Taunton (Friday) and Franklin (Feb. 12). They currently lead the league in scoring (70 points per game), and sophomore Brendan Hill (14 ppg) has put himself on the short list of contenders for Hockomock Player of the Year.

Rounding out the Top 5 are St. John's Prep (2), Central Catholic (3), Danvers (4) and North Andover (5).

South on the rise: Worcester South made its return to the polls last week after a month-long hiatus, following the Colonels' 18-point thrashing of Wachusett. Last Friday, for the second week in a row, they took down the top team in Central Mass., this time a 67-62 win over powerhouse St. John's of Shrewsbury, in the Colonels' own field house. Senior guard Rod Milton (23.5 points per game) is a lock for ESPN Boston All-State at this point, and has a terrific supporting cast in junior sharpshooter Kasheen Cunningham and sophomore post players Darwin Agyei and Khalil Bryan-Robinson.

Best of the West: Two Western Mass. squads sit in the Top 10 of our poll for the first time in our three-year history. Springfield Putnam slides two spots up to No. 8 this week, as one of two WMass squads still unbeaten alongside Greenfield. Meanwhile Springfield Central -- the defending MIAA Division 1 state champ, and our preseason No. 1 -- moves back into the Top 10 for the first time since week two, at No. 10, following a 56-55 overtime thriller over city rival Sci-Tech.

Notable newcomers, returns: Catholic Memorial makes a return to the poll this week for the first time since getting upset by St. Peter-Marian nearly four weeks ago. The Knights are in at No. 24 following wins over Xaverian and Malden Catholic, and a narrow loss to St. John's Prep, but face a tall task Tuesday night in archrival BC High. The lone debut this week is three-time defending Division 3 Central champ Whitinsville Christian, which makes its first appearance since the final poll 2011-12. The Crusaders scored a 55-51 overtime win over Charlestown last Friday, their first over the Townies since the annual series began in 2010.

Here's how the poll breaks down this week by league affiliation:

Merrimack Valley - 4
Boston City League - 3
Catholic Conference - 3
Hockomock - 3
Bay State - 1
Big Three - 1
Central Mass. Conference - 1
Dual Valley - 1
Inter-High - 1
Mid-Wach A - 1
Middlesex - 1
Northeastern - 1
South Coast - 1
South Shore - 1
Valley League - 1
Valley Wheel - 1

Roundtable: Midseason All-State, Superlatives

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

***

Brendan Hall
ESPN Boston High Schools Editor


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Second half sleepers to watch

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

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

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

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

***

Chris Bradley
ESPN Boston correspondent


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Second-half sleepers:

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

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

***

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


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

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

Mr. Basketball
Tyler Nelson, Jr., Central Catholic

Miss Basketball
Olivia Healy, Sr., Reading

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

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

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

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

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

Most Underrated Team
Boys: Melrose
Girls: Ipswich

Second Half Sleepers

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

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

***

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Second Half Sleepers

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

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

Westford, Algonquin debut in boys hoop poll

January, 15, 2013
1/15/13
12:36
AM ET
We updated our statewide MIAA Top 25 boys basketball poll this afternoon. To find the complete poll, CLICK HERE.

(EDITOR'S NOTE: Poll does not reflect Monday's results)

Some notes and observations about this week's poll:

Debuts for Westford, Algonquin: Two teams make their debuts this week, in Westford Academy (24) and Algonquin (25). For the former it's the Grey Ghosts' first appearance of the 2012-13 season. For Algonquin, it's an historic first, the Tomahawks' first foray into the Top 25 in our poll's three-year history. Stigmatized by a perceived weak schedule, the 8-0 Tomahawks had a dominant showing on Friday against a quality Fitchburg squad, winning by 20 points. They're also speared by a breakout campaign by 6-foot-6 sophomore post player A.J. Brodeur, who is one of Central Mass.'s leading scorers with 17 points per game.

City loses another squad: Hard to believe just a month ago, there were six Boston City League teams in the poll, following Dorchester's surprise upset of Madison Park. Both those teams quickly fell out in the ensuing weeks, and now Charlestown joins them on the list of teams dropping out. It was a less than inspiring week for the Townies, who barely skirted by Latin Academy, then finished the week out with losses to West Roxbury (56-50) and St. Peter-Marian (74-66).

New Mission (2), Brighton (12) and East Boston (15) are the three Boston City League teams representing this week.

Historic week for St. Peter-Marian: In a week that few saw coming, St. Peter-Marian knocked off Catholic Memorial, St. John's of Shrewsbury and Charlestown in a span of six days. For that effort, the Guardians shot up the poll, from No. 25 to No. 14, this week. How long that lasts, however, remains to be seen. The Guardians took one on the chin tonight from unranked Whitinsville Christian, 64-49. The Crusaders themselves sit on the outside looking in, getting notice in the "Last 10 out" section this week.

MVC dominance: For the first time this season, all four of the Merrimack Valley Conference teams in the poll sit in the Top 10. Central Catholic remains No. 1 for the third straight week, followed by Andover (7), North Andover (9) and Lowell (10), the latter of which dropped eight spots following an upset by North Andover on Friday.

Here's how the poll breaks down this week by league affiliation:

Merrimack Valley - 4
Boston City League - 3
Catholic Conference - 3
Central Mass. Conference - 2
Hockomock - 2
Mid-Wach A - 2
Valley Wheel - 2
Bay State - 1
Big Three - 1
Dual County - 1
Middlesex - 1
Northeastern - 1
South Coast - 1
South Shore - 1

Roundtable: Preseason MIAA hoop primer

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

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

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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

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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

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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

Roundtable: Is 155 Pitches Too Many?

April, 27, 2012
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Tuesday afternoon, Barnstable High senior righthander Willie Nastasi went the distance in a 3-1 win over Taunton, striking out a career-high 16 batters in nine innings while allowing just three hits. But the 6-foot-5 UConn commit also needed 155 pitches to complete the effort, which has since sparked some spirited debate locally about pitch count and what is appropriate. Nastasi has since said it was his own decision to stay in the game. Head coach Joe DeMartino said following the game that Nastasi would not have gone back out if the game went to an extra 10th inning.

Nastasi's performance is one of countless examples of pitchers racking up high pitch counts this season, but one that drew much debate on the Twitter-sphere. Scouts Inc. Baseball Analyst Keith Law went as far as to call it "Absolutely criminal" in a post on Twitter. Still others lauded Nastasi for his performance, which improved the No. 11 Red Raiders to 2-0 in the four-team Old Colony League.

Was it the right call? How much is too much? We asked our regular panel of contributors as well as a few special guests: Eric Cressey, President of Cressey Performance; Dr. Luke Oh of Massachusetts General Hospital, an orthopaedic consultant with the Boston Red Sox; and Kirk Fredericks, head coach of three-time state champion Lincoln-Sudbury High.

Dr. Luke Oh
Orthopaedic Surgeon, Massachusetts General Hospital
Orthopaedic Consultant, Boston Red Sox; medical staff member, New England Revolution, New England Patriots, Harvard University Athletics

There has yet to be a high school or college baseball pitcher in his late teens who needed Tommy John surgery that I have seen who demonstrated good rotator cuff strength, periscapular control, and throwing mechanics. If these variables are not optimized, then it becomes difficult for young athletes to negotiate the fatigue and overuse that develops as the baseball season progresses.

At the professional level, there are comprehensive strength and conditioning programs in place that are baseball-specific. This is certainly not the case at the high school level. In fact, you may be surprised by the number of Division I college teams that do not have a baseball-specific program either.

At the high school level, it would be uncommon to find a pitcher who has the required stamina, mechanics, and strength and conditioning to throw 155 pitches per game on a regular basis without having symptoms of overuse. We have to remember that some of these adolescent athletes are still growing, and other may have finished growing with regard to height but have not filled into their frame. Even for those young athletes who appear to be muscular and well-developed, the rotator cuff and other dynamic stabilizers of the shoulder and elbow that are important for throwing tend to lag behind in development. They are attempting to emulate what the professional athletes are doing, but their bodies are not developed to the same degree.

Some people believe that a pitcher needs to throw more, in order to be able to throw more. In my opinion, there has to be a balance between developing endurance and risking injury from overuse. I think like many things in life, after an optimal range, there will be a decrease in the return on investment and an increase in the risk of injury. Well, what is the optimal range? Is there a specific threshold? This depends on each athlete because there is so much variability in physique, skill, technique, conditioning, etc. It may be counterproductive to simply ascribe a set number for the maximum recommended pitch count in high school because it may become misused and not applied appropriately.

Nevertheless, some experts believe that younger pitchers at the high school level should limit the pitch count to under 100 in an effort to reduce the risk of overuse injury. In some major league ballclubs, the pitch count may be monitored over a span of a few games such that if a pitcher throws 140 pitches in one game, for example, then he will likely throw fewer pitches during his next outing. If such precautions are taken at the highest level of competition for our professional pitchers, then it would be prudent to take additional precautions for our high school athletes.

The tremendous stress placed on the shoulder and elbow during the baseball pitch can take its toll over time. My mentor, Dr. James Andrews, and I have both seen a steady increase in injuries to the ulnar collateral ligament among young pitchers. In my practice, approximately 20-25 percent of Tommy John surgeries that I perform are on pitchers younger than 20 years old. Dr. Andrews has said that Tommy John surgery for athletes in their late teens decreased for the first time last year; but every year before that, it increased each year. Perhaps the message is getting out, and people are paying more attention to the young athlete's development, baseball-specific strength and conditioning, muscle coordination, proper mechanics and other variables that are important for injury prevention as well as optimizing performance.

Eric Cressey
President and Co-Founder, Cressey Performance

Kids might feel fine in the short-term and think they can gut it out, but the truth is that they don't know what damage is going on inside their elbows and shoulders, especially as fatigue sets in and more stress is shifted to the non-ideal places. As an example, at the elbow, when the flexor carpi ulnaris and pronator teres start to fatigue, the ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) takes on more stress. At the shoulder, when the rotator cuff starts to fatigue, the biceps tendon picks up the slack - and the loss of control of the humeral head (ball in socket) causes more and more fraying on the labrum.

Pitching injuries are not rolled ankles; a thrower isn't just fine one day, and then injured the next. Rather, these injuries are the culmination of years and years of microtrauma to the tissues that finally hits threshold. The kids having Tommy John surgeries are the ones that have previous areas of calcification on the UCL from injuries they may have never perceived, or partial UCL tears that will never heal perfectly. Shoulder-wise, almost every thrower you come across will have labral fraying and degenerative changes in the rotator cuff.

Pitch counts are a big can of worms to open because every kid is uniquely (un)prepared. Some work hard to make sure that they have stability and mobility in the right places, warm up correctly prior to outings, and hone their mechanics to make sure that they are eliminating potentially injurious flaws in the delivery. Some choose to throw curveballs over sliders (throwing sliders is associated with an 86% increased risk of elbow injury, according to research) to protect their arms. Some kids simply don't throw hard, so it's harder for them to reach threshold (sprinters don't pull their hamstrings if they don't run fast, do they?).

