Just months ago every team started with one goal: to compete for a state title. Now some of the best teams in Massachusetts will have the chance to make that dream a reality as they prepare for Saturday’s state championship games at the DCU Center in Worcester (tickets are $13 for adults, $8 for students).
For the boys, action will tip off at 12:30 p.m. with the Division 3 title game between Danvers (23-2) and Smith Academy (22-3). The battle of the Falcons features two versatile teams, but Danvers, looking to repeat as champion, is more familiar with this scenario.
Smith Academy, coming off a 72-56 win over Littleton, seeks its first state title since 1992. Danvers, led by Nicholas Bates’s 12 points, just escaped Martha’s Vineyard in a 3-point victory at TD Garden for the EMass Championship on Tuesday.
Speaking of escaping, Brighton (20-6) did just that in its Division 2 matchup against Scituate. Trailing by 9 with under five minutes left, the Bengals team were able to pull off a comeback behind Malik James (21 points) to advance to the Division 2 state championship game against South Hadley at 4 p.m.
The Tigers (17-7) are coming off an impressive performance as they edged out St. Bernard’s, 63-48, despite being tied at 40 at the start of the fourth quarter. T.J. Fitzell and Evan Marcus, who combined for 40 points in the CMass championship game, headline South Hadley.
In the Division 1 game, which starts at 7:30 p.m., Mansfield (25-2) will face Putnam. The Hornets are a terrific long-range shooting team . For the Beavers (23-1), it’s all about defense. The most points they’ve given up in a game is 58, but Mansfield averages 67 per game.
For the girls, defense will be put to the test in a day featuring high-scoring teams.
Archbishop Williams (22-5) begins the days with a Division 3 title game against Lee (20-5). The Bishops’ big frontcourt, led by sophomore forward Alana Gilmer, is an important weapon. Lee (20-5) boasts two forwards who are just as good in Stephanie Young and Eileen Dooley, who combined for 58 of Lee’s 69 points in the state semifinals. Lee has won seven state titles, the last in 2010.
After taking out defending state champion Reading in the EMass final, Medfield (25-2) faces Nashoba (22-2) at 2:15. The majority of Medfield’s offense has come from the charity stripe in the past few games — they had 84 free throw attempts in the South Sectional and EMass championships.
Nashoba enter this game with a lot of momentum after their blowout victory over Hoosac in the state semifinals. The Chieftains score a lot of points in transition and second-chance opportunities, so Medfield center Jen Narlee and forward Payton Ouimette will be busy in the paint.
In the Division 1 game, Central Catholic (18-5) takes on Holy Name (22-2) at 5:45. Central Catholic coach Susan Downer felt that her squad’s early-season close defeats prepared the team for a tight win over Braintree Monday at the Garden. The Raiders have two players, senior forward Casey McLaughlin and junior guard Courtney Walsh, who can produce offensively and come up big late in games.
The Naps of Holy Name have Bria Frias, a 6-foot-2-inch junior, who has about 2 inches on any Central Catholic player. She had a double-double in blocks and rebounds in a state semifinal win over Chicopee.
. . .
Reading senior forward Olivia Healy was selected as the Gatorade Girls’ Basketball Player of the Year in Massachusetts. The two-time Globe All-Scholastic averaged 27.8 points and 11 rebounds in leading the Rockets to their second straight EMass title game.