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The Massachusetts state basketball tournament is pretty quality basketball, so we MAFW blog about it. But seeing as this is a Worcester blog, we’re gonna focus on the great Kingdom of Massachusetts, known as Central Mass.
Now, before we begin, let me just point out that the people who run the tournament, the MIAA, are a bunch of crooks. I could get into a list of their exploits, but that’s a blog for another day. This year what they’ve done is try to ruin the tournament. For whatever reason, they aligned Eastern, Central, and Western MA differently. They took a bunch of Central Mass teams, like Quabbin, Shepherd Hill, Tantasqua, and Leominster, and put them in Western Mass, where they will play a bunch of teams they’ve never heard of before.
Likewise they took a handful of Eastern Mass teams and put them in Central MA, because……….f*** it. That’s why.
So Central Mass teams got Lincoln-Sudbury, Acton-Boxboro, Franklin, and Westford now. Thus even though almost every team in the Central Mass tournament has played Leominster this year, they won’t be in the same bracket. Makes no sense, but it is what it is.
The games are played at the site of the higher seeded team, until they get a Final 4. Those semifinal games are played at WPI, which is easily the most dominant basketball venue in the region. It’s almost always the same exact teams every year, but this year might be slightly different because of all the new teams.
Here are this year’s Division 1 seeds:
1. Fitchburg (17-2)
2. St. John’s (16-4)
3. St. Peter-Marian (16-4)
4. Wachusett (15-5)
5. Franklin (16-6)
6. Burncoat (13-7)
7. Lincoln-Sudbury (13-6)
8. Acton-Boxboro (11-9)
9. Worcester South (11-9)
10. Doherty (10-10)
11. Westford (10-9)
Here’s what the bracket looks like:
Here’s the official TurtleBoy Sports prediction. Unlike the idiot we bought this blog off of, we will not be picking Worcester South to win it all. We’ll start with their game…
Worcester South at Acton-Boxboro
I know absolutely nothing about Acton-Boxboro. I know they wear blue and yellow, and they’re in Acton. Other than that they played one Central Mass teama and they’re 11-9. According to Maxpreps they’ve basically been close in most games. I also know they have a pretty strong following, so they’ll be tough to play at:
I do know Worcester South though. I know that they’re always pretty good every year and then they choke in the playoffs. Last year they got upset by the lowest seeded team (Westborough) in the tournament. I know that they’re led by the top scorer in Central Mass, Kasheen Cunningham. This year they’re 11-9, but it’s the realest 11-9 imaginable. They’ve beaten Doherty twice, Burncoat, and reigning CMass Champion Milford. They’ve lost close games to St. John’s, Wachusett, St. Peter Marian, Burncoat, and Doherty. They’ve gotten blown out by Doherty (26 points), Fitchburg (20 points) and Leominster (30 points). Their one advantage going into this game is that they are playing a team that mainly plays suburban teams. Urban basketball is different from suburban basketball. It just is. It’s a lot faster and the refs have more of an influence.
It’s a tough one, but we’re picking Worcester South to win this one in an upset. Vegas has the line at -4 for A-B.
Doherty at Lincoln-Sudbury
LS is a big school, and they’re good at pretty much everything. They’re not CMass though, so we know very little about them. They’re 13-6, which sounds pretty good. But then again, they haven’t played the same schedule their opponents have. But from our research, we’ve discovered that they have a really tall player, which Doherty does not:
I couldn’t imagine a CMass tournament without Doherty. They’re always competitive, but very rarely make it to WPI. They can play with anyone though, and they’re battle tested. We’ve seen them a few times this year, and they have one of the most dominant big men in the region. At 6’2″ that makes him a giant around these parts. His name is Youseff and he’s got pretty dominant handle for a big man. He’s led them to wins over Worcester South, St. John’s, and Burncoat (twice). They’ve come up short against Burncoat, Wachusett, Fitchburg, St Peter Marian, and Worcester South.
This is kind of like the South game. An unknown team against a battle tested, scrappy, Worcester team. Vegas has LS as six point favorites. Our sources picked against Doherty in football and they ended up winning the State Championship, so we’ve gotta go with the Highlanders in this one.
Westford at Burncoat
Westford is another Eastern MA team that we know very little about. We know they’ve lost to both LS and AB, and beaten LS and AB though, and they barely qualified for this tournament. It’s tough to call. In our opinion Burncoat is the best of the Worcester Public School teams though. They’re very young, but they also have a baby Shaq named Zehmir Brown, who is worth the price of admission. So is their coach, who gives it to the refs like none other, and their dance team, which is really big and dances.
Vegas has Burncoat by 8 points. Take Burncoat and the points.
That brings us to the quarterfinals….
Worcester South at Fitchburg
I don’t expect this to be much of a contest. Fitchburg is the most enjoyable team to watch in this tournament. They run a four guard offense, and they’re led by their “big man” Jose Hernandez, who is 6′ 1″ on a good day. He’s one of the best players in CMass and is your classic throwback hustler on the court. The guards at Fitchburg are faster than any other team, they can all handle the ball, and they shoot incredibly. In their win against St. John’s, one player (Mick Snowden) had eight three pointers. That’s insane.
