Friday, March 16, 2018

MIAA Boys' Basketball Tournament: Divisions 1 and 2 State Championship Previews

For the first time ever, two league opponents will square off for the MIAA Boys' Basketball Division 1 title. Hockomock rivals Franklin and Mansfield split their season series, and have been as evenly matched as two programs can be the last few seasons.    Photo by Eamon Convey.

 By Matt Feld (@Mattyfeld612)

The MIAA Basketball season will conclude in Springfield on Saturday with a total of eight state championship games.

Over at the Mass Mutual Center, the Division 1 and 2 Boys' and Girls' state finals will commence, while across the way at Springfield College the Division 3 and 4 games will take place.

SuiteSports' will have complete coverage from both venues, but before then, let's break down each of the four divisions.

Here are our previews, players to watch, and picks from the Division 1 and 2 boys' state finals. Check back tomorrow for previews from the Division 3 and 4 games.

Division 1

Franklin (22-2) vs. Mansfield (25-2), 545 p.m. Mass Mutual Center 

Franklin’s Path: Lincoln-Sudbury (79-49), Natick (68-54), Algonquin (58-53), Springfield Central (62-43)

Mansfield’s Path: Newton South (71-44), BC High (71-58), Newton North (70-50), Brockton (79-65), Everett (73-65)

Franklin’s Key Players: Chris Edgehill, So, PG; Jalen Samuels, Jr, SF; Paul Mahoh, Sr., SG

Mansfield’s Key Players: Johnny McCoy, Sr., SG; Damani Scott, Jr., SG; Sam Hyland, Sr., SF

Overview: To put it simply, this is unbelievable. This year’s Division 1 state final features just about every storyline imaginable. Mansfield and Franklin are not only 4-4 in their last eight games against one another, bitter Hockomock League rivals, and split this year’s regular season series, but they are both searching for their first state championship in program history.

This is the first time in history that two Division 1 teams from the same conference will play each other for the state championship.

Following the Hornets win over Everett, Mansfield coach Mike Vaughan noted the buzz surrounding the two sides going against one another.

“A league opponent, going out to Springfield. If this isn’t Duke-UNC at its finest in the NCAA tournament, I don’t know what it is,” said Vaughan.

The Panthers revolve super sophomore Chris Edgehill and junior Jalen Samuels. Stewarding the ship is veteran senior Paul Mahon who has proven to be the ultimate x-factor in the Panthers success. Matt Elias and Brendan Rodgers finish off a Panthers starting lineup that is as good as any teams in the state.

Mansfield turned in yet another impressive effort against Everett in the Eastern Mass. Finals. Damani Scott continues to produce at a high level at the offensive end of the floor while Sam Hyland has led a strong string of defensive performances. Around Scott, Hyland, and Hockomock League MVP Johnny McCoy the Hornets continue to receive strong contributions off the bench with Justin Vine and Khristian Conner chipping in key baskets.

While most state finals pit two teams against one another that have in all likelihood never faced off against one another both Franklin and Mansfield know everything there is to know about one another.

Personally I don't mind playing any certain team but the rivalry of Franklin and Mansfield is why a person plays basketball at Franklin high,” said Edgehill.  “We know. We're playing a very good team but we need to play efficiently on the offensive and defensive ends.”

The Panthers are not only trying to claim their first state championship, but are hoping to reverse fortunes after falling in last year’s state title game.

“You don't want to psyche yourself out and mix too many things up," said Franklin coach CJ Neely. "You're up at 8 or 9 in the morning for breakfast and then you have to figure out how to fill the other hours in the lead up to the game. Its all about trying to keep your normal routine."

Pick: Where the two starting fives are fairly evenly matched, and there are no secrets, this is a game where the bench will prove to be the biggest factor. Justin Vine proves critical off the bench with a pair of treys before the Hornets star in McCoy gives Mansfield and coach Mike Vaughan its first state championship.

71-61, Mansfield

Division 2

Taconic (20-5) vs. Tech Boston (24-1), 1:15 p.m. Mass Mutual Center 

Taconic’s Path: Tantasqua (61-42), Longmeadow (68-40), Northampton (44-43), Shepherd Hill (58-55)

Tech Boston’s Path: Westwood (88-45), Scituate (76-46), Hanover (58-47), Hingham (69-44), North Andover (65-57)

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

Tech Boston’s Key Players: Walter Dew-Hollis, Sr., SG; Maurice Works, Sr., SG; Shamar Moore, Jr., SG

Overview:  In the midst of an eye-opening tournament run, the Cinaderella story in Taconic hopes midnight can hold off for 32 more minutes.

The Braves have taken Division 2 by storm, discarding the “sixth-seed” label that was attached to them to start the tournament. Despite being relatively inexperienced, Taconic has shown little fear with a new star seemingly arriving every night.

The latest was junior Quincy Davis who scored 16 points in Taconic’s win over Shepherd Hill to reach the state final. Defensively the Braves have been stalwart all tournament with their 55 points allowed to the Rams the most they have given up all postseason.

Senior Javier Osario is the steadying force for the young Braves while Quentin Gittens provides offense in the post. Christian Womble, Robert McGowan, and Davis have provided the Braves with consistent scoring.

The Cinderella mantra cannot be applied to Taconic’s opponent.

Tech Boston, one of the preseason favorites in Division 2, is one of the most explosive teams in Massachusetts behind Walter Dew-Hollis and Maurice Works.

Dew-Hollis was sensational in the second half of the Bears’ State Semi-Final victory over North Andover scoring 20 points over the final 12 minutes.

The Bears’ possess a combination of physicality, quickness, speed, and athleticism not seen in any other team in Massachusetts.

When the Bears seem in danger of faltering, they turn up the pressure, increasing the games tempo and creating easy baskets. Like sharks on a feeding frenzy, once the Bears begin to attack there is almost nothing that can slow them down.

Beyond Dew-Hollis and Works are junior standout Shamar Moore and senior Lyron Bennett.

Pick: The Braves should be taken seriously. Throughout the state tournament they have shown little fear, regardless of the opponent, and now have the confidence that they can make history.

If Taconic can continue to hold that same defensive identity that has paced them so far, then they will give themselves a chance to remain within striking distance.

Tech Boston, however, has too many weapons and looks destined to bring back Dorchester’s first state championship.

64-53, Tech Boston

No comments :