Friday, March 16, 2018

MIAA Boys' Basketball Tournament: Divisions 3 and 4 State Championship Preview

Pope John is riding high after defeating Mashpee in the D4 Eastern Mass title game, but will have to deal with reigning D4 state champion Maynard Saturday in Springfield.    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 for the Division 3 and 4 Boys' State Finals.

You can click here for our full preview of the Division 1 and 2 State Finals.

Division 3

Easthampton (19-5) vs. Watertown (19-6)

Easthampton's Path: Southwick (71-57), Sabis (85-52), Monument Mountain (81-74), Sutton (75-752)

Watertown’s path: Essex Tech (72-37), Lynnfield (62-44), Pentucket (52-33), St. Mary’s (44-36), Burke (66-61)

Easthampton’s Key Players: Ant Moynihan, Sr., G; Ronan Mottor, Jr., F; Sopie Mek, Sr., G

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

Overview: Across the four boys divisions, there may be no better ‘star versus star’ matchup than the one that Easthampton and Watertown present.

One season after faltering in the state semi-finals, the Raiders are back in the state final following a come from behind victory over Burke, 66-61. Fueling Watertown’s effort is senior John Korte, who continued is terrific season with a 28-point, 10 rebound, five block performance versus the Bulldogs. The 6-foot-6 small forward is nearly impossible to guard. His length and build allow him to bully himself into the paint and pile up the offensive rebounds, while his sharp shooting skills make him a threat to catch fire from behind the three-point line.

The Raiders, who entered the tournament as the seven seed in Division 3 North, have shattered outside expectations by defeating heavily favored St. Mary’s and high-powered Burke to reach the state final.

“This run has been incredible for the entire team,” said Korte. “For most of the regular season we struggled at times to find our identity, but it all clicked after our loss to Melrose. We realized how we need to play defense and everyone accepted their role on the team.”

Surrounding Korte is Julio Fulcar who starred defensively going up against Bulldogs guard Levar Williams. Wenston Rodriguez, Gabe Spinelli, and Yoseph Hamad have been key contributors. 

Easthampton brings with it one of the more exciting shooters out there in Ant Moynihan. Moynihan, who will continue his playing career at Grinnell College, is not afraid to pull up from anywhere on the floor. Whenever the Eagles are in need of a lift, Moynihan comes through burying a trey to shatter the opponent’s confidence.

While Moynihan may be the focus on the wing, Sopie Pek runs the offense for the Eagles. Pek, the Eagles’ point guard, is both a facilitator and high-level scorer as evidenced by his 24-point performance against Sutton in the state semi-final. Ronan Mottor provides scoring in the paint.

Pick: Throughout the second half of the season, the Raiders have defied expectations. Korte has blossomed from a star into one of the best players in the state, while coach Steve Harrington continues to get everything possible out of his players. Easthampton has had a terrific postseason run, and are dangerous with the multitude of ways they can score, but Watertown has used the doubters as fuel and will return with a state championship to show for it.

61-60, Watertown

Division 4

Maynard (22-3) vs. Pope John (23-1)

Maynard’s Path: Blackstone Valley (71-54), Innovation Academy (85-52), Assabet Valley (78-69), Worcester Tech (61-50), Pioneer Valley (70-48)

Pope John’s Path: Winthrop (63-59, OT), Fenway (78-71), Austin Prep (78-35), Mashpee (70-62)

Maynard’s Key Players: Corey Oliver, Sr., G; Tommy Smith, Sr., F; Chris Bastien, Sr., F/C

Pope John’s Key Players: Angel Price-Espada, Jr., G; Michael Thompson, Sr., F; Marques Boyer, Sr., G;

Overview: These two teams might reside in division four, but they both hold talents that could play at any level in the state.

Senior Angel Price-Espada, who shined throughout the north sectionals and state semis, fuels Pope John. When Price-Espada is not showing his explosiveness in transition, he is displaying his skills as a facilitator. In the state-semi final win for Pope John over Mashpee, Price-Espada compiled nine first half assists including seven in the opening quarter.

Surrounding Price-Espada for the Tigers are guard Marquise Boyer and forward Marcus Thompson. Thompson is a force in the paint for Pope John, using his build and foot work to blow by opposing forwards. Thompson had 14 points and 11 rebounds in the Tigers’ win over Mashpee.

Maynard finds itself in a similar position from years past. The defending champions are making their third straight state final appearance and have had a monster tournament run to date. All in all, Maynard has scored at least 70 points in four of their first five postseason games while the average margin of victory has been just over 16 points.

Senior guard Cory Oliver has been the guiding force for Maynard all season long, leading the Maynard’s high-octane offense. Tommy Smith is labeled as a forward but is a knockdown shooter from beyond the arc. Chris Bastien is a dominant presence in the paint.

Pick: Those who love up-tempo basketball are in for a treat, with both of these teams excelling out in transition and in the open floor. In a game of runs, Maynard makes the last one receiving a game-changing play from its leader in Cory Oliver to seal back-to-back state championships.

70-67, Maynard

No comments :