Even though their boys' basketball teams had combined to go 39-1 in the regular season, Brockton coach Bob Boen and Abington coach Don Byron were a little nervous about their respective opening round opponents.
Boen's club finished the regular season at 20-0, good enough to earn the No. 1 seed in the Division 1 South sectional, and a first-round bye. However, the Boxers would have to face a familiar opponent in the quarterfinals: BC High. The Eagles were the two-time defending champions of the South sectionals, and knocked out Brockton in each of the previous two seasons, including last year's final, when they overcame a 12-point halftime deficit.
"I was not happy to see BC High when the pairings came out," said Boen. "Especially after last year's loss, we didn't want to lose again. You keep losing to the same team, and then it become 'Uh oh, here comes BC High.'"
That would not be the case this year. The Boxers are loaded, and despite dealing wth an eight-day layoff and several members of the team being sick, Brockton prevailed, 76-52. The Eagles kept the game close and managed to stay within striking distance through three quarters, trailing by 10, but as has been the case so often this season, Brockton's depth wore down its opponent. Guard Timothy Young was deadly from outside, scoring 23 points in the second and third quarters, while forwards Jarrad DeVaughn and Louis Montes were inside, with DeVaughn pouring in 21 points.
"Now that we've won, this is a great way to open the tournament," said Boen. "You start with a tough game like that, and it gets you ready."
The Boxers followed up that victory with an 83-61 win over Marshfield in the semifinals to advance to the final Saturday night against Newton North at UMass-Boston.
Over in Abington, Byron could be forgiven for his apprehension. Just as his club did two years ago, the Green Wave went 19-1 in the regular season and grabbed the No. 2 seed in the Division 3 South sectional. Unfortunately, Abington drew Foxboro in the first round in 2007, and lost, 49-48.
"It was just a bad matchup for us," said Byron.
The Warriors play in the Hockomock League, against mostly Division 2 opponents, so Byron wasn't exactly thrilled when Abington drew Foxboro in the first round again.
"That was a team I did not want to face," said Byron. "Only one of our kids was on that team from two years ago, so we really didn't talk about it much all week. I didn't see the point in bringing it up."
The Green Wave made sure there would not be a repeat from two years ago, taking care of business with a 68-57 win over Foxboro. It also served as Byron's 300th career win.
Byron's squad is a resilient bunch that takes pride in its defense. Abington held its opponents in both the quarterfinals and the semifinals to 39 points to advance to Saturday's South sectional final at noon at UMass,. The Green Wave will have its work cut out in the final, where they will face a Scituate squad that scored over 80 points in two of its three tournament games thus far.
"We're just going to try and keep this thing going," said Byron. "Scituate is an exceptional team."
The backcourt of Ryan Chambers and Kristian Lapointe is an exciting one. Chambers can seemingly bury a three from any spot on the floor, while LaPointe's tenacious defense can sometimes serve as a one-man full-court press. He'll have the unenviable task of matching up with Scituate's Rodney Beldo, although no one individual can really be asked to stop Beldo, as Wareham found out in the semifinals. Beldo torched the Vikings for 38 points to lead Scituate back to the finals for the third straight year.
Get there early
The first game on Saturday's South sectionals finals at UMass will be the Division 3 girls matchup between Cardinal Spellman and Archbishop Williams at 10 a.m. Spellman has been bounced from the tournanment each of the last two years by the Bishops, who went on to win the state crown both years. The Cardinals will be looking for a different result this time around.
Expect large crowds at all of the games Saturday, and allow yourself plenty of time to get to the venue. It should be a great day for basketball.