Monday, February 26, 2018

MIAA Boys' Basketball State Tournament: Breakout Stars to Watch

Needham sophomore Will Dorion could become a statewide name as the Rockets look to make a run at a state championship.     Photo by Eamon Convey.
By Matt Feld (@Mattyfeld612)

As the MIAA State Tournament gets set to tipoff on Monday night, a number of the top players in Massachusetts will take the court hoping to land the ever elusive state championship.

Over the next few weeks, opposing coaches and teams will mull over ways to contain stars such as Needham’s Thomas Shaughnessy, Newton North’s Ethan Wright, Lowell’s Alex Rivera, Lawrence’s Luis Reynoso, and Franklin’s Chris Edgehill.

While many expect these top performers to shine on high school basketball’s biggest stage, it is often a player not yet well known that proves to be instrumental in a team achieving postseason success.

Take three seasons ago when then junior Matt Hanna, surrounded a bevy of scholarship players, scored eight points to begin the fourth quarter in Catholic Memorial’s Eastern Mass Finals win over Cambridge.

Fast forward to last season when Needham forward Will Cooper, who started as the team’s eighth man at the beginning of the season, became the Rockets’ second scoring option as they won their first sectional title in school history.

Here is a look at some players that are set to become well-known names statewide by tournament’s end.

Will Dorion, So., G., Needham

While most of Needham’s success is rightfully attributed to Shaughnessy, Rockets’ sophomore guard Will Dorion has proven to be one of the more valuable players in Division 1 South.

Dorion’s reliable ball handling has given the Rockets and head coach Paul Liner increased flexibility. When opposing teams pressure Shaughnessy as he brings the ball up the floor, Dorion is able to settle the Rockets offense down from the point and create looks for Shaughnessy as well as three-point threat Brandon Monheimer.

Despite not being a high-volume scorer so far this season, Dorion has proven more than capable of knocking down the open three and finishing at the rim.

Will is able to play point guard or shooting guard at a very high level,” said Liner. “This takes a great deal of pressure off Thomas when teams try to double or trap him.  Will also provides scoring, defense, and the ability to stretch the court with his three point shooting.”

If the Rockets are able to repeat as South Sectional champions, Dorion will be at the fulcrum of reasons why.

Danny Yardemian, Jr., G., Belmont

For most of the season, Danny Yardemian flew under the radar. That changed over the final weekend of the regular season as Yardemian scored 28 points, dished out six assists, and corralled six rebounds in the Division 2 Comcast Dvicini Tournament championship.

Yardemian earned the tournament’s most valuable player award.

What makes Yardemian so valuable is his ability to alternate between being a natural point guard, and knowing when to take over a game as a scorer. He is able to pull up in the lane, spot up shoot, and drive.

When not scoring on his own Yardemian creates for his teammates, driving through the lane causing the defense to collapse before dishing to Will Ellet or Mac Annus for a triple.

As the Division 2 North tournament unfolds, there is no question that Yardemian is set to become one of the mainstays in Massachusetts high school basketball.

 Sam Dion, Jr., G., Wachusett

Out in Central Mass, Sam Dion has become a household name over the course of the regular season, but that recognition promises to become statewide over the following two weeks.

Dion broke out back on February 15th, going for 37 points as the Mountaineers knocked off Doherty. He was equally crucial in Wachusett’s nail-biting win over CMass power St. John’s (Shrewsbury), scoring 25 points.

Indeed, that win over the Pioneers perfectly encapsulated the talents Dion has that continuously befuddle opposing defenses. Not only can Dion finish through the lane via the reverse, he also has deep range from beyond the arc – even off the dribble.

When the Mountaineers need someone to take control, Dion is there to lead the way, as evidenced by his performance in the Mountaineers’ double-overtime win over Shrewsbury in late December, where he scored six points over the game's final four minutes.

Bensley Joseph, So., G., Arlington

One year ago, then as a freshman, Bensley Joseph raised eyebrows as he helped propel the Spy Ponders to a Comcast Tournament title.

Just last week, Joseph showed off his talents at the Comcast Tournament once again, despite the different result. In the Spy Ponders opening round game against Needham, Joseph proved nearly un-guardable as he scored 30 points in an overtime loss.

As the Spy Ponders go-to scoring option, Joseph can pull up in the lane as well as attack the basket. Joseph’s most tantalizing move is when he drives into the paint before spinning and finishing with his left hand.

While Arlington will certainly lean heavily on Middlesex League co-MVP Dominic Black, a tournament from Joseph that resembles the night that he had against the Rockets will make the Spy Ponders an instant favorite in Division 2 North.

Hason Ward, Jr., F/C, Springfield Central

As the regular season went on, Springfield Central gradually became one of the top contenders in Division 1.

At the center of that rise to the top is Hason Ward, the Golden Eagles’ six-foot-eight forward, who has been a dominant force in the paint. Offensively, Ward can throw it down and use his footwork to get opposing big men off balance before laying it.

On the glass, Ward has proven relentless notably hauling in 14 rebounds in the Golden Eagles’ win over Amherst to close out a 20-0 regular season.

Ward’s greatest value comes from his ability as a shot blocker. Using his length, Ward often effortlessly swats away opposing forwards' low post attempts.

Back on February fifth versus Weaver (Conn.), Ward had an astounding 22 blocks(!), in a stat line that brings flashes of Patrick Ewing’s days at Georgetown. Ward also had four big blocks against Division 1 South contender Newton North.


While Franklin, St. John’s (Shrewsbury), Putnam, and contenders out east are sure to pose viable threats to the Golden Eagles, it remains to be seen if anyone can minimize the challenge that Ward is sure to pose down low.

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