The take-home point is that pitch counts will always be an inexact science, but a valuable one nonetheless because they help protect the majority -- especially those who are unprepared. Unfortunately, about 95% of pitchers aren't just unprepared; they are WOEFULLY unprepared. Time and time again, the primary factor that predicts injury risk in throwers is overuse - both acute and chronic. And, we have to remember that high school kids are particularly susceptible because they are skeletally immature; otherwise, you'd see growth plate injuries in big leaguers all the tike.

Personally, I think 105 pitches for a high school player is a good cap. Anecdotally, kids seem to struggle when they go back-to-back with 100+ pitch outings, too -- especially when they happen with fewer days between starts. This isn't surprising at all, though, as most of the college pitchers I've seen who go on to pro ball comment on how the hardest adjustment is going from a seven-day to a five-day rotation.

I would like to head off one counterpoint, and it's that many coaches will rebut, "We threw way more pitches than that when I was in school, and we never got hurt!" The response is very simple: we are dealing with a different generation on a number of fronts.

First, kids are more unprepared athletically than ever because of early sports specialization (less variety = less development), and because they sit more than ever before, thanks to the popularity of things like Facebook, Twitter, and video games. After-school "play" is a thing of the past.

Second, kids can throw year-round nowadays, if they want to do so. There can be fall ball, winter lessons/clinics, showcases, and summer ball on top of what someone gets for throwing volume during the high school season. This is likely the biggest change from what players experienced more than a decade ago. Their throwing volumes were dictated by the competitive year.

Third, we are better diagnostically and surgically now. In other words, there likely were more of these injuries in the past, but we weren't as good at evaluating them and treating them, so they weren't as publicized.

Scott Barboza
ESPN Boston High Schools Editor

At the risk of sounding like the old school baseball wonk here, we've so lost sight of the way things used to be. In the 1905 World Series, Christy Mathewson pitched three complete-game shutouts in what is considered to this day as perhaps the finest postseason pitching performances in baseball history. What's makes Mathewson's 27 scoreless innings against Connie Mack's Athletics is the fact that he threw all three games within a span of six days. Yeah, maybe it was the dead ball era, but it still happened. The more fitting example would be Daisuke Matsuzaka's line during Japan's esteemed Summer Koshein series, a spectable of national attention. He threw a 17-inning, 250-pitch quarterfinal game; that is ONE DAY after he threw a 148-pitch complete game shutout. Now, we can argue how Matsuzaka's innings load, pitch count and rigorous warm-up routine might have impacted his time here with the Red Sox, but it's not as though he didn't have nearly a decade of rubber-armed action between then and now.

Look, I'm not saying Willie Nastasi is or will be of the ilk of those aforementioned, although he's certainly a fine player in his own right at the high school level and, likely, in college, but the point remains that this week's performance isn't without peer. Now more than ever, those kinds of lines are becoming fewer and farther between, which makes them all that much more remarkable when they occur. But we might be overlooking the real cause of arm fatigue in Little Leaguers and high schoolers, and that is the use of breaking balls at a young age. If a pitcher has proper mechanics and has trained to carry such a load (particuarly with the development of leg muscles), there's no reason why such a pitch count isn't possible. I think the more pervasive danger to young pitchers is the impetus to throw curve balls and other breaking pitches at a young age, which results in added strain on elbow ligaments. The world of baseball might have the right idea, but the wrong argument. Less isn't more; proper instruction is.

So we should celebrate Nastasi's accomplishment exactly as it is, something few us could ever dream to endeavor. That also doesn't mean it's impossible.

Brendan Hall
ESPN Boston High Schools Editor

For some historical context, I reached out to former Whitinsville Christian pitcher Andrew Green, who grabbed headlines back in 2009 for throwing 225 pitches in 15 innings, in what ultimately was a 1-0 loss to Douglas.

The weight training regimen Green says he was put through as a high schooler involved hardly any upper body work, outside of medicine ball work and pushups. Instead, he went heavy on leg presses and curls, and dynamic squats. The philosophy here was that by generating power from the lower body, head coach Kris Bradley could get more innings out of his thin staff, while minimizing the risk of injury.

Green -- who had earlier in the season threw a handful of 120-pitch, complete game outings -- didn't recall any soreness afterwards.

"It was funny, right after the game, my friend was like 'Come over and sit in my hot tub for as long as you want'," said Green, who is currently an assistant with WC's varsity. "I probably sat in there for two hours. My shoulder was stiff the next day -- not sore, just stiff. My body felt pretty tired. But I never really had any pain, that was the great thing about it.

"I did that on five days rest, and I started my next game five days later. There were a lot of people talking on MassLive [messageboards] about, 'You're going to ruin the kid's arm', but I never had any pain afterwards."

To this day, Bradley said pitch count wasn't as big of a concern with Green.

"I had taught him from his freshman year that his build was perfect for a pitcher, he had a large lower body," said Bradley, who had a short career at the University of Pittsburgh. "We started working with him on his lower body to generate power. A lot of coaches are in love with the tired and true, getting to a balance point [in your delivery]. The real way to pitch is to power yourself with your legs.

"You do that, and as Andrew learned, you can throw from quite a long time. It's not uncommon for guys that pitch for me to throw 80 to 100 pitches in a bullpen session, and that's kind of the way Andrew was as well."

Moreso, since Bradley took over as head coach in 2007, he says none of his pitchers has ever been sidelined with injury for an extended period of time. Defense has actually been the issue with Crusaders squads under Bradley, but that is also a function of lack of facilities -- this is the first year WC has ever had a home field, which in the past meant practicing anywhere from a gymnasium to a parking lot. The Crusaders are off to a 1-5 start, but have already seen pitchers go over the 120 threshold.

"I'm 50 years old, and on a weekly basis I throw anywhere from 500 to 1,000 pitches in a week for batting practice," Bradley said. "And I think the number of times I've had arm soreness in my entire life, I can count on three fingers."

Clearly, there are two distinct schools of thought here. There is the school of thought that errs on the side of caution with pitch count, some stricter than others. Then there's the one shared by the Bobby Cox's and Nolan Ryan's of the world, letting players routinely ring up triple-digits with the mantra of building up arm endurance.

Would Bobby Cox or Nolan Ryan let one of their players ring up 155 pitches in an April game in cold temperatures? Let's face it, probably not.

The first baseball game I covered this season, Pat Ruotolo of Peabody threw 133 pitches in an eventual loss to St. John's Prep. I'm sure there are countless other instances around the state this season where a player exceeded a common threshold this early in the season.

I was also in attendance for the Barnstable game in question here, so let's take into account his mechanics. In Nastasi, I see a little bit of Jordan Cote, the lean 6-foot-5 righty from Winnisquam (N.H.) High who turned down a Coastal Carolina scholarship last summer to sign with the Yankees for $750,000. Like Cote, Nastasi stretches out on the mound, keeps his elbow in, transfers his weight well, and as a result generates high-80's fastball power from his lower body. His mechanics are sharp, but most importantly they are also clean.

And like Green, Nastasi can eat innings on the mound. He didn't show any signs of laboring until the ninth inning, and at that they were minimal.

But let's also consider the human element here. The Old Colony League made the switch this year to nine-inning games and wooden bats only; and with only four teams in the league, every one of these matchups is very important. Nastasi had a good thing going, striking out a career-high 16 batters, and had the winning run at the plate in the top of the ninth. Was Nastasi going to tap himself out? No, and I don't think it mattered whether it was April 24 or June 24. Nastasi earned his scholarship to UConn by being a competitor, not a conservative.

In Green's case, it was one of that last games of the regular season, with the Crusaders still trying to quality for postseason. He was also playing at legendary Soldiers Field in Douglas, where Babe Ruth himself once made an appearance. It was also one of the last starts of his senior season, and he wanted to make it count. Like the majority of high school players, his career didn't continue in college (he briefly tried to walk on at NAIA power Malone University, before returning home and enrolling at Quinsigamond Community College).

I'm sure the high pitch count startled the UConn coaching staff -- or maybe it didn't. Maybe it's the part of his competitive makeup that excites coaches the most.

There are many good reasons Nastasi should have left the game earlier, many of them smartly laid out here, many of them concerning the long-term.

They're probably right.

But in the heat of the moment, you're in the fog of war, and how you'll feel a year from now isn't a priority.

You're trying to win a ball game, and that's all you care about at that moment. And at the end of the day, isn't this what high school sports are all about?

Kirk Fredericks
Head Coach, Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School

Every situation is different as each kid is different. We have a kid that when he throws over 75 pitches, he can't pitch on five days, he has to go to seven days. As a coach, you need to be educated and you have to know your players. When does your kid change his mechanics? When is he tired and going to hurt himself? It isn't like a cut, where you see blood. You don't see the results of the damage until later.

I don't have an answer for what the magic number is. We look at it as what number is he at and where that puts us for the next time out. If we go one more then where does that put us? I guess the general number is 100. Have I gone over that? Yes, because a kid had an easy 100, or we want one more batter, so they get to 110. But a win isn't important enough to be the person responsible for long-term damage. You never know what damage a kid has from previous history that he is coming in with, so it is always good to side with caution.

What is the highest that one of my pitches has gone? 125 in a state championship, and 133 in a state championship. Is that right? I don't know.

John Botelho
Staff Writer, Brockton Enterprise

No pitcher -- not just a high school kid - should be throwing that many pitches. Simply put, that kind of workload on an arm seriously raises chances of an injury.

It is a good thing that Nastasi not only wanted the ball but also was quick to defend the decision that let him throw more pitches than most pitchers do in a game at any level. It means he's a good teammate and truly cares more about his team winning games than he does his own well-being.

We're not discussing what kind of a teammate he is though, and him hinting that it was decision to stay is where my problem with this type of pitch count starts. A decision like that shouldn't be left in the hands of a player. Teams have coaches for that very reason. If we're going to brush off an extreme pitch count because, well a 17-year-old kid trying to win games with his best friends said he was fine, where do we draw the line? If players dictated playing time, wouldn't every kid believe he should be playing all the time, hitting near the top of the order? So how is letting a kid dictate how many pitches is too many okay?

Think about what would happen to a coach if he let a potentially concussed player return to action without ensuring he was 100 percent. It wouldn't take long for people to call for that hypothetical coaches job. I'm not going to pretend that an arm and a head are anywhere near the same thing, but why is a baseball coach allowed to do something that could cause potential to his player? If any professional - a physical therapist, strength coach, orthopedist, etc. -- could prove there was no harm in throwing that many pitches, wouldn't big leaguers throw more than 100 or so a game, especially since teams are shelling out all sorts of money? MLB teams would love to get more bang for their buck, but instead $15 million investments are babied, and protected as much as possible. Why then, are high school kids who are still developing physically thrown to the wolves then?

