Boys' Basketball Previews(Boston Globe)

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    Boys' Basketball Previews(Boston Globe)

    DIVISION 1

    Starting 5

    A look at the division's top players:

    • G — Pat Connaughton, St. Johns Prep
    • G — Joseph Bramanti, Andover
    • F — Wes Schroll, Acton-Boxborough
    • F — Jimmy Zenevitch, Central Catholic
    • C — John Swords, Lincoln-Sudbury

    Despite losing 6-foot-11-inch center Carson Desrosiers, who hit the game-winning shot with five seconds left in the Raiders' 56-55 victory over St. John’s (S) in last year’s finale, coach Rick Nault has three returning starters.

    “This is the most talented, athletic group we’ve ever had,’’ he said.

    Nault said he expects 6-7 senior forward Jimmy Zenevitch, who averaged 16 points per game last season, to lead the offense. Behind Zenevitch, senior guard Jacob Morales and junior guard Louis Puello will anchor the backcourt.

    ‘[Morales and Puello] are two of the best defenders in the league,’’ he said. “They show great athleticism in the backcourt, and what we do defensively will depend on how they match up [against opponents].”

    St. John’s Prep, which lost to the Raiders, 74-62, in the Division 1 North finals last year, will make a strong push to dethrone the champions.

    All five starters from last season are returning, including Catholic Conference co-MVP Pat Connaughton, who averaged 24 points and 17 rebounds per game.

    However, the Eagles will be without center Mackenzie Burt, who will miss the season due to a torn anterior cruciate ligament , and point guard Connor Macomber will miss the first three weeks after suffering a torn MCL.

    Lynn English will also be strong this year, with seniors Travonne Berry-Rogers, Keandre Stanton and captain Paradise Hogan returning. East Boston transfer student Corey McMillan, who was ineligible to play for the Bulldogs last season, will play this season.

    New Mission, Andover, Cambridge and Acton-Boxboro are also expected to be strong North teams.

    In the South, Madison Park will be rebuilding after losing nine seniors from its championship team, including Spencer Braithwaite and David Campbell, who both averaged 20 points per game.

    With a down year expected from the Cardinals, Brockton and Newton North emerge as top contenders in the South, along with BC High.

    Brockton, which lost to the Cardinals, 77-72, in overtime in the semifinals, have three starters returning from last season. Coach Robert Coen is said he is looking forward to the production of senior captains Shane Sims and Treace Macklin, as well as junior forward Jamal Reuben.

    Coen said that although his team looks promising, it is imperative that they do not get ahead of themselves.

    “You never know what other teams have, I don’t look past anybody,’’ he said. “But you can expect us to be a challenge.”

    Sophomore point guard Jaylen Blakely will command the Boxers offense this season, and Coen said he is eager to see how he will perform.

    “I never thought we’d turn the job to a sophomore,” Coen said. “[Brantley] is a tremendous passer and dribbler. This definitely makes it exciting”

    Newton North senior co-captain Tevin Falzon is returning from a wrist injury and will help lead the Tigers back to the semifinals. With the help of senior captain Avi Adler-Cohen and junior guard Michael Thorpe, coach Paul Connolly’s team will be strong.

    “Our guys are doing what we need them to do,’’ Connolly said. “We have a unique set of guys and once we gel together it’ll take off.’’

    Mansfield, which lost to Madison Park in the South final, will also be strong this year
     
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    Re: Boys' Basketball Previews(Boston Globe)

    DIVISION 2

    Starting 5

    A preseason look at the top players in Division 2 boys’ basketball.

    C – Jeremy Miller, Milton

    F – Jerry Ellis-Williams, Reading

    F – Brad Skeffington, Salem

    G – Nelson Baptiste, Falmouth

    G – Antonio Reyes, Salem

    “It’s just not going to be the same scoring,’’ Mack said. “We’ve got to be more disciplined both offensively and defensively.”

    The Bulldogs feature seven seniors from last year’s 24-2 championship team. Mack said his team is running a smaller and quicker game led by sophomore point guard Xavier Garcia.

    “He’s physically mature beyond a freshman,” Mack said. “He picks up the game very well, he understands what we’re asking him to do.”

    The defending champs could face stiff competition in an experienced Reading team. The Rockets are returning four starters from a 19-6 season last year.

    “We started the Monday after Thanksgiving and so far we’ve just noticed a little more experience [than previous years],” coach Paul Morrissey said. “We understand a little more about what we want to do.”

    Junior guard Kenny Reed highlights what could be a high-scoring offense. Both Reed and fellow guard Trey Jones shoot and rebound well, Morrissey said.

    In Cheshire, coach Bill Robinson is guiding a Hoosac Valley High team laden with veterans. Eight seniors will suit up for the Hurricanes, led by 6-foot-7 twins Ethan and Andrew Harmon. Robinson, who is in his 21st year with Hoosac, hopes the experience pays off.

