Monday, February 26, 2018

MIAA Boys' Basketball Tournament: Central and West Sectional Picks

Marlboro big Chris Doherty has the Panthers primed for a deep tournament run.
By SuiteSports Staff

On Friday afternoon, the MIAA released the basketball pairings for the 2018 State Tournament Central Sectionals.

That was followed up Saturday morning with the release of the pairings for the West, which was completed via the Walker System.

In Division 1 Central, Franklin looks like the favorite to win its second straight sectional title, but red-hot Wachusset, Doherty, and traditional power St. John’s (Shrewsbury) all could derail the Panthers.

Chris Doherty and Marlboro are hoping to reach the state final for the first time since Doherty’s freshman year, but a potential sectional semi-final matchup with Milford could pose a significant challenge.

Assabet Valley handed Worcester Tech its only loss of the season in the Vocational Boys Basketball championship game, and the two are in line to meet again in the Division 4 Central Final.

Out west, Springfield Central has been the most dominant team from the start finishing the regular season unblemished. Defending state champion Hopkins Academy certainly seems to be the top dog once again in Division 4.

With the dissection of the brackets complete, here are the picks for this year’s 2018 MIAA Boys Basketball State Tournament.

Division 1 Central

Pick: Franklin over St. John’s (S)

Sleeper: Worcester North

Upset: Acton-Boxboro over Algonquin

Overview: Coming into this season, Franklin was billed as one of the top contenders in Division 1 and so far they have proven worthy of the hype. Chris Edgehill and Jalen Samuels make up one of the top backcourts in the state while Paul Mahon and Matt Elias shoot the three. St. John’s, behind forward Sean Burke, would certainly love another shot at Chris Dion and No. 2 Wachusett while Natick proved to be a viable contender with its performance in the Bay State Herget this season. This section promises to be a free for all, but we’re going chalk and picking the Panthers.

 Division 1 West

Pick: Springfield Central over Putnam

Sleeper: Amherst

Upset: None

Overview: In a bracket of only six teams, the top two seem fairly clear cut. Springfield Central enters with a record of 20-0 and has all the key pieces of a state champion. Putnam cannot be overlooked as Milan Henderson is lethal from three-point land and Jalen Bruce is one of the top guards in the section. Hason Ward and company, however, will prove too much to handle and the Golden Eagles win their third game this season over the Beavers to win their second straight sectional title.

Division 2 Central

Pick: Marlboro over Grafton

Sleeper: Groton-Dunstable

Upset: Medway over Hopkinton  

Overview: There are only a pair of first round games in this section, but the one between Medway and Hopkinton will decide who gets a crack at sectional favorite Marlboro. The Panthers are centered around Notre Dame commit Chris Doherty, but also possess perimeter threat Kevin Short and guards Stephen DiGregorio and Alex Santos. Milford may pose the greatest threat to Marlboro. They finished the season winners of six in a row, including a win over Division 2 West contender Tantasqua. 

Division 2 West

Pick: Tantasqua over Northampton

Sleeper: None

Upset: Belchertown over Longmeadow

Overview: Tantasqua enters the tournament as the No. 3 overall seed, but the backcourt of Evan Couture and Drew Peretti to go with interior presence of Cam Arello make them our choice to take home the crown.

Division 3 Central

Pick: Tyngsboro over Whitinsville Christian

Sleeper: Greater Lowell

Upset: Uxbridge over Northbridge

Overview: Until someone proves they can slow down Christian Beck, this is Tyngsboro's section to lose. 

Division 3 West

Pick: East Hampton over Narragansett

Sleeper: Sabis

Upset: Mahar over Frontier  

Overview: It is not often that a three-seed enters the tournament as a sleeper, but due to the Walker System, that is where 9-11 Sabis finds itself. The combination of Sol Diaby and Jaren Shuttles has been productive all season as the two have each averaged double figures. Still, Easthampton’s quickness and ability to get up and down behind guards Ant Moynihan and Sopie Pek make them the team to beat in Division 3 West.

Division 4 Central

Pick: Assabet Valley over Worcester Tech

Sleeper: Bay Path

Upset: Trivium over Innovation Academy

Overview: Both top seeds in Assabet Valley and Worcester Tech enter the tournament at 19-1, while Maynard sits at the number three spot supporting a record of 17-3.  Less than a week ago, Assabet blew by Worcester to take home the vocational boys basketball title, 68-44, behind junior guard Gerry McManus. In the two games that counted towards tournament standing, the sides split. We predict a fourth battle between these two, and with the way Assabet’s defense played down the stretch we’re rolling with them to claim the sectional title.

Division 4 West

Pick: Hopkins over Pioneer Valley

Sleeper: Monson

Upset: Westfield Tech over Duggan

Overview: The reigning sectional champions are bound to do it once again behind starting point guard John Earle and post presence Jon Morrison. Monson has the chance to pose problems despite their 10-10 record as Chris Sisco has been one of the top scorers out west this season.

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