Monthly Archives: March 2012

Pentucket defeats Sabis (55-32) to win the Division 3 state title

Pentucket Regional – 2012 Division 3 state champs

Sarah Higgins (22 points) heads for the hoop

(Worcester) Pentucket 55 Sabis 32

There was no denying Pentucket (23-4) this time around.  Same building two years earlier the Sachems lost in the state finals to Lee.

Pentucket led from beginning to end in this one capturing the Division 3 crown for the first time. The title game was one of six played on Saturday at the DCU Center in Worcester.

The Sachems led from beginning to end thanks to a combination of distracting defenses and take-what-you-give-us offense.

Senior Sarah Higgins (22 points) had a huge game for Pentucket.  It seemed as if every time she wasn’t making a layup she was getting fouled.  She made her last eleven free throws in a row and totaled fourteen for the game.

Sabis (20-6) gave up the first six points and were down 20-10 after a Tess Nogueira layin with 4 ½ minutes left in the second period.

Jazmine Collins (10 points)

The Lady Bulldog tandem of Jazmine Collins (10 points) and Shyanne Wellington (10 points) kept Pentucket from turning this one into a rout.  The Sachem lead was 29-17 at halftime and 39-27 early in the final quarter.  The game seemed, at the time, far from over for the charter school from Springfield.

However, a Coley Viselli triple followed on an assist from Alex Moore and up went the team from West Newbury, 42-27, with 5 ½ minutes left.  A couple of drives later by Sarah Higgins and that lead was 46-29 with four to go.

Sabis was forced to foul the rest of the way and Pentucket cashed in nine times.  The final score was a misleading, 55-32.

Kelsi McNamara (14 points) finds an opening

Kelsi McNamara (14 points) connected on three long ones in the first half.  Equally impressive was the willingness of the 5-5 freshman to take the ball to the basket a couple of times.

The Sabis cause was hurt when Janaiya Sanchez went out with an ankle sprain for most of the second period.  The 5-7 freshman played in the second half but was definitely limping.  She has been on the Sabis varsity since 7th grade.

Jasmine Collins had several impressive coast-to-coast drives.  The Lady Bulldog junior started this season with over 1000 points.  The unpleasant memory for her in this one, besides the loss, could be making just one of eight free throws.

I always enjoy watching the Pentucket defense in action.  Against teams that don’t handle the ball well, down twenty usually happened in the first half.  Credit Sabis, they had girls (Jasmine and Janaiya) who could dribble the ball but they ran into trouble trying to find open teammates.

Inbounder Coley Viselli hit Sarah Higgins on a couple of deep fly patterns versus Sabis pressure.

Sabis won their first D3 West title ever this season.  They had won eleven straight games before this game.

Pentucket ended on a fifteen-game winning streak.  They will not be able to replace Sarah Higgins next season but they have many of their other key pieces back.

Pentucket boxscore

Sabis boxscore

(All of the pictures above and below enlarge considerably if you click on them.)

Shyanne Wellington (10 points) defended by Leigh McNamara

Pentucket seniors head for trophy

rebounding action


Sachem coach John McNamara

Coley Viselli

Madison Sinkfield, Leigh McNamara, Jazmine Collins

tie up

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Nick McKenna leads Danvers past St. Joseph’s (59-47) to Division 3 state title

Nick McKenna (18 points) caught fire in the second half

George Merry (11 points) with the title trophy

(Worcester) Danvers 59 St. Joseph Central 47

The Falcons (21-4) are Division 3 champs after capturing their first state basketball title in a game played at the Worcester Centrum on Saturday afternoon.

Everyone knows that basketball is a team game, so singling anyone out runs the risk of overlooking the contributions of the other four.  But this game may be a worthy exception to that school of thought.

Nick McKenna (18 points) almost single-handedly took a Danvers’ team that was on the ropes midway through the 3rd period and shot them to a commanding lead by the middle of the 4th period.

The Falcon deficit was six (37-31) with 3:32 left in the third.  Enter Nick McKenna. By the time Nick was done scoring for the night, Danvers was in charge (50-41) with four minutes left in the game.  He had fifteen points in the 19-4 Falcon run.

There was not a clue that Nick would go off like this.  He did have a buzzer beater from near midcourt at the end of the second quarter but was scoreless other than that.

Nick was part of a Danvers streak of nine straight (George Merry had a jumper) that gave the Falcons the lead for good, 40-37, at the start of the final quarter.  Mike Carpenter (12 points) answered with a runner in the lane for the Crusaders.

Tank Roberson (13 points)

Nick responded with two jumpers, Tank Roberson with a converted rebound.  This made it, 44-41, with 5:46 remaining. Still anyone’s game.

