Sunday, March 12, 2017

MIAA Boys' Hoops State Semifinal Preview: Division 2

After falling in the state semifinals last year, Whitman-Hanson will look to break through against Brighton this season.
By Matt Feld (@mattyfeld612) and Joe Parello (@HerewegoJoe)

We've already previewed both semifinal games in Division 1, so now it's time to dig into both the Eastern Mass title game, and Central/West state semifinal in Division 2. It's too late in the year for lengthy introductions, so let's get right to it.

Division 2 Eastern Mass Final

Brighton (21-5) vs. Whitman-Hanson (19-3)

Players to watch:
Brighton – Jordan Galloway, Sr., PG, Tyrone Perry, Sr., SF, Jerrod Clark, Sr., C. 
Whitman-Hanson – Nikko Raftes, Sr., SG, Luke Tamulevich, Sr., SG, Sean Leahy, Sr., SF.

Date/Time/Location: March 13th, 7:30 pm, TD Garden

Two battle-tested teams meet at the TD Garden in the Division 2 Eastern Mass Final. Whitman-Hanson was in this spot last season, only to fall to New Mission, while Brighton last appeared at the Garden in 2013. Both teams rely heavily on the three pointer, which means there is a strong possibility this game is decided in the 70s. Nikko Raftes and Luke Tamulevich can both splash home a half-dozen three-pointers, and they will need to on Monday night if the Panthers want to get past the Bengals.

Brighton, behind Tyrone Perry and Mykell Derring, can match Whtiman-Hanson trey for trey, but have a huge advantage over the Panthers down low. Whitman-Hanson, meanwhile, has shown it can play with a fast paced team, knocking off O’Bryant in the Division 2 South Sectional Finals to get to this point.

One thing the Panthers have yet to face so far this tournament, however, is the size advantage that Brighton possesses. Perry, Jerrod Clark and Jordan Diaz form a triple threat that can both rebound and score underneath.

If Whitman-Hanson is so come out with a win and solidify a trip to the state championship, they will need to keep Brighton off the offensive glass. Look for the Bengals to attack the boards, hoping to dish it out for second chance three-point opportunities, while the Panthers try to slow the game down and prevent Brighton from getting out and running.

Coach’s Thoughts: “If there were less than 40 three pointers attempted between the two teams in this one I would be shocked,” said one Division 2 coach. “The key is rebounding. Whitman-Hanson just cannot allow Brighton to get multiple chances, especially with the way they shoot from the outside. This game needs to be in the 50s or 60s for Whitman-Hanson, while you know Brighton will hope its closer to 80.”

Feld’s Pick: Brighton, 72-62

Division 2 Central/West State Semifinal

Nashoba (20-4) vs Longmeadow (18-4)

Players to Watch:
Nashoba - Justin Pierce, Jr., G, Andrew Fish, Sr., F, Connor Jesson, Sr., F, Connor Ojerholm, So., C.
Longmeadow - Patrick Abad, Sr., G, Max Robbins, Sr., F, Will Echeverria, Jr., F, Michael McLaughlin, Jr., C

Date/Time/Location: March 13th, 7:30 pm, DCU Center

Let's be real... Nobody saw this matchup coming.

If you would have told me before the season that Nashoba and Longmeadow would both be a game away from the state championship game, I would have replied that Taconic seemed more poised to make a run in D2 West, or that Marlboro and Concord-Carlisle were clearly the most talented teams in D2 Central.

Neither of these teams cared about any of that stuff, and that's why they're both here.

Each plays a physical and sound brand of basketball, and each is led by a veteran backcourt that does all the little things right. Oh, and another thing: Each has a number of players that can beat you on a given night, so there won't be any keying on one superstar from either defense.

In this mirror match, the Lancers will hope that senior Max Robbins can stay hot after a big D2 West final against Taconic, and that Pat Abad bounces back from a rare off night to have another big game. The senior has scored over 15 points on 16 occasions this season, but only made a single free throw against Taconic.

I wouldn't bet on that happening again, but it did show that Longmeadow could get crucial stops down the stretch against a gifted offensive opponent.

Still, it's not like the Chieftains have trouble getting stops. Perhaps no team in the state has played better defense this tournament season than Nashoba. With a number of guards who can stop dribble penetration, including the above-mentioned Justin Pierce and the oft overlooked Nate Mansour, Nashoba makes everybody they play really work for open looks.

Expect a defensive struggle, but with hot streaks from outside by each team. At the end of the day, Nashoba has just been a little more impressive, but this game could come down to which team can score on the opposing defense in crunch time.

Joe's Pick: Nashoba, 51-45

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