For those who would argue that, 'Well, of course MLB teams will baby their pitchers. They pay too much money not to,' I contend that those pitchers well-beings should be no more important than a kid pitching for his high school. If that is your argument though, consider that Nastasi is committed to UConn to pitch next season. Last summer, Huskies pitcher Matt Barnes signed for $1.5M as a first round pick -- something that certainly could've been jeopardized if he needed his arm reconstructed. Furthermore, what is the ultimate pay out for adding this type of risk to a high school kids arm? A few extra wins? Is winning games -- even if they result in a league title banner or better record -- more important than a kids health? Even if these were big tournament games, I wouldn't see this as okay, but right now we're talking about games played in cool and pitcher-unfriendly April weather. Knowing how an arm injury can effect a kids future, this juice just doesn't seem worth the squeeze.

I think you'd have an easier time finding a high school kid act like Nastasi did on Tuesday, willing to lay it all on the line to win the game at hand than you would one who would go to his coach and ask out of the game because his pitch count was mounting. High school athletes are stubborn and hard-headed, naive to the world of baseball injuries that is truly out there. And for anyone who thinks no toll is paid for the mileage piled up on high school arms, a quick look at the arms of college pitching staffs tells a much different story. It's easy to spot the tell-tale labrum fixes with the scars around the shoulder. It's even easier to to spot the train tracks running around the inside of an elbow that has had Tommy John surgery. Those injuries are typically hangover from abuse in high school, when kids regularly throw on short rest with little regard for pitch count. That is not the case at the collegiate level, as starters throw once a week, and aren't asked to go complete games every time out because bigger rosters allows for real bullpens. The injuries still pile up though.

For the sake of argument, I'm going to call Roy Halladay the most durable pitcher in the MLB. Since 2006, he has been an absolute horse, tossing at least 220 innings in each season and throwing as many as 250.2 in a given year. Consider that in that time, he never got anywhere near 155 pitches. He never even reached 140. In fact, only three times in his entire career has he even reached 130 (and never more than 133). Just 16 times in 356 career starts has Halladay thrown at least 120 pitches in a game. The information gets more interesting if you consider that Halladay was 26 the first time he reached 120 pitches in a game. He didn't toss 130 until he was 33-years-old, long after his growth plates had closed, long after his development and physical maturation had ended.

I've been told Coach DeMartino planned to take Nastasi out at the end of the nine innings if it went to extras, but why there? Was it because the pitch total was already far beyond a reasonable amount? Or was 150 or so the magic number? I have to think he puts less importance on pitch counts than I do -- and some coaches do -- because I watched Barnstable pitcher Keegan Dellacona throw about 140 pitches in over eight innings in a loss to Bridgewater-Raynham Thursday afternoon. DeMartino is hardly alone in this practice, and maybe the MIAA needs to step in and establish clean cut rules in regards to pitch count and rest - just as they did with returning from concussions -- to ensure that athletes' safety is made priority number one.

Perhaps that means knocking the Div. 1 state tourney games from nine innings to seven or having teams carry bigger rosters, but one thing is for sure: No pitcher should be throwing 155 pitches, or even approaching that mark, in a high school baseball game.

Ryan Lanigan
Founder, HockomockSports.com

Willie Nastasi had an incredible performance in the win over Taunton with a complete game and 16 strikeouts, but did he stay in too long? For me, I see nothing wrong with the decision to let him finish the game. Nastasi said it was his own decision to stay in but in the end, the coach has the final say no matter. I believe both made the right decision to let him finish the game. The UConn commit is an experienced pitcher and knows his own limits. Yes, some will say that his youth and getting wrapped up in the moment could influence his decision, but in the end, he knows his body. Someone with a bright future wouldn’t jeopardize it by risking their health and Natasi was confident in his decision to throw the amount of pitches he did.

Ryan Kilian
Founder, New England Prep Stars

It is a tough call because I can see both arguments on the issue but I have to think that with proper training and advanced understanding of the individual pitcher it can be done. I think it really begins and ends with the individual pitcher. I come from the Nolan Ryan and Mike Maddux camp where I believe that pitchers to need to re-trained and not be coddled as much. However, I think mechanics and future in the game are two important factors to look as well. There are definitely some deliveries and styles that are more taxing on the body and arm in particular and without proper diagnosis and training you should lean on the side of caution. I would also look at all the advantages that hitters have, such as aluminum bats and the high strike not being called as much as factors in favor of the hitter and advanced pitch counts.

Some pitchers will never be 130 pitch a game pitchers just like some pitchers will never throw 95 mph or average 1.9 walks per game. It depends on the pitcher.

Ben Larsen
Online Producer, MassLive.com

There are a number of variables at play here. Was he equally effective in the later innings? Was the high pitch count due to strikeouts via deep counts? The question I’m wondering though is why it was his decision to stay in the game? It should be up to the coach. With all that said, I think 155 is too much. You rarely see pitchers at the highest level, with the benefit of a complete spring training regimen, reach that mark. In my opinion, if he needed 155 to get through, he wasn’t efficient enough. That is a lot of pitches and this early in the season, surely, it wasn’t a ‘must-win’. This is a game that could have been left in the hands of the bullpen.

ESPNBoston's MIAA All-State Boys Basketball Team

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

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

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

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

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

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

BEST OF THE REST

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
All-StateMARCUS MIDDLETON, STOUGHTON

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

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

COACH OF THE YEAR
All-StateHUGH COLEMAN, BRIGHTON

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

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

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

Central remains No. 1 in final hoop poll

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

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

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

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

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

MIAA Sectional Hoop Finals: Picks Reset

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

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

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

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

(NOTE: Division 4 Finals are being played tonight)

BOYS PICKS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GIRLS PICKS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who's the next big thing in MIAA Hoop?

February, 27, 2012
2/27/12
12:25
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Every year, there is that one player who explodes onto the scene in the MIAA boys basketball tournament and puts many a college scout on notice.

Last year, it was 6-foot-8 Jake Layman leading King Philip to its most successful season in history and a surprise appearance in the Division 2 South final, before signing with Maryland last November and leading the Warriors to a 17-3 campaign this year. Before him, it was Pat Connaughton, averaging nearly a 20-20 in the 2010 playoffs for St. John's Prep before signing with Notre Dame in two sports and delivering the Eagles their first state title last March. And before him, it was Central Catholic's 6-foot-11 stud Carson Desrosiers, a nightly triple-double threat with three-point range who led the Raiders to two state titles in three seasons before moving on to Wake Forest.

Who is the next Jake Layman, Pat Connaughton or Carson Desrosiers? Below are 11 underclassmen that could fit the bill and why. As always, the names of opposing coaches questioned for comment are withheld. ESPN analyst and New England Recruiting Report founder Adam Finkelstein also weighs in with additional comments.

NOTE: We had Central Catholic's Tyler Nelson and New Mission's Nate Anderson on this list last year, with high praise, and so for that reason we're excluding them this time around.

JALEN ADAMS, MELROSE
6-1, Soph. G
Why he matters: One of several players on this list to first build hype after a good run with nationally-recognized AAU powerhouse Boston Amateur Basketball Club (BABC), Adams is considered the total package by some. With his combination of court vision and athleticism, Adams is a nightly threat averaging 20.7 points per game. The Boston native navigated the Red Raiders through a tough Middlesex League field, winning the the Small division and earning a No. 2 seed in Division 2 North at 18-2.
What opposing coaches are saying: “He’s competitive, I think his strength is his court vision. He’s explosive, he can get to rim, and I think one of his other big strengths is that he can defend at a high level...I think Jalen is the most talented point guard in the state of Massachusetts. He’s got a bright future in front of him. He has unbelievable spring in his step and gets off the floor quick. He can shoot the three, he can get by you quickly, he’ll dunk in traffic, and when he wants be a great defender there isn’t anyone that can get by him...He’s just like Shabazz Napier was as a sophomore at Charlestown. That’s honestly who I’d compare him to...When he wants to, he can defend –- he is a five-tool player. Out of all of them, he’s a five-tool kid because he’s quick, he can score, he can shoot off the bounce, and he hits his free throws.”
ESPN’s Adam Finkelstein: "Adams has a variety of tools that can't be taught. First he has all the physical tools being long, quick, and athletic. Secondly, he's got an instinctive knack for making plays with the ball in his hands. Put the two together, the type of plays he's able to make help his game to translate well to the next level. He still needs to shoot the ball more consistently and potentially learn to be more of a point guard given his size."

BRUCE BROWN, WAKEFIELD
6-3, Fr. F
Why he matters: The Warriors' return to prominence has been one of the nicer stories in D2 North. And while there are some talented upperclassmen taking the lead role, Brown's presence (13.6 points per game) has been just as integral -- odd that we're saying that about a freshman, right? Brown is already drawing considerable hype following some play with the BABC, and he's drawn comparisons to other BABC swingmen like Charlestown's Tyrese Hoxter of Tilton (N.H.) super soph Wayne Selden. An explosive rebounder with great hops, Brown could be the X-factor in D2 North.
Opposing coaches: “The first thing that sticks out is his ability to defend. The second thing I like about him is his ability -– again, like Jalen [Adams] -– to get all the way to the rim. He has a chance to play at a high level of Division 1 if you were to ask me right now...Bruce Brown might be like Tyrese Hoxter 2.0 -– for real. They’re the same player. He struggle with his jump shot, OK, but he really attacks the open floor, and he wants to win. The difference between him and Tyrese is his IQ, but he could be Tyrese right now in a year...He’s a super athlete, he dunks everything. He is a man among boys, but he also is super competitive. That is one competitive [expletive] kid. He hates to lose.”
Finkelstein: "He's just a youngster as a freshman, but you love his physical upside. Given a few years to continue to develop and polish his skill set, and this guy has all the requisite tools to develop into a very good prospect. He plays above the rim at a young age, has the type of frame that appears poised to evolve into a great body, and plenty of burst both with his first step as well as his leaping ability."

AARON CALIXTE, STOUGHTON
5-11, Jr. G
Why he matters: Already a household name in the minds of many, this could be Calixte's defining month in MIAA basketball. He's considered the state's top point guard by some, and hasn't done anything to disprove that, going off for 20 to 25 points on a nightly basis after garnering hype over the offseason with the New England Playaz AAU program. One of several players on this list with football prowess, his athleticism makes him a matchup problem on the offensive end. Combined with tenacious two-way guard Marcus Middleton, the Black Knights might have the best backcourt in the state. Calixte currently averages 18.6 points per game, and holds offers from Towson and Quinnipiac.
Opposing coaches: “As a passer I think he’s phenomenal, I think that’s his best skill. Really good players just score, great players make other people around them better, and that’s truly his gift. When he goes out there and sees essentially two people guard him at all times –- one face-guarding, and another stationary for help –- instead of forcing a score, he has the uncanny knack to find the open man...Aaron’s that kind of kid. He’s the kind of kid that, if I were a kid, I’d like to play with. He plays extremely hard...I’ve been watching him since sixth grade. Solid, solid, solid, strong and understands the game. More than anything else, I think he’s got great character.”
Finkelstein: "Calixte really started to show signs last summer of being able to take his game to that next level. Most guards create their offense going north to south in the open floor, but Calixte is the rare player who can break his man down from a standstill in the quarter court. He's got a quick first step and a super strong core in order to absorb contact all the way to the rim. He's another though who must shoot it better and learn the nuances of the point guard position."