But there was more Nick.  He added two free throws and a layup, sandwiched around two Dan Connors (17 points) free throws.  Those points took the lead to 50-41 with four minutes left.  Now it was the Crusaders turn to struggle to find offense.

And struggle they did.  Over the last four minutes St. Joe’s (20-6) only had long ones by Tank Roberson and Mike Carpenter but gained no ground because of seven Falcon free throws and a George Merry (11 points) jam in the last minute.

I was very impressed with the defense of the team from Pittsfield.  They forced 6-7 George Merry away from the basket and though undersized rebounded well.

Danvers jumped off to a 6-0 lead but St. Joe’s rallied back to tie things at 17-17 after a Joe Wiggins layup off a Falcon turnover.  Later in the second period the Crusaders ran six straight (Mike McMahon converted rebound, Joe Wiggins layup, and a runner in the lane from Mike Carpenter) to gain a 4-point spread (25-21) before Nick McKenna’s buzzer beater ended the first half scoring.

The team from Pittsfield would built their advantage to six (37-31) in the third period before Nick McKenna put on a remarkable offensive show to carry the Falcons to their first basketball title.

The Division 3 champs had almost everyone from Danvers on hand cheering them on.

Dan Connors (17 points) defends

Dan Connors had the quietest seventeen points you could get.  Nothing long range in the mix. Most of them from just being around the basket in the right place at the right time.

Eric Martin (9 points) handled intense man-to-man pressure from Tank Roberson (13 points) the whole game.  There were few turnovers.  Eric did turn his ankle over late in the game.

I saw all of Danvers tourney games and winning the D3 championship was certainly a memorable game.  The most memorable one for me, however, was their miraculous comeback against Wayland at Lawrence High School.  Can a team overcome a 10-point deficit in 1 ½ minutes?  Danvers did against Wayland.

St. Joe’s won the state title in 2001.

Danvers boxscore

St. Joe’s boxscore

(All of the pictures above and below enlarge considerably if you click on them.)

team celebrates

Mike McMahon (12 points) and George Merry

Eric Martin (9 points) dribbles

Mike Carpenter (12 points) saves

Danvers coach John Walsh

Nick McKenna

Danvers cheerleaders

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Portsmouth reaches the D2 finals with 55-46 win over Coe-Brown Northwood Academy

Kamahl Walker (10 points) heads for the hoop

Darren Doyon (20 points) set for inbounds pass

(Durham NH)  It’s on to the D2 finals for Portsmouth as they defeated Coe-Brown Northwood, 55-46, on Wednesday night at UNH.

The (19-2) Clippers return to the finals (Saturday 1PM) for the second straight year.  Last year they were taken out by undefeated Milford.  Their opponent this time around with be #5 seed Bedford.

My preview reading about the Portsmouth/Coe-Brown matchup revealed that the (12-9) Bears had already lost twice (in January) to Portsmouth.  However, the score in the first meeting was 54-53 so, despite being the #11 seed, there existed the possibility that the team from Northwood might be able to challenge the Clippers.

And challenge they did, holding a lead (34-33) midway through the third quarter and being within two points (44-42) with 4 ½ minutes left in the game.

But Portsmouth put together a decisive pull away in that final quarter after Damon Doyle’s triple (off the backboard from straight away) put the Bears within two points.

Kamahl Walker collides with Darren Doyon

The Clippers have the outside game but it was the inside game over the next game-clinching two minutes that gave Portsmouth a run of six unanswered points.  A Charlie Duprey layup, a short jumper from Kyle Dicesare (assist to Kamahl Walker), and a Gregg Tsougranis layup (from Billy Lane) produced the points that gave Portsmouth its largest lead (50-42) with 2:20 remaining.

The Clippers spread the floor thereafter and made five of six free throws the rest of the way to gain a 55-46 victory.

Senior 6-2 Gregg Tsougranis (17 points) quietly led the Clippers in scoring. He had thirteen points in the second half.  Among those points were three converted rebounds.  He totaled nine rebounds.

Darren Doyon (20 points) had a terrific final game.  The 5-11 Bear senior somehow gathered in ten rebounds.  He hit two triples in the last thirty seconds of the first period to give Coe-Brown a 14-11 advantage.

In the second period long ones were big late but this time by Portsmouth.  In the last 1 ½ minutes, Billy Lane (14 points) hit one and twenty second later it was Kamahl Walker’s turn.  That quick six and a Charlie Duprey free throw gave the Clippers a 31-24 halftime margin.

I thought at halftime that #2 seed Portsmouth might pull away in the second half………and they did but it wasn’t until late in the last quarter.

