After a week of postseason basketball, here’s what we know, what we think we know, and what we still have to find out as we try to see who will go on to the DCU Center in Worcester:
Ladies firstThe Archbishop Williams girls' basketball team entered the Division 3 tournament as the defending champs and the fifth seed, and the Bishops came out of the gates flying. Having lost to Central Catholic in the finals of the Comcast Tournament, the Bishops had to wait 10 days before they could play another game.
Enter Old Rochester. The Bulldogs had another solid season but were overwhelmed early and often as Archbishop Williams held them scoreless through the first quarter and led, 17-0. Old Rochester would get on the board, but it did not get much better in the second quarter as the Bishops led 44-6 at the break.
I’m guessing the Bulldogs are petitioning to ban the Catholic Conference from the tournament. Last year, Old Rochester went to the quarterfinals before losing to Cardinal Spellman. This season, it was a lopsided 64-26 loss to the Bishops.
Things would be different in the quarterfinals for the Bishops, however, as they traveled to fourth-seeded Rockland. This Bulldogs squad went 17-2 en route to capturing the Patriot League title.
The game was close from the very beginning as Rockland came out playing a triangle and two, matching up man-to-man on the Bishops’ outstanding duo of Casey Capello and Christine Duffy. It would be a physical first half, culminating in a head-on-head collision between Rockland’s Stephanie Crawford and Capello as they both went for a loose ball with just over a minute remaining. Capello managed to stay in the game, while Crawford left briefly with a bloody nose and was back for the start of the second half.
Williams led, 30-26 at the break, and opened the second half with a 7-0 run for a 37-26 lead and never looked back, going on for a 65-48 win. Duffy, saddled with three fouls in the first half, buried a pair of 3-pointers as she scored eight points in the third quarter. The senior point guard finished with 12 points and 12 assists, while Capello led the way with 17 points. Sophomore center Valerie Driscoll added 10 points and 15 rebounds, and was a force in the middle all game.
“That’s what the defense was giving us,” said Duffy of her third-quarter offense. “The play was so aggressive. We wanted to get out and run more in the second half and keep them off-balance.”
Next up is top-seeded Westwood, which is coming off an impressive win of its own over Dedham, 58-45. Having played in the Bay State Conference, Dedham felt good about its chances heading into the tournament, and rolled to a 61-33 win at Abington in the first round to set up the showdown with the Wolverines. But Bill Riley’s Westwood squad was ready for the Marauders. The long-time Westwood coach will be stepping down after this season. Is there a more well-liked coach than Riley? His athletes have always loved playing for him, and they would love to send him out a winner.
The other semifinal is just as intriguing as Cardinal Spellman and Fairhaven are set to meet. Both squads had their seasons end at the hands of Williams in 2007, with the Cardinals losing in the semifinals, and Fairhaven in the sectional finals. Both are itching for a shot at potential revenge.
Lincoln-Sudbury is the defending Division 2 state champ, and thus far L-S is showing they were much more than just Carolyn Swords, who was a two-time member of the Boston Globe Super Team before taking her considerable talents to Boston College this season. (By the way, has anyone made a smoother transition to college than Swords?)
Sarah Wetmore and Shatasia Kearse have led the way for the Warriors, who also lost Brittany Phillips and Elana Carson from last year’s squad. This year, L-S finished in a three-way tie for first in the Dual County League, and managed to win its first two games of the tourney. Next up for the Warriors is a semifinal match against Masconomet. (Is there some unwritten rule that states Masco and L-S have to meet in the late rounds? Should we just pencil this in for future years? Ok, no more questions, I promise)
In the other semifinal, 10th-seeded Arlington Catholic will face Reading. It’s tempting to call AC a Cinderella squad, but considering four of its losses came to Spellman and Williams, you quickly realize that AC is an even better team than its 15-7 record indicates. A true Cinderella might be Medfield, which entered the South bracket as the 11th seed and is in the semifinals, but the clock may strike midnight when they face the 20-2 Walpole Rebels.