NICK CAMBIO, CENTRAL CATHOLIC
6-5, Soph. F
Why he matters: He's not even the most prolific forward for the 20-1 Raiders -- that would full unto juniors Joel Berroa and Doug Gemmell. But coaches rave about Cambio's upside, with a game befitting a typical stretch-four forward at the college level. He can dust it up inside, but also has three-point range, as dangerous on the pick-and-roll as pick-and-pop. Lately, he's been saving his best performances for the most clutch moments -- see his winning play in the Raiders' 58-57 thriller over St. John's Prep, slipping behind the defense on a backdoor play and laying home a beautiful dish from Berroa.
Opposing coaches: “Nick is very talented. He has a great basketball body. Good length, and a good rebounder who can play inside and out. He plays the perimeter very well, and defensively he presses well. Great stroke, very good player...He’s a prototype face-up four guy, he can stretch out a lot of things. He’s very active and he’s got a high skill level too. You don’t see that in kid that young very often...Big, active, skilled, there’s not a whole lot not to like about his game. He’s kind of unique in the fact that he plays both inside and out, especially at this level for his age. You don’t see that a lot. The system he’s in has him playing mostly inside, but I know he can shoot and do a lot of different things. He’s definitely a unique type of player.”
Finkelstein: "He's a big forward with a smooth perimeter skill set, and that's a prototype you're finding more and more in the college game these days. Ten years ago every college program was playing with three perimeter players, but now both forwards play on the perimeter with four guys around a single post. That makes guys like Cambio all the more coveted at that level, especially if he's able to add a couple inches to his frame."

ISSHIAH COLEMAN, NEW MISSION
6-5, Jr. F
Why he matters: Nicknamed "Plastic Man" by his own head coach, Coleman is the spark plug in the paint for a green but talented Titans squad. The defending D2 champs have had their ups and downs this season, but one of the most consistent performers has been Coleman. A menacing shot-swatter with a 38-inch vertical leap, Coleman is known for his high energy and seemingly endless bounce in his step, swaying momentum with a block or dunk. This season, he is averaging 15 rebounds and eight blocks.
Opposing coaches: “Solid, solid player. 6-foot-5, has a 38-inch vertical, definite high-D2 player I think due to, you know, I don’t think he’s going to cap off at 6-7, 6-8 or anything. But come on, he is a monster down there. Just a monster...He is a human pogo stick. I saw a block where he jumped over a kid. His athleticism is just stupid. His vertical is absolutely ridiculous.”
Finkelstein: "Again, Coleman has the requisite physical tools you look for in a prospect for the next level. He's long and cut with easy bounce. His dexterity around the rim is also impressive as he's a guy who can dunk the basketball with both hands in the course of a play. He's got signs of skill that show through his bursts of athleticism, and he'll need to continue to develop that area of his game for the next level."

DARIEN FERNANDEZ, WAREHAM
5-7, Jr. G
Why he matters: From his halfcourt buzzer-beater that made SportsCenter's Top Plays, to his near-quadruple-double against Old Rochester last month, the junior waterbug point guard has been in fifth gear all season. With a stocky running back's frame built low to the ground (think Ray Rice or Maurice Jones-Drew), Fernandez is as physical as they come on both ends of the floor, charging through the lane fearlessly or harrassing players around the floor down at the other end. He's the biggest reason why the Vikings are the state's last remaining unbeaten, averaging 25 points a game to go along with nine assists and eight rebounds. He is also drawing low Division 1 interest in both football and basketball.
Opposing coaches: “Love that kid, love him. I would love to see him and Aaron [Calixte] play against each other. He has a lot of the same traits as player. I don’t know if he’s quite the passer Aaron is, but I know defensively he’s better than Aaron is. He really gets after it on the ball...Against Cardinal Spellman, he dominated. It’s four categories with him –- points, rebounds, assists, steals –- and he plays really hard...That’s a nightmare matchup for us. He gave us a whole bunch of problems. He’s quick, he’s tough, he’s got a will, he’s got intestinal fortitude. But Darien, do me a favor: You are a football player. Enjoy this basketball, but take that scholarship for football, will you?”
Finkelstein: "His ability to create offense for both himself and his teammates makes him one of the most dependable playmaking guards in all of the MIAA. He's a little undersized but he knows how to utilize his physical tools to his advantage -- he's like a bulldog guard who plays lower to the ground than the competition and is able to get under defenders with his great core strength."

TYRESE HOXTER, CHARLESTOWN
6-3, Jr. G/F
Why he matters: In just two seasons with the Charlestown varsity, Hoxter has scored 760 points. And that's with playing second fiddle last season to All-Stater Akosa Maduegbunam, who is finishing at Winchendon and is expected to sign with Penn State. The hype with Hoxter started last summer after some nice runs with the BABC, and he's more than lived up to the billing. He's averaging 20.9 points, 8.3 rebounds and 3.1 assists for the 16-4 Townies, and has established himself as one of the state's top pure scorers. The Townies have had their ups and downs, but Hoxter has been the constant driving the engine.
Opposing coaches: “Come on, come on, get me on record with this one, please. Listen, let me tell you something, I saw him when he was a sixth-grader at Edwards Middle School. I told everybody in the city, [he’s a] bona fide Division 1 basketball player. Best player there is right now. There’s not a better public high school player in the state. Forget about it, he’s the best player running around. Mid to high-major player in my mind...He’s better than Akosa Maduegbunam was last year. Akosa’s got more of a jump shot, but this kid’s cerebral, he’s very intelligent, he’s got the whole nine. He doesn’t look athletic, but he’s athletic as hell and if he ever stood straight up he’d be 6-foot-5...Out of everybody, he’s the one player that could make a bad team good team instantly, besides Jake Layman. If you put him on a team like, say for instance, Arlington, they wouldn’t be a .500 team -– they’d win the Middlesex League. You play zone against him, and he’ll get you before it even sets up. Man, he’ll dribble up the left side of the court and go right the whole time.”
Finkelstein: "He's another guy who really started to prove himself against a high level of competition during the last AAU season and appears poised to make an even bigger name for himself this spring and summer. As an athletic southpaw, he creates all kinds of mismatches, and is equally dangerous on the defensive end where his length and quickness make him a tremendous asset in run-and-jump situations."

MALIK JAMES, BRIGHTON
6-1, Soph. G
Why he matters: Hugh Coleman's turnaround with the Bengals' program has been one of the nicest stories of the season, and James is one of several playmaking guards spearheading the movement. His creativity has coaches around the Boston City League raving, and his averages (15 points, 10 assists, five rebounds) back up the assertion. He's been hampered by an ankle injury since the Acton-Boxborough loss two weeks ago, so we'll see how he does going forward.
Opposing coaches: “Rajon Rondo of the BPS, that’s all he is. Rajon Rondo of the City League, that’s it. Flat out player. Low-D1 player...He’s pretty explosive, that kid. Good spring in his step, and he plays the game above the rim. He can go inside-out, too –- he is not afraid to mix it up inside.”
Finkelstein: "What I like about James is that while he has shown he can be the scorer and playmaker that his team needs to win games at the high school level, he shows some flashes of having the feel for the game and basketball intellect that it will take to play the point guard position at the next level, in terms of his court vision and being able to play the pick and roll."

JAMEILEN JONES, BC HIGH
6-3, Jr. G
Why he matters: The Eagles are one of the most dangerous teams headed into the D1 South tournament, and one of the biggest reasons is Jones' scoring ability and game IQ. An athletic off-guard who is aggressive without ever looking rattled, he is one of the Catholic Conference's most difficult players to mark. While the Eagles keep the scoring low, it's Jones making many of the team's clutch shots from the field. Defensively, he's a cornerstone of head coach Bill Loughnane's vaunted 1-3-1 scheme, and is a big reason why the Eagles are allowing under 48 points per game.
Opposing coaches: “Very athletic, very athletic. I know there’s rumblings about him transferring to prep school, but he’s a smart kid and I know he can get an Ivy League spot coming directly out of BC High. I think the Ivy League would be perfect for him...He’s very good. He’s another one of those spring-in-his-step guys. He’s off the ground twice before most kids even get off the ground once. He has good range from outside, he’s extremely athletic getting to the rim, and he’s way above rim when he plays...I think Jameilen Jones is the best one-on-one defender out of everybody left. Easily, too.”
Finkelstein: "Jones is another player who separates himself from the competition by virtue of his physical tools. He's a big wing by MIAA standards, with a devastating combination of power and explosiveness, that is supplemented by a good motor and unselfish floor game. Not unlike others on this list, he has a tendency to get stuck in first gear and will need to expand his half-court skill set before arriving at the next level."

COLIN RICHEY, WHITINSVILLE CHRISTIAN
6-2, Jr. G
Why he matters: In the Crusaders Division 3 state championship campaign last season, they were able to rely on a slew of long upperclassmen, led by 6-foot-9 All-State center Hans Miersma. This season, with all those kids graduated, it has been Richey's team to guide. Whitinsville is a much shorter team by its own standards, but there hasn't been much drop-off. He leads the Crusaders in scoring at 18.4 points per game, and has them penned as a favorite in D3 once again.
Opposing coaches: “He’s great, kind of a throwback-type player, with a little bit of city ball in him as well. He reminds me of Jimmy Chitwood from the movie ‘Hooisers’, he shoots the heck out of it. But he’s also got a little bit of ‘The Professor’ from the And-1 Mixtape Tour in him –- know what I mean? Great handle. He’s a great player, I enjoy watching him...Every team wishes they had a kid like him. He’s not scared. He wants to get 30 points, but at the same time he wants to make sure he’s the guy that makes the team win -– that’s not selfish, in my opinion...When they lose, he looks like he’s ready to go back into the gym and start taking jump shots immediately. He wants to be good so bad, that it makes rest of his team look good.”
Finkelstein: “The high school game is dominated by guards, most of whom make their impact with their ability to score the ball. Richey can do the same, but what separates him from others is the fact that he's a pure point guard, and that's going to make him especially valuable long-term. He comes with all the intangibles a coach looks for in their floor leader, and has also seen his body evolve quite a bit in the last year.”

KAMARI ROBINSON, SPRINGFIELD CENTRAL
6-5, Jr. F
Why he matters: Another player who first got noticed with the BABC, Robinson hasn't been the brightest star for the newly-anointed No. 1 Golden Eagles -- that would be senior Tyrell Springer -- but his importance goes without saying. With a game similar to that of Brockton senior center Sayvonn Houston, and a threat for a nightly double-double Robinson is a physical player underneath, bringing enough attention inside to facilitate spacing and open looks for the Eagles' talented stable of wing players.
Opposing coaches: “I had the opportunity to watch him when he played for Leo Papile [with BABC]. Very tough, very tough. I think his upside is tremendous, just huge...If he was playing out here [Boston area] he’d be compared to some of the top players in the state. For him, out of all the Central kids he’s probably the biggest game-changer. Playing with an elite scorer like Tyrell Springer helps too…You see a lot of man-to-man in Western Mass., and because of Springer he doesn’t get double-teamed as much so he can go off on people. He’s unassuming sort of, but he kills people...I feel like Springfield kids have that competitiveness to them, that fire, you know? But because of who he plays with, he’s the glue of that team.”
Finkelstein: “He's an explosive athlete -- quick off his feet, able to play high above the rim, rise up for pull-ups, and even muscle through contact with a chiseled frame. Combine that with his good size for the wing positions and he's got all the physical tools college coaches look for and require for the next level. He's still got to learn to slow down at times and continue to polish his skill set, but the base is there to be a strong prospect for the next level."