Coe-Brown student section

Coe-Brown had what looked to be almost everyone from the academy in the stands and their support was loud and steady.  The Bears excited their student base by putting together a 10-2 segment to start the third quarter and grabbed a 34-33 lead.

During this productive run of Bear offense, Darren Doyon contributed old-fashioned and new-fashioned three’s sandwiched around two Corey Gerlt free throws and a Skyler Mitchell layin.

The Clippers were not behind for long.  Almost immediately they had a lead-for-good layup by Billy Lane and followed that with Gregg Tsougranis twice in close.  Portsmouth was ahead by two (39-37) after three.

The teams traded five points in the last quarter before the decisive six-spot by Portsmouth put them in the driver’s seat and into the finals on Saturday.

Kamahl Walker had a good news/ bad news double/double – ten points and eleven turnovers.  The Coe-Brown section was quick to chant that the 5-11 senior was “over rated.”

This was my first trip to the Lundholm Gym at UNH.  The site was well managed and the seating fit the crowd.

Both schools brought bands but no cheerleaders.  I was very impressed with the music produced.

Almost all the games I cover are in Massachusetts where there is a 30-second shot clock.  The game is different in NH minus that clock.  A couple of times I was aware that Portsmouth was holding onto the ball on the perimeter for over thirty seconds because the Bears were in a zone.

stat sheet

(The pictures above and below enlarge significantly if you click on them.)

Skyler Mitchell (10 points) in close

Portsmouth student section

Kamahl Walker shoots over Darren Doyon

Billy Lane (14 points)

Corey Gerlt runs into Billy Lane

Bear coach Dave Smith

Corey Gerlt (11 points) caught in Portsmouth traffic

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Sarah Higgins and Kelsi McNamara spark Pentucket past Fairhaven (53-39) in the state D3 semi-finals

Kelsi McNamara (10 points) lines up one of her 4th quarter triples


Sarah Higgins (20 points) layup

(Boston) Pentucket (22-4) secured passage to the state D3 finals on Saturday in Worcester with a solid second half  as they defeated Fairhaven (22-3), 53-39, on Tuesday at the TD Bank Garden.

Each team tallied just five points in a second period that may well have been impacted by a serious injury to Fairhaven starter Ashley Brown in the first quarter.  Ashley dove out-of-bounds for a loose ball and collided with the edge of the scorer’s table.  Considerable time was rightly spent by the numerous medical people on hand to take care of Ashley.  She was taken to Mass General.

The Sachems had a 19-18 lead after the sluggish second period and I had no sense of how the second half would go.

As it turned out, for Pentucket it went very well.  Their defense produced turnovers (six in the 3rd period) and Sarah Higgins (20 points) hit from the outside, inside, and from the foul line.  The Sachems actually took the lead for good (26-24 on a full-court Sarah drive at 4:54) with the advantage being 34-28 heading into the final quarter.

Kelsi McNamara destroyed any Fairhaven thoughts of a last-quarter rally with three long ones.  The first one gave Pentucket a 40-30 lead with 5:23 left.  The second one, on the next possession, built the Sachem advantage to 43-31 with five minutes left, and the third one kept the lead at twelve (48-36) with 2:45 to go.

Also in that final frame, Sarah Higgins continued to be productive.  She had an old-fashioned three, a layup, and a steal and a layup by the two-minute mark.  Sarah’s last score put this one out of reach, 51-38, with two minutes left and many reserves saw action the rest of the way.

Basketball is a team game and every coach knows the value of having players who get the ball to scorers.  Pentucket’s Alex Moore had four assists in the last quarter.  The 5-7 junior assisted Kelsi McNamara on all of her triples and also spotted Sarah Higgins in close for a layup.

Kara Charette (15 points) and Tess Nogueira

Kara Charette led Fairhaven with fifteen points.  The Pentucket full-court defense double-teamed Kara to try and keep the ball away from her.  That approach paid off especially in the final quarter when Pentucket earned point separation from the Blue Devils by holding the talented senior scoreless.

Pentucket scored the first seven points of the game (Sarah Higgins layup, Coley Viselli triple, and Tess Nogueira layup) but Fairhaven answered with six straight (Kay Mullen jumper, Ashley Brown fast break layup, and a Kara Charette converted rebound).

Coley Viselli (10 points) had three triples in the first half.  Kelsi McNamara had three in the final quarter.  Fairhaven did not connect from beyond the arc.

Tess Nogueira had four points and during the days leading up to this Saturday’s D3 finals in Worcester will probably be spending considerable prep time at the foul line.  The normally reliable free-throw shooter was an abnormal 2-for-11, including one air ball, against Fairhaven.

