Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Maynard Edges Hopkins Academy Again to Return to State Finals

Corey Olivier (21 points) shoots over Hopkins star Sam'i Roe during Maynard's state semifinals win at DCU Center 
By Nate Weitzer (@Nweitzer7)

WORCESTER, Mass. - The Maynard Tigers are headed back to Springfield.

For a second consecutive year, Maynard edged Hopkins Academy in the Division 4 Western Mass. Final at DCU Center. In a competitive bout between two excellent programs, Corey Olivier and the Tigers proved just a bit better than Sam’i Roe and Hopkins Academy, resulting in a 67-56 victory for Maynard and a trip to the state finals, where they will face St. Mary’s (Lynn) at 5:45 p.m. at Springfield’s Blake Arena. 

“We played a terrific team with so much balance. You can’t focus on any one player because someone else will beat you,” Maynard coach Paul Howes said about Hopkins Academy.

Howes has even more respect for Hopkins Academy (21-3) because the Hawks took his Tigers to overtime, before Maynard (21-4) eventually prevailed in a 65-64 thriller during last year’s state semifinals. 

In this year’s rematch, Maynard opened the game on a 10-2 run with hot shooting from Corey Olivier, who connected on his first three attempts from downtown. But Hopkins Academy came right back with a slew of shooters connecting from deep as part of an 18-4 run to take a 20-14 lead.

The teams traded blows throughout a competitive second quarter and Maynard held a slim 35-32 advantage at the break despite 12 first-half points from Hawks junior forward Jon Morrison (16 points, 7 rebounds). 

“I told the guys at halftime that it’s just two good teams who have a bunch of players who can score,” said Howes. “You’re not going to stop [The Hawks] entirely and I thought both teams were playing great.”

Indeed, nothing could separate the Central and Western champions throughout the second half, as a John Earle 3 gave Hopkins a 46-45 lead late in the third.  

Hawks star senior Sam’i Roe (16 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists) did a good job in attempting to contain Olivier with full court pressure, but the Tigers found ways to get their own star open. 

“We just ran pick and roll and it was open,” said Olivier. “They were trying to force me left but other guys stepped up and when the defense helped they were able to hit big shots.”

In the end Olivier (game-high 21 points) hit a key floater, senior Tim Lawton (10 points) nailed a huge 3 and Eric Kiley (12 points, 8 rebounds) came up with seemingly every big rebound, as the Tigers were able to go on a 17-6 run to seal the game. 

Miley also made a huge impact by guarding Roe on the other end of the floor.

“We’ve played a lot of great teams and this is the first time [Kiley] has covered a point guard,” said Howes. “[Roe] was a tough assignment, but Eric had nice help behind him and he did a great job.”

Now the Tigers will look to avenge last year’s narrow loss to St. Mary’s in the D4 state title game and they hope that their experience will guide them to the first championship in school history. 

“It’ll definitely help,” Kiley said about last year’s experience. “We’ve been there and we’ve been through it all. We’re going to stay focused, keep practicing hard and keep this run going.”

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