MIAA state boys finals preview, picks
When Mansfield and Malden Catholic face off on Friday night for the Division 2 state title, it will be a battle between two of the winningest coaches of the last decade.
Mike Vaughan is looking to lead No. 2 Mansfield to its second championship in program history as the Hornets play in their third state final. The Hornets have overcome injuries to a pair of starters in impressive fashion by winning each of their tournament games by 20 plus points. Eddie McCoy has been the star during the postseason run alongside 6-foot-7 stretch forward JT Veiking. Chris Hill has been at the center of the Hornets’ success all season long.
On the other side will be John Walsh, who coached the Lancers to a state championship a year ago to add to his previous collection of three at Danvers High School. Top seed Malden Catholic has also overcome its share of seemingly killer injuries. Catholic Conference co-MVP Nick Martinez is one of the premier defensive players in Eastern Mass., while sophomore guard Matthew Gaffney is a talented shooter. One potential X-factor is Ethan Tracey, who has been proven to be a key role player.
Division 3 represents a matchup of Catholic Central League rivals as No. 1 Archbishop Williams takes on No. 2 St. Mary’s of Lynn. The Bishops won the regular season game at the buzzer when Josh Campbell connected on a layup. Campbell has been Archies’ go-to-scorer all year while Tristan Rodriguez has proven to be a solid second option. St. Mary’s is certainly no stranger to the big stage fresh off a state championship in 2022. Dave Brown and Omar Merryman are a high level scoring duo, while Nick Sacco provides a third weapon.
No. 3 Springfield International surprised many by beating Burke but has proven to be a high level defensive team. Standing in the Bulldogs’ way is top-seeded Wareham and South Coast Conference most valuable player Ajay Lopes. The Vikings have won all four of their tournament games by 20plus points.
In Division 5, No. 2 David Prouty is looking to become the only team on the boys side to go unbeaten this season, but will have to get past a Taconic team that is no stranger to the big stage.
The final game of the MIAA season is the Division 1 showdown between season-long favorite No. 6 Worcester North and No. 5 Needham. The Polar Bears have shown an ability to win in a variety of ways, overwhelming the likes of Beverly and Brockton while outlasting Newton North as well as Lawrence during the regular season.
Ty Tabales is a lethal scoring threat while Tahlan Pettway and Teshaun Steele allow Worcester to play inside and out. Needham is playing at a high level at both ends of the floor as senior forward Henry Bickford is playing the best basketball of his high school career to go with strong guards Chris Camozzi and Brian Cloonan. The game may well come down to whether the Rockets guards can hold up against the Polar Bears’ relentless, 32-minute pressure.
In a classic, Worcester North’s pressure is just enough to overcome a Needham team that has arrived.
PICK >> 66-62, Worcester (OT)
Malden Catholic is well deserving of the number one seed, but Mansfield was the pick before the tournament and we are sticking by our choice. PICK >> 68-65, Mansfield
Archbishop Williams got the job done on the road the first time around. St. Mary’s gets revenge when it matters most.
PICK >> 79-77, St. Mary’s
Wareham has been the best team in Division 4 all season long. That stays the same in the title game. PICK >> 65-58, Wareham
David Prouty caps off an incredible season as the only undefeated boys team in the MIAA in 2023.
PICK >> 70-62, David Prouty