Pentucket had only six turnovers in the decisive second half.

Ashley Brown

Ashley Brown had already scored seven points before she was injured.  I overheard her coach say in the pressroom afterwards that Ashley usually averages fifteen points per game.  I suspect that many of the Fairhaven faithful will recall this game with, “What if Ashley…….”  I hope that the Blue Devil junior recovers fully for next season.

Two years ago Pentucket reached the D3 finals only to lose to Lee at the DCU Center in Worcester.  Maybe this time around things will be different.

Pentucket boxscore

Fairhaven boxscore

(All of the pictures above and below enlarge significantly if you click on them.)

Pentucket team afterwards

Kelsey Perron-Sovik and McKenna Kilan

Pentucket celebrates

Fairhaven cheerleaders

Leigh McNamara and Kara Charette

tight defense

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Fenway defeats Greater New Bedford (58-49) to take the D4 state title

Lorena Escolero lets fly the decisive Fenway triple - note the score and the time left in the background.

Fenway team picture afterwards with title trophy

(Boston) Fenway (19-3) defeated Greater New Bedford, 58-49, to become the 2012 Division Four champions on Tuesday afternoon at the TD Bank Garden.

And if there ever was a misleading final score, this one would be it.

We saw a game with ten ties and thirteen lead changes.  You bet it was close……….until the final 1:52 when Fenway, trailing 49-48, scored all ten points the rest of the way to get to 58 while GNB stayed at 49.

It was a startling ending to such a tight contest.  The biggest shot of the game may well have been the triple that freshman Lorena Escolero put in with 1 ½ minutes left to start the Panther 10-point surge to the title.  I never saw Lorena shoot another shot before or after and she may well have been in the game only because 6-2 Jalissa Ross (11 points) had fouled out with 3:51 left. Whatever the case, Lorena’s long one turned the tide for Fenway.

Nakira Examond (10 points) puts in two

The Lady Bears led 45-40 (3:51 left) when Jalissa went out and I thought at the time that GNB would dominate inside the rest of the way.  It just didn’t happen although Nakira Examond’s layup on an inbounds play did give the Lady Bears their final (49-48) lead.

Sophomore Cadejia Matthews (12 points) had a huge final quarter with ten points.  She put up eight straight for Fenway with an old-fashioned three, a three, and a jump shot to keep the Panthers close.  Then after Lorena hit her big triple, Cadejia made two free throws.

Also big in the closing minute was junior Tajanay Viega (13 points).  Tajanay dropped five free throws in the final thirty-five seconds to thwart any GNB hopes of a comeback.

Fenway’s harassing defense had a team, with dangerous scoring options, out of kilter most of the game.  The Panthers forced twenty-nine turnovers by my unofficial count.  A number of those turnovers became layups.

Stephanie Antoine breaks away for two of her sixteen points

The Lady Bears were down by six (20-14) 2 ½ minutes into the second period before they shut down Fenway for four minutes and rolled up ten straight.  Stephanie Antoine (16 points) had six in this run (two converted rebounds and a layup) and the other four points were on a converted rebound (Nakira Examond -10 points), and a Nicole Martin jump shot.

GNB led, 24-22, at the half.

An important second half stat was that Stephanie Antoine (she averages 24.8 PPG) had only two points in the second half.  Getting the ball to her in a scoring position was very difficult for GNB with all of the Fenway pressure.

The score was tied, 37-37, after three periods.

Final quarter?  Eight lead changes with the last one (51-49) coming on the Lorena Escolero triple with 1:25 left.

Vanessa Conceicao with finalist trophy

Vanessa Conceicao had the unenviable task of trying to bring the ball into the frontcourt against the Fenway double teams.  Sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t.

Senior Kayla Cox led the Fenway point getters with fifteen.  She put in points in every quarter and had more rebounds than someone 5-4 should get.  Her quickness and ball sense made the difference.

Greater New Bedford (21-4) has won three straight vocational titles.

Fenway was 15-0 in the Boston City League (North).  They won eighteen of their last nineteen games.

Fenway boxscore

Greater New Bedford boxscore

(All of the pictures above and below enlarge significantly if you click on them.)

Alexandria Richards shoots over 6-2 Jalissa Ross

Kayla Cox (15 points)

Jalissa Ross (11 points) jump shot

Tajanay Viega (13 points) looks for an opening

tight defense

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St. Mary’s holds on to defeat Cathedral (70-64) for Division 4 state title

Devin Thompson (25 points) shows the shirt after the Spartans win the D4 state title

Kyle Lawyer (26 points) soars to the rim

(Boston) The St. Mary’s Spartans are the 2012 Massachusetts Division 4 champs after defeating Cathedral, 70-64, on Monday afternoon at the TD Garden.