Others to watch
Drew Belcher, Soph. F, Reading
Joel Berroa, Jr. F, Central Catholic
Jaylen Blakely, Jr. G, Brockton
Sam Bohmiller, Jr. G, Franklin
Greg Bridges, Fr. G, New Mission
Jimmy Campbell, Fr. G, Hamilton-Wenham
Stephen Carangelo, Jr. G, Lynnfield
Derek Collins, Jr. G, North Andover
Marcos Echevarria, Fr. G, St. John’s Prep
Daivon Edwards, Jr. G, Brighton
Michael Hershman, Soph. G, Mansfield
Brendan Hill, Fr. F, Mansfield
Connor McLeod, Jr. G, Needham
Marcus Middleton, Jr. G, Stoughton
Tommy Mobley, Fr. G, Newton North
Dakim Murray, Jr. F, Madison Park
Isaiah Nelsen, Jr. F, North Andover
Max Nesbit, Jr. G, Manchester-Essex
Mick Snowden, Soph. G, Fitchburg
Tyree Weston, Fr. F, New Bedford
Taris Wilson, Soph. G, Charlestown

MIAA Tournament: Boys hoop breakdown & picks

February, 26, 2012
2/26/12
7:10
PM ET
March Madness is finally here.

The MIAA boys and girls basketball tournaments start tomorrow night with a number of preliminary round and play-in games. Check back with us nightly through the state finals at Worcester's DCU Center for scores, updates and analysis on the day's happenings.

To whet your appetite, here is my breakdown and predictions on the 14 boys basketball brackets across the state:

NORTH

Division 1
Favorites: Central Catholic (20-1), Acton-Boxborough (19-1), Westford (17-4), Charlestown (16-4), East Boston (17-4), Lawrence (14-5)
Sleepers: Lowell (13-5), Boston Latin (17-5), St. John’s Prep (13-7), Andover (12-8), Lexington (13-7)
The lowdown: While Central Catholic is the overwhelming favorite here in my opinion, this is a bracket full of traps. Assuming the Raiders top the winner of tonight’s play-in between Medford and Peabody, they could face any of a number of troubling teams en route to the final –- Eastie, Charlestown, Andover and Lowell...Plenty of intriguing first-round matchups here, including Charlestown-Andover and Latin-Lexington, but the buzz kill has to be that St. John’s Prep faces Lawrence in a first-round matchup. Both teams were expected to be dangerous in this bracket...A-B should make a deep run with its three-headed monster of Kevin LaFrancis, Jake Pilecki and Joey Flannery, but watch out for Lexington in the bottom half. It’s tall lineup led by Chris Lee and Josh Sharma, and the Minutemen have surprised teams throughout the season (see: December’s win over Catholic Memorial).
Upset special: Lexington over Boston Latin
Hall’s pick: Central Catholic over East Boston, Acton-Boxborough over Westford in semifinals; Central over A-B in finals.

Division 2
Favorites: North Andover (19-1), Melrose (18-2), Brighton (16-3), New Mission (14-4)
Sleepers: Wakefield (14-6), Reading (14-6), Masconomet (14-6), Chelsea (14-6), Beverly (13-7), Salem (10-10)
The lowdown: Many experts feel like this is North Andover’s bracket to lose, and it’s a fair statement to make. With three legitimate –- and disciplined –- post players who are able to spread the floor, the Scarlet Knights excel at screens and are a tough matchup positions one through five. The return of Derek Collins should take some of the scoring load off Zach Karalis, who might be the best shooter in this field...Melrose is another prohibitive favorite, with super sophomore Jalen Adams leading the charges, but a potential quarterfinal matchup with Reading feels like quite the trap game...A potential quarterfinal between New Mission and Wakefield is also intriguing. Led by Keyon Armstong, Kendall Hamilton and freshman sensation Bruce Brown, Wakefield is among the most athletically gifted in the field.
Upset special: Beverly over Chelsea.
Hall’s pick: North Andover over New Mission, Melrose over Masconomet in semifinals; North Andover over Melrose in finals.

Division 3
Favorites: Danvers (16-4)
Sleepers: Whittier (18-1), Wayland (15-5), Arlington Catholic (14-6), Pentucket (13-7), Hamilton-Wenham (12-6)
The lowdown: Another bracket where the conception is it’s an overwhelming favorite’s to lose. Danvers comes into the tournament with four losses, but has played some of the most dominant stretches of games this season by any Division 3 team. It all starts with George Merry, who has better-than-advertised mobility and accompanying length to pose a nightly matchup problem underneath...Long-time Watertown coach Steve Harrington is cousins with Danvers head coach John Walsh, and might be the best coach in this bracket, if not the state. Playing against mostly Division 1 and Division 2 teams in its league slate, the defending D3 Eastern Mass champs are always battle-tested, and always save their best basketball for March.
Upset special: Watertown over Newburyport
Hall’s pick: Whittier over Watertown, Danvers over Wayland in semifinals; Danvers over Whittier in finals.

Division 4
Favorites: Manchester-Essex (18-2), Pope John XXIII (17-3), St. Mary’s (Lynn) (16-4), Winthrop (16-6)
Sleepers: Snowden (9-9)
The lowdown: St. Mary’s has been in the spotlight since coming within a shred of an overtime upset of St. John’s Prep in the first week of the season, and the Spartans have lived up to the building hype for the most part. But defending D4 state champ Winthrop hasn’t disappointed either. The Northeastern South champs are led once again by league MVP Quinton Dale at forward, who is a nightly double-double threat...We pinned Manchester-Essex as one of several D4 favorites last week, but the ultimate of ultimate trap games could be on tape in the quarterfinals. Snowden is one of the most dangerous sleeper teams statewide in Division 4, led by senior guard Paul Maurice. Six of the Cougars’ nine losses were to Charlestown, East Boston and Madison Park.
Upset special: Winthrop over St. Mary’s
Hall’s pick: Manchester-Essex over Winthrop, Pope John XXIII over Lynnfield in semifinals; M-E over Pope John in finals.

SOUTH

Division 1
Favorites: Brockton (18-2), Catholic Memorial (16-4), BC High (15-5), Franklin (17-3), Weymouth (17-3), Newton North (17-3), Madison Park (16-2)
Sleepers: Needham (15-5), Marshfield (13-5), New Bedford (14-6), Mansfield (14-7)
The lowdown: This might be the most unpredictable field of the entire MIAA tournament. With many favorites, but none of them overwhelming, we could be in for a slew of upsets. Consider Brockton’s quarterfinal opponent will be the winner of No. 9 seed Barnstable and No. 8 seed Catholic Memorial, the latter of which lost to the Boxers earlier this month by one at the buzzer...Needham has exploded over the last two weeks, with a 30-point blowout of Newton North followed by an impressive stonewalling of Stoughton, and they may have the easiest path to the semifinals. Taunton, Natick and the MP Machine are all beatable. That’s just one reason of many why I feel Needham’s late-blooming senior Shy Davis could be the breakout star of this tournament...The toughest section of this bracket is by far the grouping of BC High, Franklin, Weymouth and Mansfield. Whoever comes out of that logjam might have the best path to the finals.
Upset special: New Bedford over North Quincy
Hall’s pick: Brockton over Newton North, BC High over Needham in semifinals; Brockton over BC High in finals.

Division 2
Favorites: King Philip (17-3), Stoughton (16-4), Falmouth (18-2), Randolph (18-2)
Sleepers: Oliver Ames (12-8), Medfield (14-6), Hopkinton (14-6), Wellesley (12-8), Duxbury (11-9), Whitman-Hanson (11-9)
The lowdown: Headed into the season, the consensus was that this would be King Philip’s bracket to lose. Now it’s either the Warriors’ or Stoughton’s, and it just so happens the Hockomock rivals are on opposite ends of the bracket...Falmouth’s Paul Lundberg has certainly entered himself into Coach of the Year consideration, but the pressure could be on the Clippers’ point guard Andrew McGill to keep the ship sailing, what with injury questions in the frontcourt...Many like OA as a sleeper, due to Nick Bruha’s exceptional offensive game, but watch out for Tri-Valley League representatives Medfield and Hopkinton. Medfield has some talented underclassmen, while Hopkinton is the defending D2 South champ and have reigning league MVP Barrett Hanlon back in the fold...Quincy head coach Dave Perry predicted a Whitman-Hanson upset of KP Saturday morning on 1510 AM The Zone. That, coupled with getting their first-round home game moved 20 miles down the road to Taunton High, has got to get the Warriors fired up.
Upset special: Oliver Ames over Somerset
Hall’s pick: Stoughton over Falmouth, King Philip over Hopkinton in semifinals; King Philip over Stoughton in finals.

Division 3
Favorites: Wareham (20-0), Cardinal Spellman (17-5), Martha’s Vineyard (18-2), Rockland (18-2)
Sleepers: Norton (15-5), Norwell (18-2), Bishop Feehan (15-5), Bourne (14-6), Medway (10-10)
The lowdown: Spellman senior Joey Glynn is a household name by now, but the breakout star of this tournament might be Wareham’s Darien Fernandez. The 5-foot-7 fire hydrant of a point guard is almost a microcosm of the Vikings on a whole, who are the state’s last remaining unbeaten in spite of a lack of size. Fernandez has played his way into All-State consideration with his tenacious perimeter defense and non-stop motor, and is a perfect fit for coach Kevin Brogioli’s uptempo style...We joke about the difficulties in scouting Martha’s Vineyard, but it’s true; the Vineyarders have the ultimate advantage in that department -– being on an island that is accessible only by ferry for many teams...That said, we look forward to a potential rematch between Vineyard and Bishop Feehan. Last month the Shamrocks ran out to a 17-2 lead over Vineyard before MV stormed back to win.
Upset special: Medway over Norwell
Hall’s pick: Cardinal Spellman over Martha’s Vineyard, Wareham over Norton in semifinals; Spellman over Wareham in finals.