Fitchburg made it to back to back Central Mass title games in 2010 and 2011, losing to St. John’s both times. Last year they were denied access to WPI because they lost a game in which Algonquin took 33 foul shots, and they took 7. That’s obviously made them hungrier and more determined this year. They beat South by 20 early in the season, but haven’t played nearly as hard a schedule. Vegas has them as nine point favorites. We say they easily cover. Fitchburg advances to WPI.
Franklin at Wachusett
Franklin is the last Eastern MA team, and one that we know very little about. However, our source at ESPNBoston.com, Brendan Hall, informs us that Franklin rolls deep. They have one of the most animated fan bases in the state, so expect them to fill up the stands in Holden for this game. Franklin’s a battle tested 16-6 team. They’ve beaten Eastern MA powers Brookline, Belmont, and Taunton. They’re in a better conference than the other Eastern Mass teams too, and have played defending State Championship Runner Up, Mansfield, twice.
Wachusett is the biggest high school in Central Mass. They made WPI last year before blowing a big lead against Milford in the semifinals. They’re always tall, but they’re led by a small point guard named Tyler Dion. Boy can shoot. Wachusett’s beaten the best CMass has to offer. They’ve taken down Fitchburg, Worcester South, and Leominster. They’ve lost to St. John’s twice, once by 24 the other time by just four. They’ve beaten Eastern MA juggernaut Xaverian, and gave another Eastern MA powerhouse Brockton a good match, before faltering at the end.
Franklin seems like the real deal. They’re three point favorites in Vegas. We say count on them to win this game. Franklin goes to WPI.
Burncoat at St. Peter Marian
SPM’s gym is one of the worst places on earth to watch a basketball game. In high school basketball, that’s as big an advantage as you can get. Burncaot’s got a good team, but SPM has by far the best player in the region in sophomore Makai Ashton-Langford. He’s a Division 1 college prospect. They’re big, they’re fast, and they’re strong. They are incredibly battle test as well. They beat Burncoat by 15 to start the season, as well as beating St. John’s, Worcester South, Acton-Boxboro, Doherty, and a very good Quaboag team. They’ve beaten Newton South by double digits, a team that’s beaten LS, AB, and Westford. They’ve scheduled an incredibly hard non-CMass schedule to get themselves ready for a state championship run as well. They fell just short of beating Cambridge Rindge and Latin, Catholic Memorial, and reigning D1 State Champion, Putnam Tech.
SPM is one of the hottest teams around right now. Burncoat’s had a great season, but their run ends at SPM, as they easily cover the ten point spread. SPM goes to WPI.
Doherty at St. John’s
St. John’s is pretty much a regular at the WPI classic. The last time they didn’t make it there was 2006 when they lost to a very, very good Worcester South team. They won the CMass title every year from 2008-2012. Last year they lost in a close game to Milford while going for their sixth consecutive title.
As usual the Pioneers are big, experienced, and well coached. Their legendary skipper Bob Foley isn’t shy about giving valuable time to freshmen and sophomores, and it pays off because these kids have all seen big game experience by the time they’re upperclassmen. This year’s leader, T.J. Kelley, seems like he’s been around forever. Their guards are incredibly fast, and can keep up with Doherty’s perimeter players.
They’ve beaten Eastern MA powerhouse Brockton, along with the best Central Mass has to offer in SPM, Worcester South, St. Bernard’s, Wachusett (twice), Doherty, and Fitchburg. But, they have lost to Doherty already this season.
Nevertheless, the one thing we do know for sure, is that St. John’s is going to get favorable foul calls at home, and in the playoffs. There’s no way that Doherty can beat both an experienced and well coached team, AND the referees. There’s just a zero percent chance the refs deny St. John’s access to WPI. They’re going to be about 7 or 8 point favorites in this game. They won’t cover, but they’ll advance nonetheless.
WPI Final Four
Franklin vs. Fitchburg
Franklin will PACK WPI. It’s going to be extremely loud. Think Fitchburg cares? Nope. That’s because Fitchburg is beyond mentally focused. We’ve seen them play a few times this year, and they’re in the zone like no other team. They don’t get flustered. They’ve all been in the big moment before. This game is a pick em’ in Vegas, but Fitchburg will win. They advance to their third Championship game in five years.
St. John’s vs. St. Peter Marian
This game is such a classic. It’s also a rematch of the 2012 finals game, which St. John’s won going away. We are inclined to pick St. John’s in this game. Their coaching experience is the biggest advantage they have. But they’re also more than just a little experienced in this sort of matchup, which SPM can’t really say. Nevertheless, SPM just has too much talent this year. They won’t be denied in this game, despite being two point underdogs in Vegas. We say SPM advances to play Fitchburg.
Fitchburg vs. St. Peter Marian
This is going to be an ESPN classic. SPM is bigger and ultimately has more talent. But there’s just something about this Fitchburg team. They’re a special bunch. The winner of this game is going to get killed when they have to play Putnam Tech in the State Semifinal, but just getting there is an accomplishment in and of itself. Fitchburg is this year’s champion, ya heard it here first.
Feel free to share your thoughts to keep the conversation going.