Central Catholic coach Susan Downer liked the way her defending Division 1 EMass champs finished up the season. With the Raiders posting a 13-7 record and finishing third in the Merrimack Valley Conference during the regular season, she knew her team would be a low seed when the pairings were announced
“I think the higher seeds are going to be watching out for who draws us,” said Downer.
Central Catholic was seeded eighth in the North, and defeated Lynn English in the first round. That set up a quarterfinal match with No. 1 seed Acton-Boxboro, which had gone 18-2 and captured a share of the Dual County League title. It was the Raiders who would move on though, as sophomore center Katie Zenevitch poured in 25 points and collected 15 rebounds to lead Central Catholic to a 70-65 win and a trip to the sectional semifinals. It won’t get any easier as the Raiders will face Wilmington, while MVC co-champs Andover and Lowell will battle in the other semifinal.
Boys on the sideThe Watertown boys took the Division 3 title last season, and followed that with an 18-2 record and the No. 2 seed in the North this winter. They will face the third-seeded Bedford. The other half has Bishop Fenwick, which entered as the 13th seed but has managed to win its first two games. For the run to continue, it will have to figure out a way to get past 19-2 Wilmington, the top seed.
Over in the South, the top four seeds advanced, although second-seeded Norwell survived a scare against South Shore League foe Abington in the sectional quarterfinals. The Clippers entered the game 20-1 and swept the regular season series against Abington, but coach John Willis knew his team was in for a battle.
“It’s not hard beating a bad team three times in a season. That’s easy. It’s beating a good team three times that’s difficult, a team that can play, and that is well-coached. Those kids can play, and they have a great coach,” Willis said of Don Byron’s Green Wave squad.
The game was close throughout, with Abington maintaining a small lead in the first half and leading at the break, 21-19. Norwell would take the lead in the second half, but the Green Wave always managed to keep it a one-possession game. Down the stretch, Abington’s Brian Kurowski buried a three-pointer for a 40-39 lead with 1:09 remaining, but Clippers center James Long put back a missed shot with 39 seconds left to show why he was the SSL Player of the Year and give his team a 41-40 lead. Neither team was able to score in what was a frantic 39 seconds, and Norwell held on.
“We survived,” said Willis. “We didn’t play our best, but Abington had a lot to do with it. We’re moving on.”
Next up is Wareham, the third seed, while the other semifinal is a rematch of last year’s championship, as Medfield and Scituate renew acquaintances. Many thought the Sailors were the best team in Division 3 last season, but Herb Grace’s Medfield squad was the one heading to the TD BankNorth Garden after pulling off the upset. This year, the Warriors are 22-0 and the No.1 seed, but fourth-seeded Scituate is not about to forget last year.
Catholic Memorial returns as the Division 2 EMass champs, and is through to the South semifinals. The Knights entered the tournament seeded sixth, but played a tough Catholic Conference schedule, splitting a pair of games with BC High. Falmouth is up next, while No.1 seed Stoughton and No. 4 Dartmouth are in the other bracket.
BC High is looking to defend its Division 1 crown, and as the No. 2 seed, has advanced to the semifinals in the South. So far, form has held as the top four seeds have survived. While upsets are certainly what makes March special, it will be interesting to see if BC High and Brockton face off yet again on Saturday for the right to go the Garden. They’ve already played each other twice, with the home team winning both times.
A pair of Bay State teams stand in the way, however, as Framingham will take on Brockton, while Newton North will face the Eagles. BC High handled the Tigers in the Comcast Tournament, but Newton North coach Paul Connolly will have 6-foot, 6-inch center Greg Kelley back to contend with the Eagles’ Jake O’Brien and Ryan Sharry.
The top four seeds survived in the North as well. Central Catholic had a strong showing in the Comcast Tournament, reaching the finals before losing to BC High. The Raiders will face Charlestown, which finished the regular season atop the Globe Top 20. Lowell and Everett will play in the other semifinal.