Wednesday, March 14, 2018

MIAA Boys' Basketball State Tournament: Division 2 State Semi-Final 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 2 State Semi-Finals

Division 2

North Andover (19-5) vs. Tech Boston (23-1)

North Andover’s Path: Salem (66-57), Marblehead (76-51), Brighton (65-63, OT), Woburn (64-50)

Tech Boston’s Path: Westwood (88-45), Scituate (76-46), Hanover (58-47), Hingham (69-44)

North Andover’s Key Players: Garrett Murphy, Jr., C; Chip Ogwuru, Sr., G; Jake McElroy, Sr., G

Tech Boston’s Key Players: Walter Dew Hoolis, Sr., G; Maurice Works, Sr., SG; Shamar Moore, Sr., SG;

Overview: This Division 2 Eastern Mass final features a pair of teams that come out of their respective sectional brackets with drastically different reputations. Tech Boston was widely considered the favorite in Division 2 coming into the season, and it has more than lived up to the hype. The Bears rolled through their regular season slate with the exception of a late season loss to Franklin being the only blemish. In a near mirror image of their regular season success, the Bears comfortably took care of each of their South opponents including a 25-point win over Hingham in the sectional final.

North Andover entered the Division 2 North tournament as one of five different teams supporting a 15-5 record, but rose to the top as the last one standing. The Scarlet Knights took care of Salem and Marblehead before surprising most with a gutsy two point win over defending champion Brighton. They topped it off with a clean performance versus Cinderella Woburn. Center Garrett Murphy has emerged as a major key to the Knights success while Jake McElroy is the go-to-guy at the offensive end of the floor.  

Tech Boston has become arguably the toughest team in Massachusetts to defend for all 32 minutes. With their quickness, three-point shooting capabilities, and physicality the Bears bring a bevy of challenges to the table for any opponent. Maurice Works is as smooth as they come in the open floor while Walter Dew-Hollis as had a monster season. Shamar Moore can knock down multiple treys in a sort period of time. What makes the Bears so dangerous is their late-game bursts, with an opponent often feeling they have a chance by being within single digits before the Bears go on a quick 10-2 run to seal the game.

Pick: Tech Boston, 67-53

Shepherd Hill (17-6) vs. Taconic (16-7)

Shepherd Hills’ Path: Groton-Dunstable (61-51), Westboro (78-56), Marlborough (53-47)

Taconic’s Path: Tantasqua (61-42), Longmeadow (68-40), Northampton (44-43)

Shepherd Hill’ Key Players: Jason O’Regan, Sr., G; Cody Adams, Jr., G

Taconic’s Key Players: Quentin Gittens, Jr., F; Javier Osario, Sr., G; 

Overview: Out of all the State Semi-Final matchups, Shepherd Hill and Taconic in Division 2 may be the biggest surprise of them all. It is not due to the talent level of the two respective teams, but rather the route they had to take to get here.

Shepherd Hill, the two-seed in the central, defeated to a stingy Groton-Dunstable team and Westboro to reach the sectional final. Many expected Shepherd Hill’s run to come to an end in the D2 Central final against heavy favorite Marlboro, and it sure seemed headed that way when the Rams fell behind 36-18 going into halftime. The Rams rallied, however, allowing just 11-second half points to dethrone the Panthers, 53-47.

Taconic was the number six seed in the west, but blew past Tantasqua and Longmeadow before dethroning Northampton in a rock fight. The Braves, who claimed their first sectional final in 41 years, have just one senior in Javier Osario but have a bevy of talented underclassmen. Christian Womble and Quentin Gittens lead the charge while Isaac Percy has been all over the place on the defensive end. Speaking of the defensive end, the Braves have been flawless all postseason long surrendering just over 41 points per game.

Jason O’Regan, who carried the load on offense in the sectional final win over Marlboro scoring 24 points, spearheads the Rams. Cody Adams has the potential to light it up from three-point land. The Rams calling card, however, is its defense. All season long they have done a great job of denying the ball into the low post as evidenced by its effort against the Panthers’ Chris Doherty. Their defensive effort has been the catalyst of a pair of postseason comebacks (the Rams were down 14 points to Westboro before rallying for a 22 point win).

In a game that pits two defense-first teams against one another, Shepherd Hill may have the one offensive star in O’Regan who can break through and lift his team to victory.  

Pick: Shepherd Hill, 58-54

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