Friday, March 9, 2018

MIAA Boys' Basketball State Tournament: South and Central Sectional Final Previews, Players to Watch, and Picks

Photo by Eamon Convey
By Matt Feld (@MattyFeld612)

After an exciting week and a half of MIAA State Tournament Basketball, sectional final Friday and Saturday are here.

A handful of upsets have already occurred with No. 8 Woburn knocking off top-seeded Beverly and fourth-seeded Belmont to reach the Division 2 North Sectional Final while No. 7 Algonquin has seen a late season surge carry them to the Division 1 Central Sectional Final.

Division 1 South sees red-hot Mansfield take on Brockton while Division 2 South is a battle between the section's top two seeds in Tech Boston and Hingham.

Out West, meanwhile, No. 2 Springfield Putnam will get a third try at top dog Springfield Central and  Hopkins has added to an impressive regular season with two 30-plus point tournament victories to reach the Division 4 Sectional Final.

Here are our previews for the South and Central Sectional Finals, with a breakdown of the top game in each section, the players to watch, and picks for all four games. Check back later for when we break down the North and West Sectional Final games.


Best Matchup

No. 3 Brockton vs. No. 1 Mansfield

Brockton’s Path: No. 14 Attleboro (71-48), No. 11 Quincy (72-64), No. 2 Needham (69-60)

Mansfield’s Path: No. 16 Newton South (71-44), No. 8 BC High (71-58), No. 4 Newton North (70-50)

Regular Season Meeting: Mansfield, 69-64

Preview: Anyone who has followed the Division 1 South Sectional tournament up to this point knows that the two teams set up to meet up in Friday night’s sectional final are playing their best basketball of the season.

Mansfield’s offense is clicking on all cylinders using sharp shooters Tyler Boulter, Justin Vine, and Ryan Otto to pile up points from beyond the arc while Damani Scott and Johnny McCoy have decimated opposing defenses going to the hole. Defensively the Hornets have been equally as solid holding Newton North to just 50 points.

Brockton, meanwhile, has used Taisaun Glenn-Doherty and Segun Okunlola down low to dominate opposing teams on the glass. Marcus Azor, Jose Monteiro Jr., and Abu Kaba give the Boxers a steady mix of ball-handling guards that can all score.
The two sides go back and forth throughout, with the Hornets’ offensive discipline and the Boxers’ size advantage down low keeping the two teams in the game, but a late Boulter three-pointer and a key defensive stop lands Mansfield its first sectional title since 2013.

Player’s Thoughts:  “We’ve been to this game two other times over our four years and we haven’t gotten past it,” said Mansfield’s Sam Hyland. “Finally getting through the south as loaded as it was this year would definitely be big for the whole team.”

Pick: Mansfield, 68-66

Players to Watch

John Lowther, Jr., F, Hingham

There is no team that has surprised more this season than upstart Hingham. The Harbormen have reached the sectional final for the first time in program history and John Lowther is the fulcrum of that success. Lowther provides the Harbormen with a key interior presence as evidenced by 30-point 15-rebound performance against Somerset Berkley and they will need similar production if they hope to up end top-seeded Tech Boston.

Levar Williams, Jr., SG, Burke

All season long, Levar Williams has proven to be one of the top guards in Massachusetts so it came as no surprise that when Burke needed a basket down the stretch versus Bishop Stang, Williams was always there to answer the call. During the fourth quarter of Burke’s sectional semi-final win, Williams scored 11 straight points with one pull up trey deeper than the next. A combo guard, Williams has shown the ability to both facilitate for the Bulldogs and be a premiere pure scorer.


Division 2 South Pick: I chose Tech Boston to win the section prior to the start of the tournament, but based on the way the Harbormen have been playing I am calling an audible, picking John Lowther to have a big game, and John Gates to hit two three downs the stretch as Hingham’s magical ride continues – Hingham, 65-62

Division 3 South Pick: Levar Williams is as good as they come, especially come the fourth quarter. His big tournament continues and the Bulldogs head to the TD Garden – Burke, 67-63

Division 4 South: Mashpee continues to pile up the points and squeaks past Cohasset in a high scoring affair – Mashpee, 79-72

Photo by Joe Parello


Best Matchup

No. 7 Algonquin vs. No. 1 Franklin

Algonquin’s Path: No. 10 Acton-Boxborough (73-53), No. 2 Wachusett (71-65), No. 6 St. John’s (82-70)

Franklin’s Path: No. 8 Lincoln-Sudbury (79-49), No. 5 Natick (68-54)

Regular Season Meeting: None

Preview: While it is no surprise to see Franklin playing for its second straight Division 1 Central title, its opponent has raised eyebrows over the last week. Algonquin handily defeated tenth-seeded Acton-Boxboro before upsetting No. 2 Wachusett and putting on an offensive clinic versus No. 6 St. John’s Shrewsbury to reach the sectional final.

Kyle Henderson has been nearly unstoppable for the Tomahawks, scoring 30 points against the Mountaineers before following it up with a 36-point performance versus the Pioneers.
The Panthers have continued to play like one of the top five teams in Massachusetts throughout the state tournament. Chris Edgehill is as clutch as they come, Jalen Samuels provides mismatches all over the floor with his length, and Paul Mahon, Brendan Rodgers, and Matt Elias all can connect from long range.

Henderson continues his scoring barrage and Brain Duffy keeps the Panthers off-balance by providing a second offensive weapon for the Tomahawks, but Franklin’s defense steps up down the stretch and the Panthers hold on for their second straight sectional championship.

Players Thoughts: “We have to get out on their shooters, be the more physical team, and play to our strengths which is get out and run and let it fly,” said Algonquin’s Kyle Henderson.

Pick: Franklin, 63-59

Player’s to Watch

Brendan Hamilton, Sr., SF., Worcester Tech

Worcester Tech continues to run through the competition this season and has landed a spot in the Division 4 Central Tournament due in large part to the play of Brendan Hamilton. Hamilton notched a double-double in Tech’s opening round win over AMSA scoring 13 points and securing 13 rebounds. He then one-upped that performance in a win over Southbridge pouring in 23 points. As long as Hamilton remains in control leading the Tech offense, it will be awfully tough to slow them down.

Chris Doherty, Sr., F, Marlboro

His talents already well documented, Chris Doherty makes Marlboro the favorite in Division 2 just by his presence on the floor. Defensively the six-foot-seven Doherty prevents opposing offenses from feeling any sort of comfort down low and at the other end of the floor Doherty is nearly unstoppable once he gets in position on the low block. Doherty scored 24 points in the Panthers semi-final win over Milford.


Division 2 Central Pick: Chris Doherty proves to be too much as he lifts the Panthers to a berth in the Division 2 State Semi-Finals - Marlboro, 68-57

Division 3 Central Pick: Blackstone Millville, 60-59

Division 4 Central Pick: Worcester Tech continues to roll as Brendan Hamilton and Victor Florentino continue their big state tournament - Worcester Tech, 78-73

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