St. Mary’s won despite missing seventeen free throws and squandering most of a 60-46 lead in the final quarter.  Cathedral had their fan base rocking as they got within four (62-58) on a couple of Kyle Lawler (26 points) lane scores with 2:15 left.

But the Panthers came up empty on their next four possessions while the Spartans tallied five points on one Nick Gagliolo (19 points) free throw, two freebies by Randolf Thurman (14 points) , and a breakaway layup by Devin Thompson (25 points).  Those five consecutive points put St. Mary’s up by nine (67-58) with forty seconds left and clinched the title for the team from Lynn.

Both teams are out of the Catholic Central Conference (Large) and were very familiar with each other.  They had met twice and split the results so this game figured to be close.

Nick Gagliolo (19 points) slashes to the basket

St. Mary’s (20-4) broke away from a 15-13 deficit with two minutes left in the first quarter stringing together nine straight points to take the lead for good (22-15) 1 ½ minutes into the second quarter.  A jumper by Devin Thompson, layups from Randolf Thurman and Nick Gagliolo, and a Devin triple did the damage for the Spartans.

Cathedral battled back to 26-23 but the Spartans ended the quarter with six straight points with five of them from Nick Gagliolo.  St. Mary’s led 32-23 at the half.

That nine-point lead was still there for St. Mary’s after three quarters (51-42) and you wondered if Cathedral (17-7) could make things interesting the rest of the way.

It sure didn’t seem like it when Devin Thompson sailed in on a fast-break layup to give the Spartans a 60-46 spread with 4:52 left in that final quarter.

Joe Green flies at Devin Thompson

But suddenly over a one minute span Cathedral put together eight in a row (two converted rebounds by Brandon Kelly, a layup after a steal by Kyle Lawyer, and two Anthony Bell free throws) and they only trailed 60-54 with 3:45 left.

There was certainly plenty of time for the Panthers to complete the comeback.  The Spartans hit just two of four free throws and unstoppable Kyle Lawyer got into the lane twice for scores.  Within four (62-58) with 2:15 left the sense was that they would get closer…… but they didn’t as the Panthers came up pointless over their next four possessions (one was a turnover and another was two missed free throws).

Seniors Kyle Lawler and Nick Gagliolo were 1000 point scorers during their careers.

The Spartan free throw shooting was frightening.  Hitting only 15-of-32, they kept Cathedral in the game.  Missing eight in the last quarter, nearly let the Panthers sneak back into this one.

Matt Owens (13 points) was Cathedral’s second highest scorer.  He had three triples.  He also had several long-range airballs.  (I’m convinced that unless players play in field houses during the season the depth perception at the Garden can throw some of them off.)  Matt seemed to be an example of that.

I came away impressed with the ball-handling skills of St. Mary’s point guard, Randolf Thurman.  Cathedral applied plenty of pressure but the turnovers resulting were few.

St. Mary’s boxscore

Cathedral boxscore

(All of the pictures above and below enlarge considerably if you click on them.)

Nick Gagliolo looks for an opening

postgame celebration

Matt Owens (13 points)

Tommy Deveau finds an opening

Randolf Thurman (14 points) tries to turn the corner

Carlos Bermudez defends Randolf Thurman

tie up

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Danvers beats undefeated Wareham (68-45) to take D3 state semi-finals

Danvers players celebrate win over Wareham

Darien Fernandez (19 points) turns the corner

(Boston) Undefeated Wareham erased a ten-point deficit with twelve straight points in two minutes against Danvers.

Time to panic, now trailing 32-30? Not the 2011-12 edition of the Danvers Falcons.

The Northeast Conference champs (20-4) responded with a mind-boggling 30-to-4 run over the next eight minutes and went on to blow away the Vikings, 68-45, on Monday at the TD Garden to win the D3 state semi-finals.

When that amazing 30-to-4 segment ended there were still 6 ½ minutes left (60-36) to play. The rest of the way was all high-fives and smiles for the winners.  One big benefit of the way things went was that every player on the two rosters got a chance to play at the Garden.

Danvers moves on to the Worcester Centrum on Saturday with a chance for a state title.

George Merry (22 points) dribbles

It was apparent early on that 6-7 George Merry (22 points) was going to be a serious problem for the Viking defense.  And as has happened in the tournament, when a defense concentrates on George, other Falcons, after quick ball movement, get open looks.  Nick Bates (17 points) took full advantage in the early going as Danvers led, 21-9, after a quarter.

The Vikings started to show some life in the second quarter.  A run of seven (Aaron Baptiste triple, two Jeff Houde free throws, and a Darien Fernandez layup) closed things to 24-18 midway through the second period.