Division 4
Favorites: Boston Cathedral (13-6), Holbrook (16-2), Westport (19-3), Carver (16-4)
Sleepers: Bishop Connolly (15-5), Cohasset (15-5), Avon (12-8), Blue Hills (10-9), Community Academy (CASH) (3-15)
The lowdown: Written off weeks ago, we have to put Boston Cathedral back among the favorites after getting Kyle Lawyer and Joe Green back in the fold. With both of them back, the Panthers are one of the most dangerous offenses across Division 4. Look out for pint-sized point guard Carlos Bermudez, who is nearly four inches shorter than Wareham’s Darien Fernandez but has just as much heart and motor...Another star in the making might be Holbrook’s Allijah Robinson. The 6-foot-6 sophomore doesn’t get a whole lot of attention playing for a Division 4 school, but he is most definitely on the rise...Carver and Cohasset are two of the most seasoned teams in this bracket, fighting it out in the competitive South Shore League comprised mostly of Division 3 size teams.
Upset special: Boston Cathedral over West Bridgewater.
Hall’s pick: Westport over Avon, Boston Cathedral over Carver in semifinals; Cathedral over Westport in finals.

CENTRAL

Division 1
Favorites: St. John’s (Shrewsbury) (16-4), Holy Name (17-3), St. Peter-Marian (17-3), Wachusett (16-4)
Sleepers: Fitchburg (14-8), Milford (15-5), Marlborough (11-9), Doherty (10-10)
The lowdown: Plenty of contenders here, but St. John’s is the four-time defending champ of this bracket and hasn’t lost since Jan. 10. Bob Foley is the Dean of Massachusetts high school basketball, with well over 800 career wins, and his players are always at their sharpest in March. That said, the Pioneers will have gone over two weeks without game action when they face Milford on March 1...Holy Name won the rubber match with SPM to take the first annual Worcester City Championship last Friday, and are one of the best defensive teams you’ll find outside I-495. We’ve talked a lot about Anthony Hodges’ stifling perimeter defense, but 6-foot-1 Daniel Kegbeh is one of the most explosive rebounders you’ll find around...Fitchburg has sputtered of late, going 5-6 since a 9-2 start, including a five-game losing streak. But like St. John’s, the Red Raiders turn it up in March.
Upset special: Doherty over Shepherd Hill
Hall’s pick: St. John’s over Holy Name, St. Peter-Marian over Wachusett in semifinals; St. John’s over SPM in finals.

Division 2
Favorites: Quabbin (18-3), Northbridge (17-4), Uxbridge (15-6), Groton-Dunstable (14-7)
Sleepers: Clinton (13-7), Auburn (12-8), St. Bernard’s (11-9)
The lowdown: After starting the year with 15 straight wins, Quabbin sputtered, losing three of four, before turning around and winning the Large division of the Clark Tournament. The Panthers will go as far as Christian Horton takes them. The senior is one of Central Mass.’s leading scorers, and is as athletic as they come...Northbridge won this bracket surprisingly last year, not with star power but with defensive grit. It’s a different story this year, with the Rams pegged as a favorite, but this is typically a well-coached squad...One must always be wary of St. Bernard’s, which historically makes deep runs in this bracket. The Bernardians’ record is filled with tough non-league decisions, including an overtime loss to New Bedford at the start of the season...Same for G-D, another historic power in this field which is led by Will Peregoy, Liam Baberich and Kyle Romich.
Upset special: St. Bernard’s over Bartlett.
Hall’s pick: Quabbin over Groton-Dunstable, St. Bernard’s over Uxbridge in semifinals; Quabbin over St. Bernard’s in final.

Division 3
Favorites: Whitinsville Christian (13-5)
Sleepers: Sutton (10-9), Quaboag (17-4), Worcester Tech (16-4), Keefe Tech (16-2), Littleton (15-6), Southbridge (10-9), Bromfield (14-6)
The lowdown: Let’s not sugarcoat this thing. Make no mistake, this is Whitinsville Christian’s bracket to lose. People point to the Crusaders’ recent slide, losing four of five after a 12-1 start. But three of those four losses are to Charlestown, Holy Name and Franklin; and those losses are sandwiched around a very nice 71-54 win over D3 South favorite Cardinal Spellman. Plus, Crusaders point guard Colin Richey might be the best overall player in this bracket...The other team to watch out for here? Sutton, which beat WC 50-45 on Valentine’s Day. We’re still trying to figure out what happened there.
Upset special: Hopedale over South Lancaster.
Hall’s pick: Whitinsville Christian over Bromfield, Worcester Tech over Quaboag in semifinals; Whitinsville over Tech in finals.

WEST

Division 1
Favorites: Springfield Central (19-1)
Sleepers: Springfield Putnam (16-4), Springfield Cathedral (11-9), Springfield Commerce (14-6), West Springfield (16-4), Chicopee (14-6), Westfield (12-8)
The lowdown: Quite frankly, this is Springfield Central’s bracket to lose. With the amount of athleticism on both the starting lineup and the bench, the Golden Eagles are the Brockton of the West, able to go 10 deep with size, scoring and some of the state’s most tenacious defense. The last team to come within single-digits of Central was Commerce, which then turned around and lost to Central by 40 in the rematch last week. Adding to the impressive Central resume is the fact that their lone loss is to Connecticut juggernaut Windsor, which is routinely beating teams by 35 points or more...The more we think about it, Central senior guard Tyrell Springer has earned his way into a spot on the Super Team...The best Springfield player not on Central might be Commerce’s Alex Lopez, a 20-per-night scorere with range. The best non-Springfield player in this field? Could be Westfield’s Joe Meade or Northampton’s Jarrod Neumann.
Upset special: Amherst over Chicopee.
Hall’s pick: Springfield Central over West Springfield, Commerce over Putnam in seminfinals; Central over Commerce in finals.

Division 2
Favorites: South Hadley (11-9), Mahar (17-3)
Sleepers: Belchertown (16-4), Drury (10-8), Taconic (7-13)
The lowdown: We would have penned Sabis as a favorite in this bracket. The Bulldogs are the two-time defending champions in this field, but were knocked out of playoff contention with a Feb. 20 loss to South Hadley. For that reason, we might pin the Tigers as a favorite...Overall, this isn’t an incredibly deep field. Six of the eight qualifying teams in this bracket have seven losses or more. South Hadley is the No. 2 overall seed at nine losses.
Upset special: Greenfield over Belchertown.
Hall’s pick: Mahar over Drury, South Hadley over Greenfield in semifinals; South Hadley over Mahar in finals.

Division 3
Favorites: St. Joseph Central (15-5), New Leadership (12-8)
Sleepers: Lee (15-5), Frontier (15-5), Lenox (13-7), Smith Academy (16-4), Renaissance (17-3)
The lowdown: Pittsfield area power St. Joe’s has an impressive resume. The Crusaders had a strong start to the season, losing to Holy Name by five in the Catholic School Classic at Assumption College. The Crusaders press well, and junior guard Taverick Roberson might be the most talented player in this field...The thorn in St. Joe’s side? New Leadership, which beat St. Joe’s earlier this year by the hair, 79-78. The Wildcats are led by junior guard Joe Crapps, and explosive scorer who is averaging nearly 20 points per game. Not to be forgotten, New Leadership was dominated by Wareham in the D3 state final two years ago. How fitting is it that the two could potentially meet again for a state final rematch down the line?
Upset special: Lenox over Smith Voke.
Hall’s pick: St. Joseph Central over Renaissance, New Leadership over Lee in semifinals; St. Joe’s over New Leadership in finals.

STATE SEMIFINALS

Eastern Mass.
Div. 1 – Central Catholic over Brockton
Div. 2 – North Andover over King Philip
Div. 3 – Danvers over Cardinal Spellman

Central/Western Mass.
Div. 1 – Springfield Central over St. John’s (Shrewsbury)
Div. 2 – Quabbin over South Hadley
Div. 3 – Whitinsville Christian over St. Joseph Central

STATE FINALS

Div. 1 – Springfield Central over Central Catholic
Div. 2 – North Andover over Quabbin
Div. 3 – Danvers over Whitinsville Christian
Div. 4 – Boston Cathedral over Manchester-Essex

Handicapping the MIAA boys hoop landscape

February, 22, 2012
2/22/12
3:45
PM ET
Seedings for the MIAA boys and girls' basketball tournament will be unveiled on Friday, and starting on Monday we'll have you covered nightly from the first tip-off though the state finals in mid-March at the DCU Center in Worcester. On Monday, we'll have a full breakdown of each bracket, with predictions, as well as my annual column highlighting the state's top players poised to burst onto the scene with strong playoff performances.

To whet your appetite, here's who I've penned as the bona fide favorites in boys Divisions 1 through 4, and why.

NOTE: Records are through Tuesday night.

DIVISION 1

Springfield Central
Record: 19-1
District: West
Players to watch: Tyrell Springer, Sr. G/F; Kamari Robinson, Jr. F; Jevaughn McMilian, Sr. F; Lee Turner, Sr. G; Chris Prophet, Sr. G; Trevor Bacon, Sr. F; Cornelius Tyson, Jr. G.
The lowdown: Some are calling this Springfield’s best chance at a state title since Commerce beat a Jeff Adrien-led Brookline squad for the 2004 D1 title. The record speaks for itself, and the Golden Eagles appear to be hitting their peak at just the right time –- witness Monday’s 40-point thrashing of Commerce. Their lone blemish is a six-point loss at last month's Hoophall Classic to a Windsor (Conn.) squad that is ranked No. 2 in the Nutmeg State, and whose average margin of victory is 34.4 points per game. Springer has emerged as one of the state’s elite swingmen, while the 6-foot-5 Robinson has had a breakout year manning the boards. Between Robinson, the 6-foot-6 Bacon, and 6-foot-7 shot swatter Jevaughn McMilian, the Eagles can truly go big like few other teams across Division 1.

Central Catholic
Record: 20-1
District: North
Players to watch: Tyler Nelson, Soph. G; Joel Berroa, Jr. F; Doug Gemmell, Jr. F; Nick Cambio, Soph. F; Lucas Hammel, Jr. G; Shawn McCoy, Sr. F; Henry Rodriguez, Sr. G.
The lowdown: What makes Central so dangerous is not its starting five, which can hang with anyone, but the amount of depth it brings to the table. The Raiders can legitimately go big with three true bigs, or small with a slew of guards and slashers. And they can all shoot the ball from deep. Also consider that the Raiders have done most of their damage without the state’s premier on-ball defender, Luis Puello. The senior guard took a month to get back to full strength after spraining his ankle in late December, and re-injured it two weeks ago; his timetable for recovery is unknown at this time.

Brockton
Record: 16-2
District: South
Players to watch: Jaylen Blakely, Jr. G; Jahleel Moise, Sr. F; Sayvonn Houston, Sr. C; Jamal Reuben, Sr. F; Will Baker, Sr. G; Jarrod Shelby, Sr. F
The lowdown: Depending on which team shows up, this is a team capable of running off points in a hurry (see: comeback wins over Catholic Memorial and New Bedford) or running themselves off the floor (see: Sunday's surprising 18-point loss to Charlestown). When everything is clicking, the Boxers are one of the state's deepest and most dangerous lineups, with all the requisite parts to work with -- an even-keeled distributor (Blakely), shooters (Reuben, Baker), shot-swatting slashers (Moise, Shelby), and a big-bodied true center that keeps the cycle going (Houston). The key is undoubtedly Houston, a nightly double-double machine with exceptional lower-body strength to fight through double-teams. When he is doing his part, the Brockton offense runs cleaner and crisper.