    “We’ve played in some pretty good places in the past few years and we’ve had some pretty good games under our belts.”

    At Groton-Dunstable, junior forward Will Peregoy leads a talented, but young team.

    “I’m cautiously optimistic,” said coach Keith Woods. “What defines this group more than any other is their unselfishness, they know they have to help each other out.”

    With just three seniors the Crusaders will rely heavily on big sophomore point guard Kyle Romich (6-foot-2) and shooting center Liam Barberich.

    Millbury, who lost to Groton-Dunstable in last year’s semi-finals, is looking to rebound from many key losses. Senior Andy Ekstrom is the only returning starter for the Woolies and is interchangeable between both forward positions.

    “We’re trying to figure out who’s going to be the leaders and who’s going to do the scoring coach Dan Spring said. “We’ve had some scrimmages and they’ve gone okay.”

    Salem features six seniors including guard/forward Antonio Reyes, who has already amassed over 1,200 points in his career and is a three-time all-star.

    “He makes us go,” said coach Tom Doyle. “He handles the ball most of the time, he’s the leading scorer, assist man, second rebounder. He’s our go to guy.”

    In Milton, coach Sean Lopresti is trying to rebuild a team that lost all of its starters, four to graduation and one to transfer. Senior captains Skyler Abrams and Khiry Matchman will lead the Wildcats.

    “I think Sklyer will be our coach on the floor, he is our most verbal player,” Lopresti said. “Offensively Khiry will be our best weapon. He can do a bit of everything.”

    Football season left Falmouth missing a big piece of its equation. John Lavin, a 6-foot-5 senior forward and major cog in the Clippers’ starting five, is out until at least January with a broken leg.

    In his absence, coach Paul Lundberg expects senior guard Nelson Baptiste to step up and work well with a large group of sophomores.

    “It’s going to take a lot of progress,” Lundberg said. “We have to work every day, work every week. It’s not going to be there in the first game, but we’ll become a competitive team. It’s going to be tough but you never know.”
     
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    Re: Boys' Basketball Previews(Boston Globe)

    DIVISION 3+4

    Starting 5

    A preseason look at the top players in Division 3-4 boys’ basketball.

    G — Joe Mussachia, Manchester-Essex

    G — Marco Coppola, Watertown

    G — Richie Warren, Jr., Lynn Tech

    F — Connor Stockdale, Watertown

    C — Justin McAfee, Bedford

    The Vikings lost seven of their top eight players and three 1,000 point scorers, including current New Bedford-standout Jules Tavares. They expect to get offense from senior forward Juwaun Gamble, who poured in 16 in a recent win over dangerous Martha’s Vineyard .

    Coach Kevin Brogioli hopes the changes on the back of the jerseys will make the bulls-eye on the front that much smaller.

    “There’s not much pressure on us, which is nice,’’ said Brogilo. “A lot of teams lost players ... I think the south may be wide open this year.’’

    One of the few teams with an edge may be Lynn Tech, a Division 3 North finalist last season. The Tigers will try to rebound from a narrow loss against Bedford with a sectional title on the line, bringing back guard-heavy talent.

    Bedford won’t find it hard to put last year’s memory of falling at the TD Garden behind it difficult since most of the team has graduated. The team returns only three players, but coach Jim Byrnes hopes that allows them to sneak up on some teams after being a strong squad in recent years.

    “We might not get a top four seed, but we will have room to improve,’’ he said.

    Richie Warren Jr., who led the Commonwealth in scoring last season, and Jerome Cooper will highlight coach Marvin Avery’s scoring attack. They will be complemented by athletic big Charles Collins.

    Hamilton-Wenham, returning Cape Ann League All-Star junior guard Stephen Tam, is another team hoping to reload after losing league MVP Matt Cook.

    Watertown will be trying to get back to the tournament after returning 11 players, including dynamic guard Marco Coppola.

    The only guarantee in a wide-open Division 4 is that there will be a new champion.

    Last year’s winner, New Mission, moved up to Division 2 after exhausting D4’s resources. Ready to fill the vacancy left by New Mission’s departure is a host of teams, led by the group the Titans wiped the TD Garden floor with in the championship game.

    “I think we should be back in the hunt for (the D4 title),’’ said Cathedral coach Carnell Suttles.

    Cathedral lost only four players from last season’s D4 South-winning squad, though one was Catholic Central Large MVP Earnest McNeil. Suitles returns three junior starters in forward Kyle Lawyer and league all-star guards Joe Green and Carlos Bermudez.

    Manchester-Essex will boast a veteran squad that expects to contend after losing just one player from last year.

    “Now that we’ve been here for a bit we can keep a one-game-at-a-time attitude,’’ said coach Duane Sigsbury.

    One of the players returning is 6-foot-5 guard Joe Mussachia, who turned down six scholarship offers to attend Amherst and is one of the top players around, according to Sigsbury
     
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