Two free throws (Jeff Houde) ended the first half but they were the beginning of a 12-point lightning run by the Vikings.  Two quick triples (Stefan Montiero and Aaron Baptiste) to start the second half and Wareham was completely energized.  The defense swarmed the Falcons and Danvers surrendered two more baskets and the lead.

As I suggested earlier, down 32-30 with most of the second half left was not likely to be of great concern to the Falcons.  All you had to do was be on hand at Lawrence High School when Danvers was down to Wayland by ten points with 1:28 left in the game, to realize that the Falcons can recover from adversity.

Nick Bates (17 points) shoots triple

Three straight triples (Nick McKenna one and Nick Bates two) did the trick this time and Danvers went up by seven (39-32).  At that point Darien Fernandez (19 points) hit a jump shot.  But before Wareham would score another point, the Falcons reeled off thirteen straight during the next four minutes and made their lead, 52-34.

So in one quarter, the Vikings went from down eight (30-22) to up two (32-30) to down eighteen (54-36).  Both cheering sections had plenty to cheer and groan about!

During the big Falcon run, the Vikings joined the list of teams discovering that Danvers has numerous scoring weapons.  George Merry had only eight of the thirty points.  Nick McKenna (12 points) had ten while Nick Bates added eight.  Jon Amico had a steal and a layup while Dan Connors cashed a jumper at the end of the run.

The Vikings also found out that there wouldn’t be too many easy shots from in close with a shot-blocker such as George Merry in the area.  5-8 Darien Fernandez did make several acrobatic layups with George in the area.

Point guard Eric Martin continues to distribute effectively.  He also was a crucial part of Danvers ability to handle the intense full-court pressure of Wareham.

Both teams made five triples.

Wareham (24-1) has won the South Coast League six straight years.  They also won the state title two years ago.

Danvers boxscore

Wareham boxscore

(All of the pictures above and below will enlarge if you click on them.)

Darien Fernandez heads for the hoop

Danvers coach John Walsh

George Merry defends against Aaron Baptiste

Eric Martin and Nick McKenna defend

ball goes out of bounds

Eric Martin

Danvers cheerleaders

Nick McKenna (12 points)

Jeff Houde (14 points) defends George Merry

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Danvers takes Division 3 North title with 53-40 win over Saugus

George Merry, Eric Martin, and Coach John Walsh head out for the D3 North trophy.

Dan Connors, Nick McKenna, Nick Bates, Eric Martin, Jon Amico, and George Merry with the D3 North trophy.

(Lowell) Reality set in for underdog Saugus in the last quarter and Danvers captured the Division 3 North title (53-40) on Saturday afternoon at the Tsongas Center.

The victory sends the Falcons (#2 seed) to the D3 state semi-finals at the TD Garden on Monday against the South champs (undefeated Wareham).  (I suspect that the 4:15AM start time, currently on the MIAA website, is a typo similar to my originally listing this game on Tuesday when it is on Monday.) The 23-0 Vikings are from the South Coast League.

The Sachems (14-9) got within five points of Danvers (45-40) early in the final quarter but didn’t score a single point over the last 6:43 of regulation.  Meanwhile, the Falcons put up eight points to pull away to a deceiving thirteen point spread at the end of the game.

A month ago Danvers pummeled Saugus, 73-39.  Given up for dead at the time, the Sachems rallied to salvage their season by winning six straight to get to the tournament.  The #8 seed then went on to upset Greater Lawrence, top seed Whittier, and Arlington Catholic to earn a third chance against Danvers.

5-9 Curtis Castello (19 points) in against 6-7 George Merry (22 points)

The Sachems looked more than capable of adding Danvers to their collection of upsets in this one as they were even with the Falcons (23-23) with 2 ½  to go in the second quarter.

However, five George Merry (22 points) free throws and a layup during the rest of the half were only answered by a Brandon Wladkowski runner in the lane.  The Falcons had a 30-25 halftime spread.

A Curtis Casella (19 points) layup and a Brandon Wladkowski steal and layin had Saugus back quickly within one (30-29), a minute into the second half.

But then the wheels started to come off for the Sachems.  Within a 1 ½ minute span the Falcons ran nine straight (two free throws Eric Martin, Nick Bates layup after a steal, two free throws George Merry, and a Nick McKenna triple) and were up ten (39-29) with 4 ½ minutes left in the third period.

The Falcons extended that lead to twelve (45-33) on a Nick Bates long one with 1 ½ minutes to go in the third.

