Wednesday, March 14, 2018

MIAA Boys' Basketball State Tournament: Division 3 State Semi-Finals Previews

By Matt Feld (@MattyFeld612)

Four teams punched their ticket to the state finals on Monday. In Division 1, Mansfield continued its blistering postseason run over Everett, while Franklin disposed of previously undefeated Springfield Central to reach the state title game for a second straight year.

Today, eight more teams will look to solidify a trip to Springfield with the Division 2 and 3 State Semi-Finals taking place later on today.

Here is a preview of today's Division 3 State Semi-Finals

Division 3

Watertown vs. Burke

Watertown’s Path: Essex Tech (72-37), Lynnfield (62-44), Pentucket (52-33), St. Mary’s (44-36)

Burke’s Path: Sandwich (78-61), Cardinal Spellman (81-61), Bishop Stang (69-64), and, Apponequet (70-62)

Watertown’s Key Players: John Korte, Sr., SF; Julio Fulcar, Sr., SG; Wenston Rodriguez, Sr., G;

Burke’s Key Players: Levar Williams, Jr., SG; Devante Jamison, Sr., SG; Devante Jamison, Sr., G;

Overview: One year after falling to Hanover in the state semi-finals, Watertown finds itself back in the same spot. This time, however, the Raiders will face off against Burke in a matchup of contrasting styles. Watertown has largely made its run through slowing the game down, force opponents to play at their tempo before surging late behind their star John Korte.

Burke, meanwhile, is one of the most explosive teams in Eastern Mass. The Bulldogs have shown that they have plenty in the tank for all 32 minutes blowing past teams in the fourth quarter. Levar Williams is one of the better all-around guards in the area with his ability to knock down the three both off the catch and off the dribble. Devante Jamison is a ferocious defender in the Bulldogs’ full court press and Bryan Desir has proven critical off the bench.

Korte, standing at six-foot-six, is one of the tougher guards in Massachusetts. His size and length makes him a tough cover for smaller guards, but his ability to shoot makes it nearly an impossible matchup for any opposing big. Julio Fulcar has been a major factor in the Raiders success with his ability to get in the lane and get to the foul line. Defensively the Raiders have been superb limiting widely considered sectional favorite St. Mary’s to just 36 points as well as second seeded Lynnfield to 44 points. Those 44 points are the most Watertown has allowed this postseason.

In a state semi-final that pits two polar opposite teams against one another, the biggest key to watch out for is whether the smaller, tighter environment like Burlington High School allows Burke’s press to become all that more dangerous. Conversely, the court size could prove to be advantageous for a Watertown defense that thrives on its length and physicality.

Williams has been one of the more clutch players in the state this postseason and in a game that will likely be bogged down by and large, a late Williams burst may be all that is needed to send the Bulldogs to the State Final.

Pick: Burke, 56-50

Sutton (18-6) vs. East Hampton (18-5)

Sutton's Path: Oxford (58-45), Nipmuc (62-57), Whitinsville-Christian (63-59, OT), Blackstone-Millville (54-42)

East Hampton's Path: Southwick (71-57), Sabis (85-52), Monument Mountain (81-74)

Sutton's Key Players: Jaron Buffone, Sr., G; Trevian Grenon, So., SG; Ashton Grenon, Sr., PG

East Hampton's Key Players: Ant Moynihan, Sr., G; Ronan Mottor, Jr., F; Sopie Mek, Sr., G

Overview: Outside of Western Mass, many basketball fans may not know the name Ant Moynihan, but with East Hampton's ascendance through Division 3 West and to the State Semi-Final, that is about to change. The Eagles, who were the number two seed in their section, defeated Monument Mountain to reach the state semi-final. Their opponent in Sutton finished with a record of 14-6, but rattled off four consecutive wins including an overtime win over Whitinsville Christian to claim its first Div. 3 Sectional Title since 2009.

Back to Moynihan, the senior guard has dazzled this year with his performance. Showcasing Jimmer Ferdette range, Moynihan has awed spectators with his seemingly uncanny ability from knock down three-pointers from all over the court. It's a skill that has been back breaking for Eagles' opponents, most notably in their sectional final win over Monument Mountain when he pulled up from just inside half court and buried a trey as part of a 27-point performance. Alongside Moynihan is skilled facilitator Sopie Mek and forward Ronan Mottor who has come alive in the tournament.

Sutton has relied largely on the brotherly combination of senior point guard Ashton and sophomore twins Trevian and Bryson Grenon. Senior Jaron Buffone is the Sammies main offensive means of attack, capable of scoring 20-plus points. Trevian Grenon has range smilier to Moynihan from beyond the three-point line.

Come this time of year, games can often be decided by whichever team simply has the best player on floor. Based on the way Moynihan has been playing this March, that advantage seems to belong to East Hampton.

Pick: East Hampton, 72-59

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