Charlestown
Record: 16-4
District: North
Players to watch: Tyrese Hoxter, Jr. G; Rony Fernandez, Sr. G; Omar Orriols, Sr. F; Tyrik Jackson, Sr. F; Iser Barnes, Sr. G; Taris Wilson, Soph. G
The lowdown: All nit-picks of Brockton aside, there is a reason the Townies didn’t qualify for City Championships –- they are the biggest enigma in Division 1 heading to the state tournament. This is one of the state’s most skilled starting lineups, but also one that could go all the way to the Garden floor or get knocked out in the first round. Hoxter, a lanky slasher with three-point range, is going to get his. Ditto for Jackson, a true post who can fill the lane. The X-factor might be how Fernandez and Orriols respond to pressure.

Catholic Memorial
Record: 16-3
District: South
Players to watch: Matt Droney, Sr. F; Dan Powers, Sr. F; Chris Siggers, Jr. G; Aahmane Santos, Soph. G, Armani Reeves, Sr. F; Gerard Adams, Soph. C
The lowdown: When the Catholic Conference champion Knights are running hitting their shots, few teams have been able to slow them down. Droney and Powers are known for their shooting, but can score in multiple ways going to the hoop. One of the more underrated components may lie in Reeves, an Ohio State football commit who often comes off the bench and provides stiff perimeter defense. And if they can get anything out of Adams –- a raw 6-foot-8, 300-pound lane-filler with limited mobility –- it would be a bonus.

BC High
Record: 14-5
District: South
Players to watch: Jameilen Jones, Jr. G; Charles Collins, Jr. G; Justin Roberts, Sr. F; Oderah Obukwelu, Sr. F
The lowdown: Few active coaches have had as much tournament success as Eagles coach Bill Loughnane, who won three D1 state titles at South Boston (1992, 1995-96) before coming down the road to Dorchester and leading the Eagles to their first D1 title in 2007. That’s just one of the main reasons we like BC’s chances in the postseason. The other main one is physicality -– Roberts and Obukwelu, two football stars, do the dirty work underneath, opening up the perimeter for Jones, one of the state’s elite scorers.

Others to watch: Acton-Boxborough (20-1), Andover (11-7), Barnstable (14-4), Boston Latin (16-5), East Boston (14-4), Franklin (16-4), Holy Name (17-3), Lawrence (13-5), Madison Park (15-2), Mansfield (12-7), Needham (15-5), Newton North (17-3), North Quincy (17-3), Springfield Cathedral (10-9), Springfield Commerce (14-5), St. John’s (Shrewsbury) (16-5), St. John’s Prep (11-7), St. Peter-Marian (17-4), West Springfield (16-3), Westford (17-4), Weymouth (17-3)

DIVISION 2

North Andover
Record: 19-1
District: North
Players to watch: Zach Karalis, Sr. G; Isaiah Nelsen, Jr. F; Brendan Miller, Soph. G; Derek Collins, Jr. G; Mike Moroney, Sr. F; John Miller, Sr. F
The lowdown: Everybody’s favorite little sleeper is suddenly the team to beat in the North district, after slowly building steam all of January and February. It starts with the WPI-bound Karalis, one of the district's smoothest shooters, and it continues down low where Nelsen and Moroney doing the dirty work. Man-to-man defenses beware: this is as surgical an offense as you'll find around, excelling at using screens to clear runways to the basket and create confusion. Defensively, the Knights' help defense has been very efficient, hedging off screens with the best of them.

King Philip
Record: 17-3
District: South
Players to watch: Jake Layman, Sr. F; John Mullane, Sr. F; Christian Fair, Sr. G; Mike Schmidt, Sr. G; Sam McDonald, Jr. F; Dever Carrison, Jr. F
The lowdown: Layman, a 6-foot-8 Maryland signee who is ranked the No. 61 overall senior by ESPNU, is more than capable of singularly taking a game over -- he's proven as much with his gaudy stats this year. But like the Pat Connaughton-led St. John's Prep squad last year, the Warriors' superstar needs consistency from the supporting cast each night for this team to survive. Perhaps it's encouraging, then, that the Warriors were able to stave off Oliver Ames last weekend without Layman in the lineup, getting a big night out of Mullane. Losing promising junior Tykei Hallman doesn't help matters, however.

Stoughton
Record: 16-4
District: South
Players to watch: Aaron Calixte, Jr. G; Marcus Middleton, Jr. G; Joe Bunce-Grenon, Jr. G; Steffan Jackson, Sr. F; Antonio Ferreira, Sr. F
The lowdown: The Black Knights aren't exactly backpedaling into the tournament, but they're not exactly in fifth gear either after losing two straight to Franklin and Needham, before holding off a 2-18 Walpole team to wrap up their regular season schedule. Calixte is arguably the state's most gifted -- and creative -- playmaker, capable of going off for 30 points on any given night, while Middleton has established himself as one of the state's premier perimeter defenders. This team fancies and uptempo style to combat its lack of size, but when teams go inside they are often met by the high-energy shot swatter Ferreira.

Brighton
Record: 15-3
District: North
Players to watch: Malik James, Soph. G; Theo Oribhabor, Jr. G; Prince Onaegbu, Jr. F; Daivon Edwards, Jr. G; Jerard Mayes, Sr. F.
The lowdown: The Bengals have stumbled since losing star sophomore Nick Simpson for the year due to academics, but we’ll have a much clearer idea of what the team is like without Simpson following this week's City Championships. Here's what we do know: Brighton can shoot with the best of them, and when Edwards' shot is falling he can take a load of pressure off of the distributor James. When pressing, the Bengals have shades of head coach Hugh Coleman's mentor, legendary Charlestown coach Jack O'Brien, scribbled all over them. With an athletic lineup, the Bengals take proper angles in the press and prefer to be the aggressor at all times.

New Mission
Record: 14-4
District: North
Players to watch: Isshiah Coleman, Jr. F, Nate Anderson, Jr. F; Leroy Hamilton, Sr. G/F; Percio Gomez, Jr. G/F; DaShawn Fennell, Jr. G/F; Shaquan Murray, Soph. G;
The lowdown: It's tough to get a read on the Titans, who have at once looked both brilliant and uninspiring thoughout the 2011-12 season. On one breath, they look deflated in a double-digit loss to Brighton, getting swept by a Boston City League team for the first time under head coach Cory McCarthy. In the next breath, they turn around a few days later and grind out a hard-fought win over one of Rhode Island's top teams, hot-shooting La Salle Academy. Mission won back-to-back state titles in 2010-11 with an overbearing physical presence, particularly around the rim. For them to make a three-peat, big men Coleman and Anderson will have to stay out of foul trouble and strike fear in the heart of the opposition early. This is a young, green squad saddled with big expectations on the heels of an unprecedented two-year run; but the Titans always turn it on come playoff time.

Falmouth
Record: 18-1
District: South
Players to watch: Andrew McGill, Jr. G; Damien Reid, Sr. G; Kyle Kaspryzk, Sr. F; Nate Steele, Sr. F
The lowdown: One of the most unsung coach jobs this year has to be that of Lundberg, who has this team riding a 16-game win streak after some question marks clouded them with the graduation of Nelson Baptiste and John Lavin. Two years ago the Clippers torched Salem on the Garden floor for the D2 EMass title, and running the point was little-known freshman McGill. He may still look like a freshman two years later, but his savvy on the court has kept the win streak alive. And yet question marks still surround Falmouth: Kasprzyk, one of the Clippers' few true posts, went down with an ankle injury in a 54-53 win over Barnstable.

Others to watch: Beverly (13-5), Groton-Dunstable (14-6), Hopkinton (15-5), Lynn Classical (11-9), Masconomet (12-5), Medfield (14-6), Melrose (16-2), Northbridge (16-4), Oliver Ames (12-8), Quabbin (17-3), Randolph (16-2), Reading (15-5), Salem (11-8), South Hadley (11-8), St. Bernard’s (11-10), Wakefield (14-6)

DIVISION 3

Whitinsville Christian
Record: 13-5
District: Central
Players to watch: Colin Richey, Jr. G; Tyler VandenAkker, Sr. F; Jesse Dykstra, Sr. F; Grant Brown, Jr. G/F; Antonio Estrella, Jr. F
The lowdown: This isn't the same Crusaders team of 2011, which was considered one of the state's tallest lineups, led by 6-foot-9 All-Stater Hans Miersma. No, this is quite a departure from typical WC teams, but it's still a well-oiled machine. Richey grabs most of the headlines for his shooting ability and high game IQ, but it's the surgery of its zone offense that makes WC a tough out. Never flashy, always making the extra pass for a higher-percentage look, the Crusaders will frustrate any team looking to play uptempo basketball. The Crusaders have sputtered lately, losing four of their last five after starting off 12-1; but factoring in the dearth of upper-echelon Division 3 squads in the Central and West brackets, they have to be a favorite to return to the DCU Center floor next month.

Cardinal Spellman
Record: 17-5
District: South
Players to watch: Joey Glynn, Sr. F; Rickey Donovan, Sr. F; Joey Crane, Soph. G; Paul Preziosi, Jr. G; Mike Downing, Sr. G.
The lowdown: With the Bentley-bound Glynn back in the fold, the defending South Sectional champs were considered a preseason favorite in D3. After sputtering out to a 4-3 start, the Cards are rolling, having won 10 of 11 before dropping a 71-54 decision to Whitinsville Christian on Monday. Like several other contenders with star power, the Cards can rely on Glynn filling the stat sheet every game, facilitating for players like Donovan and Crane to put in their buckets. With Wareham assured the No. 1 seed in the South, some are predicting a rematch between the Spellman and the Vikings; Wareham won their last meeting on Jan. 8, 80-72.

Wareham
Record: 20-0
District: South
Players to watch: Darien Fernandez, Jr. G; Jeff Houde, Sr. F; Tyler Gomes, Sr. F; Aaron Baptiste, Sr. F
The lowdown: Not a ton of size with the Vikings, but that hasn't stopped them from running off another unblemished run through the South Coast Conference and wrapping up their sixth straight league title. Two years ago the Vikings went run-and-gun en route to their first state title since 1977, and that style has paid dividends again this season. It all starts with Fernandez, a 5-foot-7 waterbug with a running back's build who can score from anywhere on the floor, and is fearless going to the hoop. Like some other running teams on this list, staying out of foul trouble will be paramount.

Danvers
Record: 17-3
District: North
Players to watch: George Merry, Sr. C; Nick McKenna, Jr. G; Nick Bates, Jr. F; Eric Martin, Jr. G; Jon Amico, Sr. G.
The lowdown: The Falcons were a preseason favorite in the North, and have done little to prove otherwise. Keying Danvers has been a stout defense allowing 44 points per game and led i the middle by Merry, who at 6-foot-7 is more than just a big body to fill the lane. Merry gets end to end quickly, and can step out on the perimeter and facilitate for the team's best perimeter players. When drawing double teams, it's essentially time to pick your poison.

