Monday, March 13, 2017

MIAA Boys' Hoops State Semifinal Preview: Division 4

Cathedral hasn't been tested thus far this tournament. That will likely change against St. Mary's (Lynn).
By Matt Feld (@mattyfeld612) and Joe Parello (@HerewegoJoe)

We've already previewed the semifinals in Division 1, Division 2 and Division 3, so now it's time to dig into both the Eastern Mass title game, and Central/West state semifinal in Division 3. It's too late in the year for lengthy introductions, so let's get right to it.

Division 4 Eastern Mass Final

St. Mary’s (Lynn) (18-5) vs. Cathedral (18-4)

Players to Watch:
St. Mary’s (Lynn) – Jalen Echevarria, So., SG Jonathan Mola, Sr., SF., Keith Ridley Jr., So., F.
Cathedral – Calvin Cheek, Sr., SG; Khalil Blair, Sr., SG; Trevor Lynch, Sr., SF.

Date/Time/Location: March 15th, 7:15 pm, Woburn HS

Out of all four boys state semifinals in Eastern Mass, there may be no more intriguing one than the Division 4 Eastern Mass Final. St. Mary’s (Lynn) and Cathedral faced each other twice in the regular season, with Cathedral taking both matchups.

While St. Mary’s faltered in the two contests, what was impressive was their defensive effort, holding a team that has scored in the triple digits three times this state tournament to less than 60 points in both games.

The Spartans have made it this far, despite losing star Matt Cross to a football injury, and Calvin Johnson to a roster spot on UMass Amherst’s football team. Jalen Echevarria, while only a sophomore, has already shown he is more than capable of playing his best on the biggest stage scoring 25 points in St. Mary’s win over Lowell Cathollic in the Division 4 North Sectional Final. Forwards Jonathan Mola and Keith Ridley Jr. compliment Echevarria, giving the Spartans both a scoring and a rebounding presence down low.

Cathedral is notorious for its high-octane offense, led by superstar Calvin Cheek, who has posted quadruple-doubles on multiple occasions this year, using the Panthers' full court pressure to pile up double digit steals on a nightly basis. When the opponent elects to solely focus on Cheek, Khalil Blair and Trevor Lynch both pose threats from beyond the arc.

Look for St. Mary’s to, once again, bring the game to a screeching halt, hoping to work deliberately in the half court and allow their two big men in Mola and Ridley to go to work.

Coach’s Thoughts: “As the old saying goes, it's tough to beat a team three times in one year,” said one coach.

"A lot of these teams are probably intimidated by the way Cathedral plays,” said a Division 4 coach. “St. Mary’s though definitely won’t be from having played them twice, and that really probably takes 10 points away from Cathedral right off the bat. Cathedral is really going to have to get the pace going in their favor because St. Mary’s can rebound pretty well."

Feld’s Pick:
St. Mary’s (Lynn), 60-58

Division 3 Central/West State Semifinal

Maynard (20-4) vs Hopkins Academy (21-2)

Players to Watch:
Maynard - Corey Olivier, Jr., PG, Chris Bastien, Jr., PF, Eric Kiley, Sr., SF.
Hopkins - Sam'i Roe, Sr., PG, John Earle, Jr., SG, Jon Morrison, So., F.

March 15th, 4 pm, DCU Center

This game will certainly be one of the most anticipated rematches of the MIAA tournament, as these two teams played an overtime classic last year. Maynard emerged victorious, 52-51, after the extra period, so you know energy will be high when these two squads face off again.

Those expecting to see a slow, plodding game based on last year's score will be surprised at the sheer level of athleticism in this one. Neither Maynard nor Hopkins Academy looks the part of a Central/West D4 school, and each team has a true difference maker in its backcourt.

For Maynard, that comes in the form of do-it-all point guard Corey Olivier. Whether he's breaking you down off the dribble, finding the open man or splashing a three, Olivier is always a nightmare to defend, and he can D up pretty much anybody as well. Hopkins' Sam'i Roe has been nothing short of unstoppable as well, averaging 27 points per game and serving as the Golden Hawks' primary distributor.

Both teams have also lived by the three-pointer of late, so it could simply come down to which team gets hot Wednesday night.

If it comes down to depth, Maynard has a bit more offensively, but Hopkins has a plethora of players capable of defending multiple positions. My gut tells me Maynard has just a bit too much athleticism. But, Hopkins has been able to beat teams a variety of ways, and the Golden Hawks are used to the big stage, having won D4 West the last four years.

Still, I'll take the Tigers in a rematch of a game they barely won last year.

Joe's Pick: Maynard, 56-55

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