Saugus coach Paul Moran

Curtis Casella (5-9 senior) responded with seven in a row on layups…….one after a steal and Saugus was behind just 45-40 with 6:43 left in the final quarter.  That neither Curtis nor his Sachem teammates would tally a single point the rest of the way is hard to fathom but that was what happened.

Danvers didn’t set any records with their offense in the final quarter but a jumper by Nick McKenna (10 points), a layup by George Merry, and a Eric Martin (8 points) steal/layin and free throw were enough to enable the Northeast Conference champs to become the D3 North champs.

Selim Omerovic (6-4 senior) had ten points (all in the first half) and battled foul trouble throughout much of the game.

George Merry heavily guarded

I have seen all three of Danvers tourney games.  6-7 George Merry is the key player for the Falcons.  His mere presence down low kept Saugus from getting too many easy shots in close.  On offense he converted three rebounds.  He also connected on ten-of-thirteen free throws.

Saugus was the third team I’ve seen that had at least 1 ½ defenders on George.  That has left a lot of very good looks for his teammates.  Also, when George is on the strong side, teams so far have been vulnerable to weak-side rebounding and layins by Nick Bates and Dan Connors.

Both Danvers and Saugus entered the D3 North finals in completely new territory for either basketball program.  The Falcons are just two wins away from a state championship.

Danvers boxscore

Saugus boxscore

(All of the pictures above and below enlarge considerably if you click on them.)

Danvers student section

Nick Bates gets help

Brian Wladkowski feeds Selim Omerovic (10 points)

Eric Martin and Curtis Castello

Eric Martin layin

loose ball

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Pentucket scoring runs get them past Ipswich (49-30) for the Division 3 North title

Pentucket Regional High School – Division 3 North champs

Pentucket seniors (Sarah Higgins, Tori Lane, Molly McDonough, and Leigh McNamara) head for the D3 North trophy.

(Lowell)  Pentucket did in Ipswich with two lengthy scoring runs and defeated the Tigers, 49-30, on Saturday morning at the Tsongas Center.

The Sachems’ (#3 seed) win gives them the Division 3 North title and a trip to the TD North Garden on Tuesday (4:15 PM) to face D3 South champs, Fairhaven, in the state D3 semi-finals.

Pentucket (21-4) rolled to 9-0 lead in Run #1 before Tiger senior Shannon McFayden hit a long one over four minutes into the first period.

A Julia Davis free throw midway through the second quarter had Ipswich (18-5) still in contention, 14-10.

There was no recovery, however, for the Tigers from Run #2.  This one lasted 4 ½ minutes, stretching into the third quarter, and totaled twenty unanswered points.  That’s right, twenty!  It put Pentucket ahead, 34-10, with plenty of second half left but certainly not enough time for Ipswich to make things interesting trailing by that much.

Coley Viselli sees an open lane

In the big run, Pentucket’s organized offense turned up five layups (Tess Nogueira two, one each from Coley Viselli, Alex Moore, and Sarah Higgins).  Coley had two free throws, and Sarah had a steal and a score.  The real dagger shots in this run were two Alex Moore three’s in the last thirty seconds of the first half.  Her last one was a prayer from in front of the Ipswich bench that was arc-less but went in on a line.

All this talk of Pentucket offense tells only half the story.  Their trapping defense was equally impressive during this segment forcing four Tiger turnovers and limiting open looks.

Julia Davis, Tiger’s top scorer, was injured just before halftime and didn’t play in the second half.  Julia slid off the playing surface chasing a missed shot to got a knee injury for her efforts.

Julia Davis – did not play in the second half

Minus their best rebounder and top scorer, the Tigers were severely handicapped in the second half.  However, the Tigers did put a couple of 4th quarter runs together.  One went for nine points and the other eight.

In the nine straight, there was a layup by Bridget Curran, two freebies from Shannon McFayden, and a long one from Natalie Soliozy.

The eight straight were all from freshman Masey Zegarowski.  She hit from all the scoring spots (triple, jumper, layup, free throw) putting on quite a show.

One of the best matchups late was the two team’s freshman starters (Kelsi McNamara and Masey Zegarowski) defending each other.  Those two should see a lot of each other over the next three years, I suspect.

The leading scorers for Pentucket were; Sarah Higgins (12), Alex Moore (10), Coley Viselli (9), and Tess Nogueira (8).

Masey Zegarowski paced Ipswich with eight.

Pentucket has now won thirteen straight.  Their opponent on Monday (Fairhaven) has won ten of their last eleven.  Fairhaven was the #2 seed in the D3 South.  They are 21-2 and from the South Coast Conference.

Credit the Ipswich student section for continuing to support their team long after the outcome was in doubt.  (I do not condone obscene chanting and never have.  Positive team support always sounds good to me.)