Martha’s Vineyard
Record: 18-2
District: South
Players to watch: Peter Keaney, Sr. F; Jack Roberts, Jr. G; Izak Browne, Sr. G; Del Araujo, Sr. F; Charlie Everett, Sr. F.
The lowdown: Maybe it’s because being on an island makes them difficult to scout to begin with, but the Islanders always seem to sneak up on people come tournament time. It doesn’t hurt that they’re talented from the inside out, with Keaney and Araujo grabbing tough boards as well as facilitating some motion when stepping out on the perimeter. Overall, the Vineyarders are a quality offensive rebounding team that can quickly run off points in bunches

Others to watch: Arlington Catholic (14-5), Bishop Feehan (15-4), Norton (15-5), Norwell (17-2), Rockland (18-2), Watertown (6-14), Wayland (15-5), Whittier (17-1)

DIVISION 4

St. Mary’s (Lynn)
Record: 16-6
District: North
Players to watch: Nick Gagliolio, Sr. F; Tommy Deveau, Jr. G; Rudolf Thurman, Soph. G; Matt Manning, Jr. F;
The lowdown: The Spartans might have caught the entire state's full attention after losing to defending D1 state champ St. John's Prep by two in overtime, and the rest of the way they've carried that momentum -- punctuated again by another last-second loss to Prep late last week. Gagliolo is the top scoring option for the Spartans, but the X-factor going forward will be the health of Thurman, who injured his shoulder in that Prep win and was unavailable in their loss to Boston Cathedral on Friday.

Winthrop
Record: 15-5
District: North
Players to watch: Quinton Dale, Sr. F; Joe D’Amore, Sr. G; Joshawa Babb, Jr. G; Ervin DeJesus, Jr. F; Jeff Laguerre, Sr. G.
The lowdown: Defending D4 state champs are cruising again, finishing the regular season strong by reeling off six wins in seven games. For all the talk of Danvers in the Northeastern Conference, the Vikings swept them in the regular season to win the Conference's South division outright. The one to pay attention to with Winthrop is Dale, athletic and long for his 6-foot-3 frame and one of the Conference's better rebounders.

Boston Cathedral
Record: 13-6
District: South
Players to watch: Carlos Bermudez, Sr. G; Joe Green, Sr. F; Kyle Lawyer, Sr. F; Curtis Howe, Sr. G; Anthony Bell, Sr. F
The lowdown: Lawyer and Green are back after missing some time away from the team, which means the Panthers are to be taken seriously once again. This isn't a squad known for its size, but when we tell you Bermudez is one of the more exciting players to watch in the South district we're not kidding. Listed at 5-foot-4 and gifted with speed and stocky frame, this distributor is dangerous in the open court. Lawyer and Green are the top scoring options, able to go off for 20 a night.

Manchester-Essex
Record: 18-2
District: North
Players to watch: Chris Bishop, Sr. G; Joe Burgess, Sr. G; Sean Nally, Sr. F; Max Nesbit, Sr. G; Taylor Ketchum, Sr. F; Casey Weld, Sr. G.
The lowdown: One of state’s best basketball minds, Duane Sigsbury, is at it again. Last season, the Hornets ran their offense through 2011 ESPN Boston All-Stater Joe Mussachia, and were unafraid to use all 85 feet of the floor to push the tempo. This season they've sped things up even more, and are one of the state's highest-scoring offenses (77 points per game). The player to watch with this squad is Bishop, the Cape Ann League's MVP, a 20-per-night scorer who slashes through the lanes and has hit as many as six 3-pointers in a game.

Others to watch: Avon (12-8), Bishop Connolly (16-6), Cape Cod Academy (17-3), Carver (16-4), Cohasset (15-5), Mystic Valley (17-3), Pope John XXIII (18-4), Snowden (8-9), Westport (17-3)

Recap: No. 15 C'Town 87, No. 19 WC 69

February, 11, 2012
2/11/12
9:39
PM ET



CHARLESTOWN, Mass. -- At this time last year, Charlestown made the trek West, down Route 146, to deliver a haymaker to a Whitinsville Christian squad considered the state's tallest lineup.

This afternoon, the Crusaders came East to Bunker Hill, with a different look for the Townies -- smaller, quicker, more surgical -- and the result was very nearly a different outcome. The Crusaders hung with Charlestown through three quarters, before the Townies pulled away in the fourth, outscoring Whitinsville 31-14 in the final frame en route to an 87-69 victory.

"That team's very good, I thought that was the best shooting team we saw," Charlestown head coach Edson Cardoso said. "They're very well balanced, with a real good point guard, big man, two-guard, so I knew coming into this game it was going to be a battle. I told the guys, 'You're going to see a team like this in the state tournament, eventually down the line."

The Townies (14-3), played just seven due to health (Jawhari Dawan-Abdullah, stomach bug) and off the court issues (Gary Braham, suspension). But they saw all five of their regular starters reach double-figures, with senior point guard Rony Fernandez (26 points, four assists) leading the way. Senior forward Tyrik Jackson (12 points, 13 rebounds) came up big on the glass again, while Tyrese Hoxter (16 points, seven assists), Omar Orriols (13 points) and Iser Barnes (12) contributed some big shots from the perimeter to keep the defense stretched out.

But early on, the Crusaders (12-2) gave them fits with the methodical way they broke through the Townie's 2-3 zone with some of the most disciplined and precise ball movement they'd seen in a while. Junior point guard Colin Richey (23 points) funneled the offense down to the baseline, finding a player planted right in the heart of the zone and kicking to either the baseline or either wing.

Whitinsville shot nearly 40 percent from the field, getting good looks from the short side from Tyler VandenAkker (12 points, eight rebounds) and Jesse Dykstra. Grant Brown (10 points) came up with some big shots from the perimeter as well.

"We decided to extend a little bit more on the short corner, because they hit about four shots in a row from the short corner," Cardoso said. "We also decided to have the opposite guard extend even more on shooter No. 2 (Tim Dufficey). So we made some extensions in the second half, did a little better job -- not a great job, but it helped us get the victory."

To start the fourth quarter, Barnes completed a 6-0 run by ripping the ball out of his defender's hands at midcourt and landing a breakaway layup. A few possessions later, Hoxter found Jackson underneath the rim for an easy tip-in and 68-59 advantage.

Then with 1:37 to go, sophomore Taris Wilson hit the first of two monster breakaway slams, this one making it 76-63 to essentially put the game in hand.

On to MP Machine: The Townies get a rematch with Madison Park on Tuesday night, in their home gym, and the stipulations are pretty straightforward: winner locks up the final seed for the Boston City Championships at the end of the month. Brighton, New Mission and East Boston have all punched their ticket.

"The kids have been talking about a chance to do this Tuesday night," Cardoso said. "We're going to play hard and leave it all on the table. Hopefully these guys come out and execute the game plan, and have fun out there."

In their first meeting, on Jan. 19 at the Matadome, the Cardinals cruised to an 81-69 win that wasn't as close as the score might indicate. The Townies were without Fernandez and Orriols, and on the court they looked that less of a potent offense. Since that loss to Madison, the Townies have reeled off eight straight wins and jumped back into ESPN Boston's statewide poll (the Townies were the preseason No. 2 team in the land before plummeting out of the Top 25 altogether).

It goes without saying, the Townies are licking their chops.

"We're going in for the kill," Barnes said.

"We're focused," Hoxter added. "They're not going to come in here and punch us in the mouth. They're going to feel how we were feeling after that loss."

Hot from the field: The Townies outrebounded the Crusaders 16-7 in the final frame, giving way to many key transition points that helped ice the lead and the win. From the glass, WC still held a slim 35-33 advantage.

But down at the other end, the Townies had a terrific night from the field, shooting nearly 58 percent overall. That was aided by a 7-for-17 effort from three-point range, including three 3's each from Fernandez and Orriols.

Praise for Richey: Last season, New Mission head coach Cory McCarthy was throwing around high praise for the then-sophomore Richey, calling him "a suburban kid that plays urban".

Consider Cardoso another Boston City League coach that's a fan.

"He's tough," Cardoso said. "He's one of the toughest guards coming out of his league, and I think he's going give a lot of teams problems in the state tournament, because how do you stop a kid like that?"

Turning point? Following last season's loss to Charlestown in its home gym, WC coach Jeff Bajema greeted his players in the locker room and told them, "Guys, we can win states."

Sure enough, the Crusaders never lost another game the rest of the way, picking up their first Division 3 state title since 2005 at the DCU Center in Worcester. After that game, Bajema spoke to reporters about how much the whitewashing by Charlestown seasoned them for what to expect in the state tournament.

Given how much more competitive the Crusaders were this time around, could this be seen as another momentum shift?

"Hopefully, a game like this will lead us to better things," Bajema said. "But we've got a tough one Tuesday (against Holy Name), so we'll see."


Mid-season Boys Hoop Superlatives

January, 17, 2012
1/17/12
2:57
PM ET
With many teams across the state reaching the midway point of their schedule this week, here are my mid-season picks for our annual MIAA All-State, All-Defensive, and Coach of the Year awards.

THE SUPER TEAM
G – Aaron Calixte, Jr., Stoughton
G – Steve Haladyna, Sr., St. John’s Prep
G – Tyrese Hoxter, Jr., Charlestown
F – Jake Layman, Sr., King Philip
F – Isshiah Coleman, Jr., New Mission

BEST OF THE REST
Yadoris Arias, Sr. G, Lawrence
Tyler Delorey, Sr. G, Holy Name
Matt Droney, Sr. G/F, Catholic Memorial
Joey Glynn, Sr. F, Cardinal Spellman
Leroy Hamilton, Sr. F, New Mission
Jameilen Jones, Jr. G, BC High
Kevin LaFrancis, Sr. C, Acton-Boxborough
Alex Lopez, Sr. G, Springfield Commerce
Damian Lugay, Sr. G, Weymouth
George Merry, Sr. C, Danvers
Marcus Middleton, Jr. G, Stoughton
Matt Mobley, Sr. G/F, St. Peter-Marian
Brian Mukasa, Soph. G, Sharon
Tyler Nelson, Soph. G, Central Catholic
Quinton Perkins, Sr. G, Fitchburg
Luis Puello, Sr. G, Central Catholic
Colin Richey, Jr. G, Whitinsville Christian
Kamari Robinson, Jr. F, Springfield Central
Tyrell Springer, Sr. G, Springfield Central
Michael Thorpe, Sr. G, Newton North

ALL-DEFENSIVE
G – Luis Puello, Sr., Central Catholic
G – Anthony Hodges, Sr., Holy Name
F – Jake Layman, Sr., King Philip
F – Antonio Ferreira, Sr., Stoughton
C – George Merry, Sr., Danvers

COACH OF THE YEAR FINALISTS
Scott Boyle, Lowell
Hugh Coleman, Brighton
Paul Connolly, Newton North
Paul DiGeronimo, Fitchburg
John Gallivan, Stoughton
Paul Neal, Lawrence
Brendan Smith, Boston Latin
Malcolm Smith, East Boston
Mike Vaughan, Mansfield
John Walsh, Danvers

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