Pentucket boxscore

Ipswich boxscore

(All the pictures above and below enlarge considerably if you click on them.)

Natalie Soliozy shoots a three

Freshmen Masey Zegarowski and Kelsi McNamara

Brigid OFlynn defends

Bridget Curran gets two

loose ball

Julia Davis defends Tess Nogueira

Ipswich student section

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Pentucket gets by Swampscott easily (53-27) in Division 3 North semi-finals

Coley Viselli (19 points) shoots a three. She made five long ones.

Tess Nogueira (12 points) finds a way to the basket.

(Beverly)  No one expected a game like this.

Swampscott (18-4) was embarrassed by Pentucket, 53-27, on Thursday night at Beverly High School and now the Sachems move on to the Division 3 North finals on Saturday (10:30AM) at the Tsongas Center in Lowell against familiar Cape Ann League foe Ipswich.

The Big Blue (#2 seed) had won eight straight, won the Northeast Conference Small, and buried Stoneham in their previous tournament game.  None of that carried an ounce of weight versus the Sachems.  Swampscott shots were not falling and their zone defense could best be described as “porous.”

The game was certainly a lot easier for Pentucket (#3 seed) because Coley Viselli (19 points) was honed in from long range.  Who cares if one went in off the backboard (end of first quarter) and another took a high bounce off the rim and dropped in (start of the 4th quarter)?  All five that the talent junior made, counted.  Kelsi McNamara (8 points) hit two other triples.

Pentucket’s outside accuracy forced the Big Blue zone to stretch toward the perimeter and opened the inside for Tess Nogueira (12 points) and Sarah Higgins (9 points).

It took Pentucket a while to get going but Coley’s backboarded triple gave them a 7-6 first quarter lead.  They would never trail again.

Coley Viselli heads for the basket.

Coley hit her second three to start the second quarter.  Then she took a Big Blue turnover in for a layup.  She followed that with another triple assisted by Kelsi McNamara.  That was all in the first 1 ½ minutes of the second quarter and was part of an eleven-point run that extended the Sachems lead to, 15-6.

By the time the second quarter ended Kelsi had added her two long ones, Swampscott had eight turnovers, and they were in trouble at halftime, 25-12.

I was sure that the #2 seed was much better than what I had seen in the first half.  The local papers had stories about how big the rivalry was and also Niki Laskaris, who had twenty-six points against Stoneham, had only two points in the first half.

The Big Blue did make a response.  Niki had six points in the third quarter and her layup with 4 ½ minutes left cut the Sachem lead to 29-21.

Ara Talkov (11 points) gets to the rim.

But that was as close as it got.  Over the next six minutes of playing time, extending into the final quarter, Pentucket put a 14-2 run together and turned this game into a 43-23 rout.  Almost all the damage in this winning segment came on the inside.  Sarah Higgins (9 points) got three layups and Tess Nogueira one.  Tess also had two free throws.  And Coley drained her fourth triple.

The last 6 ½ minutes of the game were played by a fatigued and frustrated Swampscott team that on this day did not have the energy to make any sort of late challenge.

Junior Ara Talkov (11 points) and Senior Niki Laskaris (9 points) led the Swampscott scorers.

Pentucket (20-4) defeated Ipswich (Saturday’s D3 final opponent) 42-27 on January 24th at Pentucket.

The entire Ipswich team was on hand for the Pentucket/Swampscott game.  Late in the game, the Pentucket student section started chanting, “We want Ipswich, We want Ipswich.”  I’m not sure if they knew that the team they wanted was sitting to the left of them in the same section of seats under the basket.

Alex Moore, Tess Nogueira, and Sarah Higgins were all given medical attention during the game.  Alex was limited to two points.  With Coley on fire, Alex’s usual point production wasn’t needed by the Sachems.

Pentucket has now won twelve straight.

I’m not too keen on seating under the basket on both ends.  Okay, I’m selfish because that’s where I like to stand to take pictures. In this game I was forced off to the side.

Credit the Swampscott student section for hanging around for the entire game and enduring the “Scoreboard, scoreboard,” chant from the Pentucket kids.  Tougher still was the variation of “It’s all over,” that came out, “It’s a blowout,” as the Big Blue deficit reached twenty points.

Pentucket boxscore

Swampscott boxscore

(All of the pictures above and below will enlarge if you click on them.)

Swampscott student section

Liza Brackbill in Swampscott traffic

Alex Moore defends

Niki Laskaris (9 points) floats in

Caroline Murphy looks for pass

tight defense

Sarah Higgins (9 points) steals

Kelsi McNamara (8 points) puts up a runner.

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